The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire 

Kyle Harper 
ISBN: 978-0691192062 
Princeton University Press 2019 
Paperback 440 pp £15.99  
Pastoral Review bookshop £14.39

‘Of course, the plague pandemic was a natural disaster in much the same way as the destruction of a hurricane that erases a settlement built precariously overhanging the sea. The pandemic was an unintended conspiracy between wild nature and the constructed ecology of the empire.’ 

Writing over three years ago, this passage is Professor Harper’s judgement on what is known as the ‘Justinianic plague’, an early bubonic ‘Black Death’ which ravaged the late Roman empire in the sixth and seventh centuries. Kyle Harper’s monumental study re-examines a well-trodden path – the decline and fall of the Roman Empire – paying special attention to climate change and infectious diseases. His words, read in the summer of 2020, are chillingly prescient.

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