Synopses & Reviews
A richly told story of the collision between natures smallest organism and historys mightiest empire
The Emperor Justinian reunified Romes fractured empire by defeating the Goths and Vandals who had separated Italy, Spain, and North Africa from imperial rule. In his capital at Constantinople he built the worlds most beautiful building, married its most powerful empress, and wrote its most enduring legal code, seemingly restoring Romes fortunes for the next five hundred years. Then, in the summer of 542, he encountered a flea. The ensuing outbreak of bubonic plague killed five thousand people a day in Constantinople and nearly killed Justinian himself.
In Justinians Flea, William Rosen tells the story of historys first pandemica plague seven centuries before the Black Death that killed tens of millions, devastated the empires of Persia and Rome, left a path of victims from Ireland to Iraq, and opened the way for the armies of Islam. Weaving together evolutionary microbiology, economics, military strategy, ecology, and ancient and modern medicine, Rosen offers a sweeping narrative of one of the great hinge moments in history, one that will appeal to readers of John Kellys The Great Mortality, John Barrys The Great Influenza, and Jared Diamonds Collapse,
“ Ambitious and learned . . . readers will be swept along by the strong current of Mr. Rosens good natured erudition.”
“ Impressive study of the Bubonic plague and its impact on history . . . eccentric and erudite . . . a massively ambitious work.”
—The Guardian (UK)
"History written with passion, panache, and an appealing bit of attitude."
"Impressive study of the bubonic plague and its impact on history. . . . Eccentric and erudite . . . a massively ambitious work."
—The Guardian (London)
The epic story of the collision between one of nature?s smallest organisms and history?s mightiest empire
During the golden age of the Roman Empire, Emperor Justinian reigned over a territory that stretched from Italy to North Africa. It was the zenith of his achievements and the last of them. In 542 AD, the bubonic plague struck. In weeks, the glorious classical world of Justinian had been plunged into the medieval and modern Europe was born.
At its height, five thousand people died every day in Constantinople. Cities were completely depopulated. It was the first pandemic the world had ever known and it left its indelible mark: when the plague finally ended, more than 25 million people were dead. Weaving together history, microbiology, ecology, jurisprudence, theology, and epidemiology, Justinian?s Flea is a unique and sweeping account of the little known event that changed the course of a continent.
This sweeping narrative explores history's first pandemic--a plague that occurred seven centuries before the Black Death which killed millions, devastated the empires of Persia and Rome, and opened the way for the armies of Islam. Maps.
About the Author
WILLIAM ROSEN was an editor and publisher for more than twentyfive years.