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Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe (2007)

af William Rosen

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8263119,695 (3.65)119
Weaving together evolutionary microbiology, economics, military strategy, ecology, and ancient and modern medicine, author Rosen tells of history's first pandemic--a plague seven centuries before the Black Death that killed tens of millions, devastated the empires of Persia and Rome, left victims from Ireland to Iraq, and opened the way for the armies of Islam. Emperor Justinian had reunified Rome's 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 world's most beautiful building, married its most powerful empress, and wrote its most enduring legal code, seemingly restoring Rome's fortunes. 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, bringing about one of the great hinge moments in history.--From publisher description.… (mere)
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» Se også 119 omtaler

Viser 1-5 af 31 (næste | vis alle)
Good history, some fascinating material on the world of late antiquity, including the construction of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (Istanbul). But I'm not sure I'm convinced of the author's arguments about the plague influencing the multi-state nature of Europe. I'm more persuaded by Jed Diamond's argument that Europe's geography, as compared to China's, determined its eventual separateness. A good read for history buffs, though. ( )
  alexlubertozzi | May 24, 2021 |
Well written and engaging. Word of warning: It is more the history of Justinian himself than of the plague. ( )
  illmunkeys | Apr 22, 2021 |
Interesting view of Justinian's reign, but felt like it needed another re-write. ( )
  AldusManutius | Jul 5, 2020 |
The first half of Justinian's Flea has little to do with the plague, but instead is filled with a detailed description of the expansion of the Roman Empire under Justinian. Unfortunately, I found the level of detail a wee bit frustrating - particularly the description of battle after battle fought to maintain the Empire. However, what seems trivial in the first half becomes very relevant once Rosen starts describing the impacts of the plague. To those considering this book, I would recommend reading the first chapters carefully as it will make the more exiting chapters much more enjoyable. ( )
  chiatt | Jun 7, 2020 |

This book desperately needs the application of an editor's red pen to cross out all those pointless side tangent paragraphs that have nothing to do with anything, and to insert all those missing full stops! The author seems to be competing with Charles Dickens on who can write the longest sentence.

The writing is rather dull interspersed with lots of relevant asides that don't have anything to do with the subject. The Nika riots and Theodora's impassioned speech are written with the same excitement inherent in one of those ancient, dusty encyclopedia entries. If the Nika riots were as "volatile" as the author's writing style suggest, Justinian would have slept through the whole episode!

First two chapters are a summary of the history of the roman empire up to the founding of Constantinople that imitates the leaping and jumping around mobility of the flea in the title. Then the author focuses more tightly on Justinian's reign.

The author also provides lengthy rambling history lessons of some "stuff" (I can't think of another work to describe what the author wrote) that happened during Justinian's reign in both Byzantium, Western Europe, Middle East and China. Hmmm... maybe the author should have written a military history instead. The plague gets short shrift in this book.

Fleas, rats and bacteria finally make an appearance about halfway through. Quite a decent bit of detailed science involved about bacteria and rats in general, but you still have to wade through all the random fluff [eg Krebs cycle, evolution, intelligent design in relation to flagella in the section on climate factors instead of in the bacteria section and whether intelligent design is fact or fiction. If the author had wanted to discuss intelligent design, evolution, creationism etc, he should have written a book about that instead of stuffing it randomly in a book about the plague].

This book does have a lot of interesting information printed on its pages... you just have to plough through a whole lot of random fluff to find it.

Advice: Borrow this book before buying it. If you looking for detailed information about the plague in the 500's A.C., you need to find another book. If you are looking for a general history book on Justinian's reign you might find this book useful, if rather frustrating to read.

Recommendation to the author (if he reads it): Please find an editor. A good one. An editor that can turn your extensive research and vast piles of interesting information into something that is a joy to read, instead of a frustration.

***
I don't suppose anyone could recommend another book that discusses the plague in Justinian's reign and the climate factors (comet/volcano) that might have influenced its spread and what effect this had on the Byzantium Empire? Or even the plague in general that includes some decent science and social effects? ( )
  ElentarriLT | Mar 24, 2020 |
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Weaving together evolutionary microbiology, economics, military strategy, ecology, and ancient and modern medicine, author Rosen tells of history's first pandemic--a plague seven centuries before the Black Death that killed tens of millions, devastated the empires of Persia and Rome, left victims from Ireland to Iraq, and opened the way for the armies of Islam. Emperor Justinian had reunified Rome's 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 world's most beautiful building, married its most powerful empress, and wrote its most enduring legal code, seemingly restoring Rome's fortunes. 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, bringing about one of the great hinge moments in history.--From publisher description.

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