A Year In Books

Sorry for the late Year In Books post this week- I was a little distracted by all the bachelorette party shenanigans.

Justinians Flea

Last week, I read Justinian’s Flea by William Rosen. I picked up this book on a whim and I am so glad I did- randomness served me well this time. It is the amazing tale of all the political, religious, environmental, and biological factors that had to conspire to create the perfect setting for a plague to ravage The Eastern Roman Empire and quite a bit of the rest of the world.

To be honest, before reading Justinian’s Flea, when I thought about “The Plague” I thought about Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which, I realize, while hilarious, is not really an accurate portrayal of the epidemic that decimated populations in Europe. This book is not about that plague. Did you know there was more than one truly awful and tragic plague? I’m sure you did because you’re all smarty pants and I think I knew that vaguely somewhere in the back of my mind but I’d never really given it much thought. Luckily for me, William Rosen did and wrote an amazing book about it.

Justinian’s Plague decimated the Eastern Roman Empire, North Africa, Asia, and Europe beginning around 541-542 CE and reoccurring in subsequent generations until about 750 CE throughout the Mediterranean  . The plague was bubonic and killed up to 5,000 people a day in Constantinople at it’s peak. The generally accepted total number of deaths when all was said and done was 25 million people worldwide. The Emperor Justinian had it himself and was one of the few to survive. This plague changed the world in about every way possible. For reals.

Rosen get’s into every aspect that contributed to this scourge, (Yay! I never get to use the word scourge), including the political, religious, environmental, and biological. It’s so interesting to think that so many factors played into Justinian’s plague. I mean, as much as I would like to blame the fleas and rats, there was a lot more at play here. I’m not going to go into all of it- I really want you guys to read the book because I think it will blow your mind a little, I know it blew mine.

Oh! One last thing- Rosen talks about some really awesome powerful women in this book, Theodora and Antonina to name a couple and it was so amazing to get to learn more about the powerful women of antiquity. I’m just sayin.

What are you reading this week?

10 thoughts on “A Year In Books

      1. It’s pretty interesting – I read it because I was teaching Microbiology (that was a real STRETCH but I learned so danged much) and I was trying to make it all relevant to my students by bringing in history. I got it “free” on Amazon for Kindle over the summer.

  1. I’ve always been interested in learning more about the plague, and I wanted to read this book when I first heard about it, but I haven’t seen a copy locally. I want to be prepared with all sorts of facts and history to make me the interesting and topical guest at a party in case another plague strikes.

  2. I might have to read this. I love a good plague. Epidemics are my second favorite to any tale involving guillotines.

    PS – You’ll be so proud. I drunkenly ordered the Percy Jackson series on Amazon last night. …And also, maybe, Glee Season 2 Volume 2 on DVD.

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