Abstract

Abstract:

A series of recent publications, both scholarly and popular, has identified the physical environment as a primary historical agent in the Roman Empire’s development and decline as a major (and distinct) political, cultural, and economic entity. This essay presents a critical review of the professional scholarship that argues for Rome’s putative “decline and fall” due to major environmental crises, namely climate change and the first global pandemic of the bubonic plague. Particular attention is given to the problems of historical agency and causation, environmental determinism, interdisciplinarity, and the role of discourse in studying the human experience of environmental change in Late Antiquity. It offers some preliminary suggestions for a “second phase” of scholarship, which could potentially correct current methodological problems and offer a path toward understanding the irreducibly complex relationship between human and non-human historical agents.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1942-1273
Print ISSN
1939-6716
Pages
pp. 211-255
Launched on MUSE
2019-05-29
Open Access
No
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