The ‘Plague of Cyprian’: Sources, Problems, Origins and the ‘Crisis of the Third Century’
Sabine Huebner, University of Basel
May 28, 2020 · 1:30 pm—3:00 pm · via Zoom
Program in Medieval Studies; Climate Change and History Research Initiative; Humanities Council
Pandemics in the Past: from Prehistory to (almost) the Present
During the third century CE, the Roman Empire experienced military anarchy, civil wars, rampant inflation, famines, dramatic changes in its religious landscape, bloody persecutions of minority groups, and raids and invasions from beyond the frontier. While the ‘crisis’ model has been hotly contested ever since Alföldi 1967 characterized the challenges the Roman Empire faced during the third century as ‘Weltkrise’, and several more detailed case studies adduced examples of regional stability and even flourishing economies, it is clear that the Empire had to battle grave threats to its existence which resulted in profound changes paving the way for late antiquity. Most debated in scholarship have been the reasons for these simultaneous predicaments the Roman Empire found itself in around the middle of the third century. Recent research has suggested that a pandemic, the so-called Cyprianic plague, triggered these cascading shocks. This paper will survey the main evidence we have for this plague and discuss its proposed origin, timeline, and impact on the course of Roman history.
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