Ancient World

The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire

How devastating viruses, pandemics, and other natural catastrophes swept through the far-flung Roman Empire and helped to bring down one of the mightiest civilizations of the ancient world


30% off with code PUP30

Sale Price:
Oct 2, 2017
20 halftones. 27 line illus. 16 tables. 26 maps.
Ancient World
Buy This

Here is the monumental retelling of one of the most consequential chapters of human history: the fall of the Roman Empire. The Fate of Rome is the first book to examine the catastrophic role that climate change and infectious diseases played in the collapse of Rome’s power—a story of nature’s triumph over human ambition.

Interweaving a grand historical narrative with cutting-edge climate science and genetic discoveries, Kyle Harper traces how the fate of Rome was decided not just by emperors, soldiers, and barbarians but also by volcanic eruptions, solar cycles, climate instability, and devastating viruses and bacteria. He takes readers from Rome’s pinnacle in the second century, when the empire seemed an invincible superpower, to its unraveling by the seventh century, when Rome was politically fragmented and materially depleted. Harper describes how the Romans were resilient in the face of enormous environmental stress, until the besieged empire could no longer withstand the combined challenges of a “little ice age” and recurrent outbreaks of bubonic plague.

A poignant reflection on humanity’s intimate relationship with the environment, The Fate of Rome provides a sweeping account of how one of history’s greatest civilizations encountered and endured, yet ultimately succumbed to the cumulative burden of nature’s violence. The example of Rome is a timely reminder that climate change and germ evolution have shaped the world we inhabit—in ways that are surprising and profound.

Awards and Recognition

  • One of’s Books of the Year 2017
  • One of The Times Literary Supplement’s Books of the Year 2017
  • One of the “Great Anthropology and History Books of 2017” (chosen by Kristina Killgrove)
  • One of The Federalist’s Notable Books for 2017
  • Honorable Mention for the 2018 PROSE Award in Classics, Association of American Publishers
  • One of Strategy + Business's Best Business Books in Economics for 2018
  • One of Choice Reviews' Outstanding Academic Titles of 2018