Roman History:  Alive and Well (also, very, very dead)

Roman History: Alive and Well (also, very, very dead)

Think nothing new is happening in Roman history?  Early this summer, I wrote an article (currently under review) arguing that historians had underestimated (and mostly ignored) a devastating third-century AD pandemic known as the “Plague of Cyprian.”  Since then:

1) scholars have discovered, in a palimpsest (an erased and overwritten layer of a parchment) a new and exceedingly rare reference to an obscure contemporary of the plague called “Philostratus of Athens” who I argue was a crucial source for later traditions about the plague.  See Wiener Studien 127 (2014) 101-120; my mentor and friend Christopher Jones pointed this out to me; he also put together some crucial facts about this Philostratus in a recent article.

2) archaeologists (specifically Francesco Tiradritti) have published reports of a gruesome, hastily-built corpse-incineration operation with mass grave at Luxor, Egypt, that dates to precisely this period, evidence for unusual panic and reaction to the plague.

It’s neat to see new puzzle pieces appear to help us see a little more clearly the ancient world.