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Old 01-14-2019, 02:18 PM
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CaptMurdock CaptMurdock is offline
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Roman Empire vs. The Black Death

Yes, yes, we've seen/heard/read the trope about If Rome Had Never Fallen ad nauseum. Gladiators fighting it out on television. "You bring this network's ratings down, and we'll do a special on you!" Been there, done that.

However, yesterday, I was musing on the Black Death (as I often do when I have little to occupy my warped brain) and how it basically ended feudalism. I then wondered this:

Supposed the Roman Empire had, instead of collapsing outright by the fifth century CE, had evolved into a stable, relatively un-corrupt and even somewhat more humanitarian society, lasting another thousand years, give or take. Now, as I recall (vaguely) the Romans were rather hip to the idea that sanitation was overall a good thing for a large populace. Could better sanitary conditions, and the infrastructure that would be inherent in a stabilized Roman Empire, have prevented the decimation of the European populace in the 13th century?

Please feel free to correct any misconceptions I may have (Their Name Be Legion).
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Old 01-14-2019, 02:25 PM
griffin1977 griffin1977 is offline
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We don't have to look at hypothetical alternative histories.

Plague did play a big part in the collapse of both the Western Roman empire and Eastern Byzantine Empire that followed it. Though there is still debate over what actual plague it was.

The Antonine Plague struck during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (i.e. just before the long slow decline set in). It was maybe smallpox and wiped out about 1/3 of the population by some estimates.

The plague of Justinian may well have been the bubonic plague, and had a similar impact to the Black Death on world population. It (arguably) put an end to a Byzantine Renaissance under Justinian (who had reconquered the italian peninsula for the first time since the fall of western empire).

Last edited by griffin1977; 01-14-2019 at 02:27 PM.
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Old 01-14-2019, 02:25 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CaptMurdock View Post

Supposed the Roman Empire had, instead of collapsing outright by the fifth century CE, had evolved into a stable, relatively un-corrupt and even somewhat more humanitarian society, lasting another thousand years, give or take. Now, as I recall (vaguely) the Romans were rather hip to the idea that sanitation was overall a good thing for a large populace. Could better sanitary conditions, and the infrastructure that would be inherent in a stabilized Roman Empire, have prevented the decimation of the European populace in the 13th century?
Didn't help them in the 6th century, can't imagine it would have made much difference in the 13th. Whatever superiority the Romans had in sanitation( mostly a better water supply network ), they were definitely not rodent/flea-free. Plus those crowded urban areas the Romans were fond of were not a plus in preventing epidemic disease transmission.

ETA: Simulpost ninja!

Last edited by Tamerlane; 01-14-2019 at 02:30 PM.
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Old 01-14-2019, 03:21 PM
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And let's not forget, one of the reasons we remember the dark ages as dirty is that they gave up public bathing houses to avoid cross-infection. They only started bathing again when they got rich enough for private bathing.

Of course, they didn't actually understand the concept of cross-infection, and although the public baths were cess-pits of warm water I haven't seen any discussion about how unhealthy they actually were. But the Europeans did decide that bathing was unhealthy because people who (lived in communities and ) bathed died in plagues.
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Old 01-14-2019, 03:26 PM
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Huh. Well, I suppose that satisfies my curiosity. Thanks, peeps!
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Old 01-14-2019, 10:08 PM
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The Roman Empire continued on for a thousand years after the date of its supposed collapse. Go look at what they did in Constantinople.
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Old 01-14-2019, 10:29 PM
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One could plausibly argue that if the western Empire had remained united and reasonably peaceful, roads would have been built, travel between cities would have been easier and the plague would have spread even faster.
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Old 01-14-2019, 11:27 PM
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And let's not forget, one of the reasons we remember the dark ages as dirty is that they gave up public bathing houses to avoid cross-infection. They only started bathing again when they got rich enough for private bathing.

Of course, they didn't actually understand the concept of cross-infection, and although the public baths were cess-pits of warm water I haven't seen any discussion about how unhealthy they actually were. But the Europeans did decide that bathing was unhealthy because people who (lived in communities and ) bathed died in plagues.
Do you have a cite for this? My understanding was that they gave up public bathing because they lost the ability to construct and maintain public baths. Just as many a Goth or Angle lived in a Roman villa with a hypocaust, they just didn't know how to use or fix it.
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