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Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe Hardcover – Bargain Price, May 3, 2007
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Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The backbone of the book is a biography of the Emperor Justinian himself. He was born in a Balkan hill town in 482 CE, but an uncle, a general in the imperial guard, adopted him, took him to Constantinople, and got him an education. Justinian was a hard worker, productive to the point of robbing himself of sleep. He did not pay much attention to his appearance, and he tended to asceticism.Read more ›
Tracing the origins of "Justinian's plague" to the fairly benign bacterium Yersinia pseudotuberculosis in East Africa, William Rosen describes how the bacterium, in adapting to a new host, the flea, became far more virulent and mobile. The Mediterranean black rat carried the flea and the plague from Africa aboard ships to port cities all along the eastern Mediterranean and eventually to Constantinople, the capital of the empire, where it killed more than a third of the population.
"Justinian's Flea" also tells of the historical figures whose lives were changed by the plague, including and especially the Emperor Justinian, who hoped to rebuild the former glory of the Roman Empire but could not foresee that his greatest obstacle would be a flea. He was born in a small village in the Balkans and rose to power through family connections and sheer talent, promoting others with merit and even marrying a professional courtesan who went on to become his confidante and a powerful woman in her own right.
Rosen makes excellent use of contemporary accounts to describe not only the immediate effects of the plague, but the far-reaching ones as well, ranging across the empire and beyond, to China and Arabia.Read more ›
of Justinian's rise to power, love life, geopolitical accomplishments, architectural triumphs and his complex personal relationships, it has a proportionally miniscule amount of information about the plague itself. And while I find the aforementioned information worthwhile, it is not why I purchased the book in the first place.
For example, more actual pages in the book are dedicated to the Hagia Sophia than to the details of the plague. In fact, there is no discussion of the plague until well into the second half of the book (page 170 something)...that's a long way to go before you're introduced to the antagonist. In contrast, by page 98 we are in the midst of a mini-series on the birth, destruction and re-construction of the Hagia Sophia. It indeed is one of the the great churches found on earth and we learn a vast array of details regarding its eccentric designers, the history of the arch, the source of the materials, the craftsmen and artisans involved, the socio-political and religious implications of its creation, the specific details of the piers and buttresses, practical liturgical considerations and so on and so on. This one tangent alone carries more pages in the book than the entire discussion of the title's topic.
Additionally, while there is no doubt regarding the impact of the plague on western civilization, Rosen leaves a huge hole in his proposed conclusion relative to the crushing effects of the Islamic imperialism of the following century.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My wife borrowed this book from the Georgetown Library and recommended it. I liked it so well I bought a copy for my son. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Greg Farman
The author has a tendency to history hop. He goes from Justinian’s origins back to Constantine’s conversion to Christianity and creation of Constantinople to the Gothic invasions... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Hopeless with computers
The title of Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire and the Birth of Europe promises so much - the last great Roman Emperor (or first Byzantine Emperor, if you prefer), the Bubonic... Read morePublished 4 months ago by DWD's Reviews
I enjoyed the detail and telling of the history in a non-pedantic way. I encourage all to read this book.Published 5 months ago by jack stone
Too much biological info for the ordinary reader I would imagine which makes for boring reading thru those particular parts.Published 7 months ago by gail arseneau
NB: This review relates to the book as experienced on CD, which in this reader's case at last, has certain impact on the experience as a whole. Read morePublished 8 months ago by P. T. McConnell
Complete and total waste of time and money if you to read about the plague. I quit at page 232, at which time the author had 10-12 pages on the plague. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Susan Elizabeth