Justinian's Flea

  • by William Rosen
  • Narrated by Barrett Whitener
  • 11 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The emperor Justinian reunified Rome's fractured empire by defeating the Goths and Vandals who had separated Italy, Spain, and North Africa from imperial rule. At his capital in Constantinople, he built the world's most beautiful building, married the most powerful empress, and wrote the empire's most enduring legal code, seemingly restoring Rome's fortunes for the next five hundred years. Then, in the summer of 542, he encountered a flea. The ensuing outbreak of bubonic plague killed 5,000 people a day in Constantinople and nearly killed Justinian himself. In Justinian's Flea, William Rosen tells the story of history's first pandemic - a plague seven centuries before the Black Death that killed tens of millions, devastated the empires of Persia and Rome, left a path of victims from Ireland to Iraq, and opened the way for the armies of Islam. Weaving together evolutionary microbiology, economics, military strategy, ecology, and ancient and modern medicine, Rosen offers a sweeping narrative of one of the great hinge moments in history, one that will appeal to readers of John Kelly's The Great Mortality, John Barry's The Great Influenza, and Jared Diamond's Collapse.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

More history than Disease

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though it was more a history of the world from 100 CE to 600 CE than a history of the plague (as a disease), but well told and informative none the less.
If ancient history is your bag, this is for you.
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- joan

Interesting, but flat read.

The material was interesting. It provided a good overview of the Eastern Roman Empire, but seemed to lose focus in a discussion of church architecture a little before the half-way point. Then the author launched into a fascinating discussion of the causes, mechanisms, and effect of the plague.

The reader is a little flat in his presentation. It takes some getting used to, but after that it is acceptable. I enjoyed the book, but listen to the sample before buying.
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- Kindle Customer

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-22-2007
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio