Justinian’s Flea posits the idea that the Black Plague was a key factor in the final downfall of the Roman Empire, weakening it enough that external forces could tear it down.
Which is an intriguing idea, if one that is hard to prove or disprove after all this time and with the lack of historical data.
What William Rosen has really created with his book is a kitchen sink of the history of Byzantium, which despite being a bit less cool than the Roman Empire when it was based in Rome itself, was a fascinating place at a very interesting point in history, and Rosen does a good job of painting a picture of how Byzantium laid the underpinnings for what would become modern Europe.
Justinian’s Flea is a frustrating book to read in that Rosen has dug up so many facts about the era and especially about the rule of Justinian the Great that he has a hard time maintaining focus—he has so much he wants to share that the book meanders too much and throws way too many people and near-indistinguishable barbarian tribes into the mix. A lot of times reading it I wanted to stop and focus in on a particular event, like Belisarius’s siege of Rome or the building of the Hagia Sophia, only to be thrown into the next thing.
The pacing is a bit odd, too, in that the Black Plague doesn’t show up till the end of the book, almost like an afterthought in the book it is purportedly about.
So, the book has problems, but as a primer on the end of Byzantium that leads the reader to discover areas of interest, Justinian’s Flea does a fine job.
If you buy Justinian’s Flea at Amazon I get a tiny cut, which would be appreciated.
Posted Tuesday, 05 January, 2010 by Nic Lindh
All Nic wants for WWDC is sync that actually works
Another book roundup, including some stellar athletes and soldiers, what might be the most jaded, soul-weary protagonist ever, and some grimdark fantasy.
The Internet is getting creepy, and Nic is breaking out his tinfoil hat after newspaper paywalls push him over the edge.
Nic is tired of tech sites obsessing over Apple’s financials and business strategy. So very tired.
Nic reads a book about the processed food industry and is incensed.
Computers are complicated. This brings out the irrational in people.
Nic proposes the loan word Rechthaberei be incorporated into American English.
The Core Dump is back! Books were read during the hiatus. Includes The Coldest Winter, Oh, Myyy!, Tough Sh*t, The Revolution Was Televised, The Rook, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Gun Machine, Fortress Frontier, Standing in Another Man’s Grave, and The Memory of Light.
This site will return in February.
From a true patriot to a world-weary detective, a dead god, and a civilization about to sublime from the galaxy, this book roundup spans the gamut. Includes Where Men Win Glory, Wild, Inside the Box, The Black Box, Three Parts Dead, Red Country, and The Hydrogen Sonata.