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Roman Disasters

ISBN: 978-0-7456-5102-6
224 pages
April 2013, Polity
Roman Disasters (074565102X) cover image
Roman Disasters looks at how the Romans coped with, thought about, and used disasters for their own ends. Rome has been famous throughout history for its great triumphs. Yet Rome also suffered colossal disasters. From the battle of Cannae, where fifty thousand men fell in a single day, to the destruction of Pompeii, to the first appearance of the bubonic plague, the Romans experienced large scale calamities.Earthquakes, fires, floods and famines also regularly afflicted them.

This insightful book is the first to treat such disasters as a conceptual unity. It shows that vulnerability to disasters was affected by politics, social status, ideology and economics. Above all, it illustrates how the resilience of their political and cultural system allowed the Romans to survive the impact of these life-threatening events. The book also explores the important role disaster narratives played in Christian thought and rhetoric.

Engaging and accessible, Roman Disasters will be enjoyed by students and general readers alike.
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1. What is a Disaster?

2. Rome's Disasters

3. The Disaster Experience

4. Dealing with the Aftermath

5. Thinking about Disaster

6. A Culture of Risk

7. Narratives of Disaster

8. Inflicting Catastrophe

9. The Psychological Impact

10. Roman Disasters in Context

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Jerry Toner is the director of studies in classics at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge.
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"A compelling and unexpected look at the ancient world, one peppered with refugee camps, tent cities, and displaced populations all looking for - and not necessarily finding - imperial benificence."
AnOther Magazine

"Accessible in style, wide-ranging in scope, and innovative in its combination of ancient sources and relevant modern scholarship, Toner’s book constitutes an excellent and long-overdue survey of Roman disasters generally, as well as offering insightful analyses of an array of topics, from Roman attitudes towards maritime risk to early Christian notions of divine causation."
Greg Aldrete, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

"Professor Toner offers a fascinating portrait of how disaster was treated in the Roman world, at once so different from our own and offering compelling parallels. For me, a good grasp of the modern disasters field adds to the interest. In entertaining a wider range of issues than is usual, the study offers cause for reflection and a broadening of contemporary approaches."
Kenneth Hewitt, Wilfrid Laurier University
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