Kyle Harper, The Fate of Rome. Climate, Disease and the End of an Empire


  • Greg Woolf University of London



Roman History, Environmental History


Kyle Harper, The Fate of Rome. Climate, Disease and the End of an Empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017), 440 pp. ISBN: 978-0691166834, £27.95 (hbk).

Author Biography

Greg Woolf, University of London

Greg Woolf is a cultural historian of the Roman Empire and surrounding regions. Much of his work uses social theory to connect archaeological and historical information about antiquity.   He has written on cultural dimension of the expansion of the empire, on Roman imperialism, the Roman economy, and on Roman intellectual culture, and also on iron age hillforts, ancient ethnography and the assasination of Julius Caesar. He has coedited collections on ancient literacy, ancient libraries, encyclopaedic culture in premodern periods, the city of Rome, women in Roman cities and on ancient senses of the self. His latest monograph is Rome. An Empire's Story.   With Jason König at St Andrews he led a Leverhulme project on Science and Empire in the Roman World, and with Jörg Rüpke at Erfurt he leads a collaborative project on sanctuaries and their place in the formation of religious experience and knowledge, funded by an Annaliese Maier research prize from the Humboldt Foundation. He is also writing a book on ancient diasporas and colonization, set in the context of migration theory, and a book on the naturalness of urban life.


Brown, P. 1971. The World of Late Antiquity. From Marcus Aurelius to Muhammad. London: Thames and Hudson.

Esmonde Cleary, S. 2018. Review of Kyle Harper, The Fate of Rome. Ancient History Bulletin 8: 50-52. (accessed 23 July 2019).

Haldon, J. F., H. Elton, S. R. Huebner, A. Izdebski, L. Mordechai, and T. P. Newfield. 2018. “Plagues, Climate Change, and the End of an Empire: A Response to Kyle Harper’s The Fate of Rome. Part 1 Climate; Part 2 Plagues and a crisis of empire; Part 3 Disease, Agency and Collapse.” History Compass (e12508; e12506; e12507). doi:;;

Harper, K. 2011. Slavery in the Late Roman World, AD 275-425. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Harper, K. 2013. From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Marx, W., R. Haunschild, and L. Bornmann 2018. “Climate and the Decline and Fall of the Western Roman Empire: A Bibliometric View on an Interdisciplinary Approach to Answer a Most Classic Historical Question.” Climate 6(90): 1-34. doi:10.3390/cli6040090

McCormick, M., U. Büntgen, M. A. Cane, E. R. Cook, K. Harper, P. Huybers, T. Litt, S. W. Manning, P. A. Mayewski, A. F. M.

More, K. Nicolussi, and W. Tegel. 2012. “Climate Change during and after the Roman Empire: Reconstructing the Past from Scientific and Historical Evidence.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 43(2): 169-220.

McNeill, W. H. 1976. Plagues and Peoples. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday.

Sessa, K. 2019. “The New Environmental Fall of Rome: A Methodological Consideration.” Journal of Late Antiquity 12 (1): 211-255.




How to Cite

Woolf, G. (2020). Kyle Harper, The Fate of Rome. Climate, Disease and the End of an Empire. Journal of Cognitive Historiography, 5(1-2), 220–224.



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