No nation in history resembles the United States IMO more than Imperial Rome. A vast empire that “Romanized” all it governed from Syria to Egypt to Spain to Greece, Rome was the greatest empire in the history of the planet. Commerce, engineering and science were more advanced at the height of Roman rule than they were in the same areas 1,000 years late.
Pandemics and Climate Change eventually contributed mightily to the decline of the Roman Empire. For too many years historians focused on battles, royal intrigue and factors such as taxes and ethnic identity in discussing Rome’s fall. But now in the 21st Century historians have focused more on two very familiar themes. Pandemics and Climate Change. Both seem to have had as big a role in Rome’s decline as any other factors.
The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire (The Princeton History of the Ancient World) is a unique book worth reading which looks at the decline of the Roman world from a perspective based around three serious pandemics within a 400 year period as well as Climate Change within about a 200 year period. It’s indispensable if you want to understand how and why society declined, and the Dark Ages were ushered in.
Similarly Justinian’s Flea: The First Great Plague and the End of the Roman Empire focuses on the Pandemic of 541-542 which hit Constantinople just as the Roman world was being rebuilt and ushered in centuries of decline in Europe, including falling populations, less urban life and ultimately a society in its scale more reminiscent of pre-Roman times a 1,000 years earlier than anything else.
Both are timely reading in this moment of crises.