Fall of Rome……malaria?

As I was wrapping up my Roman history class, I ran across an article on BBC.com about the fall of Rome. The article by Andrew Thompson, focuses on the work of David Soren who has been excavating a Roman villa at Lugnano, a hill north of Rome. At the site, Soren discovered the burial of 47 children and the bones showed evidence of a blood disease. Recent DNA work on the bones by Robert Sallares showed the presence of malaria. The article concludes with:

  • “The DNA work of Robert Sallares has now confirmed that malaria was a killer during late Roman times. The children of Lugnano died of malaria, and it is likely that there were also many adult victims of the disease, although their cemetery has not yet been found. This would have made it difficult for farmers to collect crops and for the local army commanders to raise troops. What was once a footnote in the history books on the fall of Rome, must now become a whole chapter. David Soren’s theory that malaria contributed to the fall of Rome has finally been vindicated.”

While I certainly appreciate the impact of an epidemic on a society, I have to admit to being a bit skeptical of its conclusions about malaria’s impact on the fall of Rome.


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