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Pursued by Plague: Did the Plague of Cyprian Cause the Romans to Migrate?

Author:

Anne de Hoop

Utrecht University, NL
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Abstract

Studies of migration in the context of the Roman world have gained immense popularity in recent years. Migration studies are versatile and include multiple different foci, including the movement of minorities, the various types of historical evidence for migration, and the many migration motives. Amongst those motives, contagious diseases are usually neglected by scholars as a push factor. In his most recent work, Kyle Harper takes note of the population decline during the Plague of Cyprian in Alexandria, arguing that not all of these casualties need to be dead of plague; some people may have fled the chaos. Aside from this single critical note, however, Harper does not explore the possibility that migration during the third century CE may have been caused by the Plague of Cyprian. How people spread diseases as they travel is well-researched – in history, as well as in modern times with COVID-19 restricting our mobile way of living. However, migration as a result of pestilence in the Roman world – in other words, people fleeing cities to avoid getting ill and possibly dying as a result thereof – has not been given sufficient scholarly attention. Therefore, this study seeks to analyze the extent to which the Plague of Cyprian acted as a motive for migration in the Roman Empire between 250 and 270 CE. In doing so, it will demonstrate that the Plague of Cyprian likely caused indirect migration based on socio-economic and cultural consequences rather than direct migration as a strategy to avert disease.

How to Cite: de Hoop, A., 2021. Pursued by Plague: Did the Plague of Cyprian Cause the Romans to Migrate?. Junctions: Graduate Journal of the Humanities, 5(2), pp.46–59. DOI: http://doi.org/10.33391/jgjh.103
Published on 05 Aug 2021.
Peer Reviewed

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