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The Antonine plague and the 'third-century crisis'

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Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses two broad topics, the plague under Marcus Aurelius and the development of the Roman empire from the late second century onwards, and the relations between these two phenomena. The 'third century crisis' is in itself a debated topic, as is made abundantly clear in other contributions in this book Crises and the Roman Empire. To save time and space, the chapter simply takes it for granted that changes affected the Roman world from the reign of Marcus Aurelius onwards which in certain ways were detrimental to the stability of the Roman Empire. The chapter examines closely some of the evidence presented by Duncan-Jones and Scheidel for the serious effects of the plague in Italy, evidence that has not yet received the proper critical scrutiny. It illustrates how allegedly authoritative numbers used in the debate about the Antonine plague really originated.

Keywords: Antonine plague; Italy; Marcus Aurelius; Roman empire; third century crisis



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