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6+ teosta 711 jäsentä 20 arvostelua

Tietoja tekijästä

Kyle Harper is professor of classics and letters and senior vice president and provost at the University of Oklahoma. His books include Slavery in the Late Roman World, AD 275-425.
Image credit: Princeton

Tekijän teokset

Associated Works

The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity (2012) — Avustaja — 40 kappaletta
What is a Slave Society? (2018) — Avustaja — 4 kappaletta

Merkitty avainsanalla


Kanoninen nimi
Harper, Kyle
Oklahoma, USA
Harvard University (PhD)
University of Oklahoma (BA)
University of Oklahoma



The tongue in cheek title of this book highlights the irony that while we largely celebrate science for pushing back against the biota and parasites that plague us, told from the bug’s view history is a series of evolutionary victories with some minor setbacks. So far,

Bugs 1, Homo sapiens 0.005

We are really at the beginning of understanding the genetic evolution of human, animal, and plant parasites at the same as science continues to fight against evolution, or in some cases, re-engineer it.

The story from the human perspective is unsettling. This book has beautiful illustrations of some of the weirdest and most unpleasant flies and bugs you’d ever want to see up close. It also has very plainly funny if gruesome descriptions of human hygiene prior to 1700.

More sobering is the history of human migration and conquest and it’s impact both on aboriginal populations and on the invaders themselves. Indeed, European conquistadors brought yellow fever and smallpox to the New World. But as Napoleon’s armies in the Caribbean found out, malaria made fighting there impossible and deadly.

Europeans simply weren’t made to thrive in the sub-Tropics. Waves upon waves of English overlords found the beautiful island of Jamaica a death trap. That is what made the importation of slaves from Africa all the more inviting: nobody else could live in those conditions and bring in the harvest of cane sugar.

Mitigation of the impact of deadly protozoa, bacteria, worms, and viruses came with the globalization of science.

The irony abounds.

The very same trends globalize previously regional epidemics and created pandemics. The spread of knowledge. International travel. Not just war for winnings brought us to our present stalemate with the bugs.

I learned to my chagrin that the greatest threat to chimpanzees in Africa are the very scientists who study them. One man sneezes and a community of chimpanzees drops dead. That’s a little simplistic but you get the idea.

Today we humans are the super pest. Since the beginnings of our bioengineering (including the early agricultural communities of the Fertile Crescent) we have been providing incentives for the bugs to adapt to our favourite breeds. And adaptation is pervasive amongst millions if not billions of bacteria and viruses.

The speed of our travel today “super-charged the diffusion of farm pests.” We really help evolution rock and roll. George Washington, for instance, was responsible for importing Tunisian sheep and their viruses, the source of swine flu in America. Meaning: you can’t put all the blame on Monsanto.

Bird flu, swine flu, rusts, and fungi. As with plant diseases human advancements created negative feedback to animal health as well. The feedback included government action and scientific innovation. Commercial agriculture and the transportation revolution represented human adaptations.

Rinderpest completely altered the lifestyle of African Masai. Horse flu in the 1870’s in the U.S. and Canada likely spurred innovation leading to the dominance of the horseless carriage.

Let’s face it: industrial scale agriculture creates the evolutionary breeding grounds for pathogens. Is there a real way to beat back this trend?

Not in my lifetime.

By 1900 there were 400 million cattle in the world, and America’s subsequent success with beef produced new pathogens. I’m thinking the global flu epidemic of 1919 that killed tens of millions after American soldiers brought the flu to the killing fields of Europe.

And today there are probably more chickens on the planet that humans.
… (lisätietoja)
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MylesKesten | 1 muu arvostelu | Jan 23, 2024 |
From Achilles Taitus to the Justinian Code, an exploration of the changes in sexual mores in the Roman world of Late Antiquity.

The author uses Achilles Taitus' Clitophon and Leucippe as the spring board from which to discuss the sexual mores of the Roman world before the diffuse spread of Christianity. He explores the wide variety of literature on the subject and sets forth the general Roman perspectives on such things. He demonstrates the penetrator/penetrated framework of Roman sexual understanding and the role of shame in that framework. Same sex behavior is discussed in comparison and contrast to the post-Victorian heterosexual/homosexual framework now en vogue. This description of Roman sexuality is the most thorough I have found.

The author then explores Christian understanding of sexuality first as rooted in Jewish heritage, but then in its more revolutionary forms. The author speaks of the elevation of chastity and virginity even beyond anything the Apostle Paul imposed, and even the emphasis on free will, which he suggests is in large part on account of the sexual ethos of Christians. This free will emphasis will remain even in Augustine in terms of sexual behavior even if Augustine will eventually walk free will back somewhat in his argument with the Pelagians and the development of the original sin transmitted through procreation doctrine. With Augustine the author is able to show the full shift from the shame framework of the Romans to the sin framework of the Christians and the ascendancy of the latter, then encoded into the Justinian Code.

This work, for good reason, should be the gold standard for understanding how the spread of Christianity led to profound shift in sexual mores in the Roman world of Late Antiquity. Highly recommended.
… (lisätietoja)
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deusvitae | 3 muuta kirja-arvostelua | May 31, 2023 |
Very good, especially wrt pathogens, plagues, and climate. Listened to via Chirp.
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hagtvedt | 13 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Feb 13, 2023 |
Repeated itself a bit, but overall Harper makes the convincing argument that the fall of the Roman Empire was more because of climate change -- the Roman Climate Optimum ending disrupted the agricultural yield from Egypt to Iberia -- and pandemics, the worst of which killed 30-60% of the empire's population and not just in urban centers. The plagues were also what gave Christianity it's ability to become the state religion and later enabled the Muslim conquest -- the plagues carried by rats or mosquitos did not flourish in dry and hot North Africa. New things: 1) bubonic plague may have evolved from the tuberculosis bacterium, 2) bubonic play carried by black rats which feed on grain infected not only cities, but depopulated farms in the countryside as far north as the Danube, 3) Genghis Khan and Huns may have been turned back by disease rather than military force, 4) Harper likens Justinian marrying Theodora to a sitting US president marrying a Kardashian.… (lisätietoja)
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Castinet | 13 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Dec 11, 2022 |



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