In times of drought in ancient Rome, leaders looked to the sky — but according to a professor at Brock University, they should have been watching their backs.
Cornelius Christian, Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics, will give a public talk Thursday, Nov. 30 at 2 p.m. describing his findings on the relationship between rainfall and the assassination of Roman emperors. His presentation is part of the ongoing Department of Economics Speaker Series.
By examining weather, agricultural output, political stability and economic well-being in the pre-industrial society of ancient Rome, Christian was able to confirm a pattern of political violence in times of drought.
“One mechanism that explains our finding is that Germanic tribes outside the Roman Empire face starvation in the midst of low rainfall,” says Christian. “They raid across the frontier to find food, causing political instability in the process. This instability hastens the emperor’s demise.”
Ancient Rome isn’t the only period of history that interests Christian. His work on weather and witch trials in Scotland was recently featured on The Economist’s blog.
Christian, who completed his doctorate at Oxford and began teaching at Brock this year, was first drawn to economics because of his love for history.
“The great stories of history often have underlying economic causes. The research is ultimately about storytelling — using data, statistics and elegant economic concepts,” he says.
“And, to be honest, I just think it’s fun. Who wouldn’t want to study assassinations of Roman emperors?”
What: Droughts of Dismay: Rainfall and Assassinations in Ancient Rome
Who: Brock University Assistant Professor of Economics Cornelius Christian
When: Thursday, Nov. 30 at 2 p.m.
Where: WH 202