Hadrian and Critical Plague Mass .
25 Apr 2009
Hadrian caused the plagues of circa 130 AD by building the limes .
After the disasterous campaigns of Trajan in the east (circa 117 AD) , Hadrian decided that that the Empire was overextended and consolidation was called for . He purged the army hawks .
He then set about replacing the open borders with limes .
To quote "History Today" Aug 2008 p19 ,
"On the frontiers , open lines controlled by forts , signal stations and patrols , were replaced by continuous linear barriers formed of ditches , palisades and walls " . Hadrian's wall in Britain is a good surviving example .
The critical effect :
The population passing through the frontiers now were funneled through a few portals . There was always a delay on both sides of the frontier . Squalid shanty-towns without any of the usual Roman hygienic measures became features at every gate , especially on the barbarian side .
These were bio-reactors for disease . (Still dangerous today : avoid the soil .)
Disease-vectors , both human and animal , that remained reasonable dispersed before the limes , were now concentrated at the gates at the frontier .
The mathematics of epidemiology is well known . The critical factors are closeness of contact and number of contagious individuals .
See the flow of humans through the gates as water with the disease vectors as red streaks .
They come together from all over Asia . The red streaks come closer and closer as they are squeezed to the gates .
Before and after the gates turbulence forms knots of red lines in close proximity to form standing waves : the shanty town bio-reactors .
The result was inevitable : the so-called Antonine plagues that decreased the Roman Empire's population by about a third . This happened about 130 AD . This was worse than the Black Death of 1348 AD , since the Roman Empire depended on a large supply of manpower . Revolts broke out all over the place (cf Jewish Rebellion of 132-136 AD under Bar Kokhba) .
The Army started to recruit barbarians on large scale and the Roman civilizing system kicked into high-gear in an ersatz fashion, using the Army
This cycle of plagues and barbarian recruitment lasted until Constantine the Great dismantled the limes and instituted the Knights-and-Castles defence strategy of the Feudal Ages .
The Western Roman Empire re-invented itself as the combination Roman Catholic Church (fight to the death) and the Army as Knights-and-Castles (to counter the light-horsemen like the Huns) .
Can you see the Roman roots ? A Roman of Republican days would have felt at home until the Black Death and the Renaissance .
In a sense , the Western Roman Empire never fell . It just transformed itself by incorporating and civilizing the barbarians .
In contrast to the Eastern Roman Empire , which crystalised and did shatter in 1453 AD with the fall of Constantinople .
An Interesting Question .
Did somebody in Constantine the Great's day make the correlation ? Notice the speed and thoroughness in which the limes were completely demolished . Hadrian's Wall in Britain survived because the number of individuals in Scotland was too small to form a critical mass . Notice how Britain was plundered for man-power , and was a continual source of rebellions .
The only countries on the frontiers that had no limes were the lowlands of Netherlands and Belgium . They also never decivilized or depopulated . This is one of the reasons why ,
An Interesting Exercise for the Reader .
This effect would occur in any gated system .
(Dams , osmotic membranes , cell-receptor sites and channels , walled cities , gated suburbs , the Mexican Wall in the US , the Wall in Germany , the Great Wall in China , military camps during a siege , walled cities , etc)
Model the state of the system using epidiomology , chaotic attractors , evolutionary theory , immunology .
Calculate the probability spread of surviving populations as a function of time , location and inter-communication .
Model the 1918 flu as a function of gates in the military and civilian establishments . (There should be a non-random correlation .)
The future :
Ignorance of evolutionary principles killed the Romans . They had workable hygiene system . But they did not realize that their system was gathering , distilling , breeding and evolving the diseases that would do them in .
The same is happening today .
It is pointless in the long-run to wash your hands after flushing the toilet if just over the wall the shanty-bioreactors are cooking up ever more virulent life-forms . And if there is a gate .
Or behind the dam-wall , the hyacinths are growing tougher and tougher .
Bird-Flu and the Financial Crisis .
If protectionism , whether economic or national , is instituted , gates will be formed , with the concomitant bio-reactors .
A massive bird-flu pandemic then becomes inevitable .
Ignorance kills .
Or , as the Havamal says ,
What you think you know If you do not gnaw
But is not so The string of Norns
Will feed the Bough It will not span your bow
And you thought the huptameter was hard !