The troops in the Roman army, which relied on the local farmers to plow the crops planted by them, could remain hungry when the amount of rainfall was low. According to Cornelius Christian, a professor of economics at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, and research chief editor, “the way the soldiers came to the brink of a possible rebellion”.
“And this revolt led to the disappearance of the support given to the emperor in turn, making it more open to assassination.”
Describing himself as a historian of economics, Christian has made this discovery out of the historical accounts of antiquity in a 2011 study by Science magazine. In this study, the researchers analyzed thousands of fossilized tree rings from France and Germany, and calculated how much rain it rains in each spring for the past 2,500 years. The territories, at one time or another, included the borders of Rome where the troops were located.
Christian later adapted his data to military rebellions and assassinations of emperors in ancient Rome. As he stated, “The postmortem was just about bringing together these different pieces of information”. The numbers gathered in one form and “the amount of low rainfall means the possibility of assassination increases, because there is less rainfall to eat less”.
Take the Emperor Vitellius as an example. He suffered an assassination in AD 69, when the Roman border, where the troops were located that year, received very little rainfall. Christian says, “An empire recognized by the Vitellius troops.” “Unfortunately, the rainy season was few and the emperor stunned. The troops were upset and eventually came to assassination in Rome. “
However, as is often the case, there were other factors that could lead to the assassination. For example, Emperor Commodus’ unlawful behavior in the Coliseum, such as the deliberate loss of the gladiators in the Colosseum, made the troops sick, resulting in the assassination of the emperor in MS 192.
Christian was not the drought that led to the assassination of Commodus, “but there was usually a drought before the emperors were assassinated. Of course, all of this is not the only explanation for rain. Rain is just one of many possible variants that could cause it to happen, “he says.
Joseph Manning, Professor of Classical Studies and History, not included in the new research at Yale University, says this work is part of a new emerging field that examines how climate influences ancient societies. In the late autumn, Manning and colleagues published a study of Nature’smagazine on how the volcanic activity led to the drought that convinced the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt to collapse.
While this new research provides a solid foundation for the rainfall-assassination theorist, Manning says researchers must go a long way in supporting this idea. According to Manning, for beginners, finding a correlation between two things using statistics is relatively simple. “They do the statistical work well, but how do you know you’ve got the right mechanics?”
“In other words, relativity is not equivalent to causality,” Manning says, considering that this introductory research marks the point, it is worth the time and effort to find out if the cliché data match the dates of the assassination.
History Associate Jonathan Conant, who is not part of the research at Brown University, says the theory is “plausible,” he says, “although the rain played a role in the incident, there were other factors.” For example, the majority of assassinations in Rome occurred in the third century AD. According to Conant, during this period there was a great inflation in the Roman Empire, disease and foreign wars erupted and all of them caused serious loss of emperor stability.
“For me, the theory of precipitation-assassination adds a complexity and nuance of understanding to the political history of the Roman Empire,” says Conant.