Watch Sarah Yeomans’s lecture delivered at The Explorers Club in New York
There’s no question that today’s modern culture is very different from that of ancient Rome, but certain human realities remain consistent across time. The challenges of illness and injury were as prevalent in the Roman Empire as they are in today’s society, and the concern with medicine and health is something modern people have in common with ancient Romans. BAS Director of Educational Programs Sarah Yeomans’s doctoral research is concerned with Roman medical technology, medical cult and the impact of plague on Roman society. Recently, she gave a lecture on these subjects at the prestigious Explorers Club in New York City. In her presentation, Yeomans surveys some of the remarkable discoveries made at a site in Italy that has yielded an extraordinary amount of information about the surgical technology available in ancient Rome. The “House of the Surgeon,” located in Rimini, is a treasure trove of artifacts that tells us a great deal about the practice of medicine almost 2,000 years ago.
Yeomans then goes on to discuss the Antonine Plague of the second century, one of the worst epidemics the Roman world ever confronted. Through a combination of primary sources, archaeological discoveries and modern science, she examines the pathology of the plague as well as its impact on the economic, political and religious life of the Roman Empire. What exactly was the “Antonine Plague”? Was it a factor in the destabilization of the Empire in the third century? And, most importantly, what lessons can we learn about how to react to population-impacting medical crises today?
Watch the lecture:
Sarah Yeomans is an archaeologist specializing in the Imperial period of the Roman Empire with a particular emphasis on ancient science and religion. Currently pursuing her doctorate at the University of Southern California, she also consults as Director of Educational Programs at the Biblical Archaeology Society and is adjunct faculty at both St. Mary’s College of Maryland and West Virginia University. A native Californian, Sarah holds a M.A. in archaeology from the University of Sheffield, England, and a M.A. in art history from the University of Southern California. She has conducted archaeological fieldwork in Israel, Italy, Turkey, France, and England and has worked on several television and film productions, most recently as an interviewed expert on The Story of God with Morgan Freeman. She is a Provost Fellow at the University of Southern California and is the recipient of a Research Fellowship from the American Research Institute of Turkey (ARIT) as well as a Mayers Fellowship at the Huntington Library and Museum in Los Angeles. Her current research involves ancient Roman medical technology and cult, as well as the impact of epidemics on Roman society. She is generally happiest when covered in dirt, roaming archaeological sites somewhere in the Mediterranean region.
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on December 26, 2014.
Medicine in the Ancient World by Sarah K. Yeomans
The Antonine Plague and the Spread of Christianity by Sarah K. Yeomans
Ancient Pergamon: City of science … and satan? by Sarah K. Yeomans
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