Rugged resilience: cities and the environment in the late antique eastern Mediterranean
My research project, Rugged Resilience, investigates the Late Roman cities in the Eastern Mediterranean during Late Antiquity (c. 400-700 CE). Over this period, which included the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Islam, the region saw major societal transformations in politics, culture, economics, and religion which coincided with increasing environmental stress in the form of climate change and natural hazards such as earthquakes and epidemics. The project uses a consilient approach to draw upon three independent types of sources – written texts in several languages and genres, reports from archaeological excavations, and paleoclimate proxies used to reconstruct the premodern environment. By harnessing the results, the project uncovers the connections within and between the region’s cities, which it treats as socio-environmental systems through a series of case studies. Rugged Resilience begins with a synthesis of the different types of available evidence for each case study, analyzing the results through resilience and sustainability frameworks. It then compares and contrasts the results of the case studies to distill the main factors that determined the robustness and fragility of these cities to the short and long term stressors they experienced throughout the period. The results demonstrate the complex interactions within and between socio-environmental systems at different levels and contextualize the major transformations of Late Antiquity in the Eastern Mediterranean.