Skip to comments.Lead poisoning in Rome: The skeletal evidence
Posted on 05/31/2012 5:10:10 AM PDT by Renfield
A recent article in the online publication io9, The First Artificial Sweetener Poisoned Lots of Romans provided a (very) brief look at some of the uses of lead (Pb) in the Roman world, including the tired old hypothesis that it was rampant lead poisoning that led to the downfall of Rome - along with gonorrhoea, Christianity, slavery, and the kitchen sink.
The fact the Romans loved their lead is not in question, with plenty of textual and archaeological sources that inform us of the uses of lead as cosmetics, ballistics, sarcophagi, pipes, jewellery, curse tablets, utensils and cooking pots, and, of course sapa and defrutum (wine boiled down in lead pots) but what almost all news articles regarding the use of lead in ancient Rome seem to ignore is data from osteological evidence....
(Excerpt) Read more at pasthorizonspr.com ...
Median Lead Concentrations in Britain and Rome (Montgomery et al. 2010, Figure 11.3)
Roman Lead Artefacts: (clockwise from top left) - curse tablet, sling-bullet, water-pipe, ingots, pendant, ring-seal
No! Start with Washington!
including the tired old hypothesis that it was rampant lead poisoning that led to the downfall of Rome -
Yeah..that one was never true. 200ad saw the peak of Rome in my opine...the true pinnacle of the Pax Romana.
My favorite reason for the decline of sucha mighty empire is the “lack of interest” in the institutions and work ethic it took to make Rome great...the fire no longer burned and they descended into a long slide of power struggles in a small world of courtly affairs, and a populace that was owed a living.
[Now where have I heard that mentioned before????]
I like favorite reasons myself.
I like favorite reasons myself.
I’ve always wondered about dishes from China. Are they checked for lead before being imported into the US?
|GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach|
Among these ways were: Raids on nominally Roman territories, either to capture land or to settle it; demanding tribute from Rome, a form of bribe not to make trouble; and, finally, sweeping across western Europe and then eastward across north Africa to capture the essential agricultural lands that fed Rome.
In this activity, the Huns were the main instigators (cf. the short but brutal career of Attila), and Rome was regularly distracted by incursions of the Persians and others in the east.
Eventually, Rome simply ran out of resources to deal with all of it, and evaporated into the mists of history.
Anyway, that's Mr. Heather's thesis in a nutshell.
It could be so...but the eastern Empire was woven of the same cloth, had the same lead and lasted for another 1,000 years.
It wasn’t so much lethargy, imho, it was complacency and a cultural softness. It was a citizenry that was fed but did not have to work. If they weren’t fed they would have burned the city down. The army became mercenary, not citizen. It shifted far beyond the urban centers where barbarians were paid to be nice, as it were...that was weakness manifest.
Eventually it simply became too much to manage...but to the point of the article: at the height of the peak lead spike was the best times of the empire.
I would say the same thing about us: during several lifetimes of lead paint and lead in other places, we managed to create unsurpassed inventions and a lifestyle unheard of in the world. Trains, boats planes and automobiles, went to the moon, cured infections...all while supposedly swimming in a hazardous lead environment.
Oh yes I hear and understand your reasoning. I have to include the lead effects as well. Just as Benjamin Franklin wrote to a friend about the ill effects in type-setters and the ink due to lead. Not everyone was poisoned and add to that, everyone has different metabolisms meaning huge differences of effects from exposures. One of the things we do know is that in small children there is a loss of IQ between 1 and 7 points for every microgram per deciliter of lead in their blood. That is just one of the insidious ways lead helped in the destruction of a mighty Empire. I also take the need of the Empire to appease the citizenry as a way to quell the aggressiveness in part due to some having had lead poisoning, which in turn could have spurred on others. Yes I know this is speculation, just saying... Again I am not saying lead poisoning was the major cause for the fall, just maybe it was one of the nails in the coffin.