Lead and the Fall of Rome: A Bibliography

Lead and the Fall of Rome: A Bibliography

Compiled by Steve Muhlberger from contributions to the list LT-ANTIQ.

Originally posted March 23, 1998.

Since the nineteenth century, there have been sporadic suggestions that the large-scale use of lead in antiquity contributed to the fall of Rome through heavy-metal poisoning.

A request to the always-generous members of LT-ANTIQ for bibliography on this question produced the following results. Enjoy!

Online Bibliographies of Late Antiquity

1. Books and Articles

Eisinger, J., "Lead and wine: Eberhard Gockel and the 'colica Pictonum' ", Medical History, 26 (1982): 278-302.

Eisinger, Josef, "Sweet poison. Episodic outbreaks of colic, or 'wine disease,' plagued Europe for many centuries, even after an obscure German physician traced the cause to lead," Natural History 105 (July 96): 48-53.

Gilfillan, S.C. "Lead Poisoning and the Fall of Rome," Journal of Occupational Medicine, 1 (1965): 53-60.

Gilfillan, S. Colum. Rome's Ruin by Lead Poison. Long Beach, CA, 1990.

Hodge, T. A. "Vitruvius, lead pipes, and lead poisoning," American Journal of Archaeology 85 (1981): 486-491.

Karlen, Arno Napoleon's Glands and Other Ventures in Biohistory. Toronto, 1984.

Needleman, Lionel and Diane. "Lead poisoning and the decline of the Roman aristocracy," Classical Views 4,1 (1985): 63-94.

Nriagu, J.O. Lead and Lead Poisoning in Antiquity. New York, 1983.

Nriagu, Jerome O. "Saturnine Gout among Roman Aristocrats: Did Lead Poisoning Contribute to the Fall of the Empire?", New England Journal of Medicine, 308.11 (March 17, 1983): 660-3.

Scarborough, John. "The myth of lead poisoning among the Romans: a review essay," Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 39,4 (1984): 469-475.

Skovenborg, Erik. "Lead in wine through the ages," Journal of Wine Research 6, 1 (1995).

Steinbock, R. Ted. "Lead Ingestion in Ancient Times," Paleopathology Newsletter , no. 27 (Sept. 1979): 9-11.

Waldron, H.A. "Lead Poisoning in the Ancient World," Medical History, 17 (1973): 391-399.

2. Reviews of Nriagu, Lead and Lead Poisoning in Antiquity.

Chisolm, J. Julian, Jr, in Bulletin of the History of Medicine 59 (1985): 258-9.

Houston, George W., in Classical Journal (1989-90), 73-5, and 80.

Scarborough, John, in The Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 39 (1984): 469-75.

Phillips, Charles Robert III. "Old Wine in Old Lead Bottles: Nriagu on the Fall of Rome," CW 78 (1984), 29-33.

Other Aspects of Ancient Heavy Metal Pollution

Hong, Sungmin, "Greenland ice evidence of hemispheric lead pollution two millenia ago by Greek and Roman civilizations," Science 265 (23 Sept 94): 1841-1843.

Nriagu, Jerome O., "Global metal pollution," Environment, 32 (Sept 90): 6-11+?.

Nriagu, Jerome O., "A history of global metal pollution," Science 272 (12 Apr 96): 223-224.

"From silver, toxic lining in ancient atmosphere," New York Times (Late NY edition) 27 Sept 94, C6.