© 2016

A History of Disease in Ancient Times

More Lethal than War


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xv
  2. Philip Norrie
    Pages 1-5
  3. Philip Norrie
    Pages 7-16
  4. Philip Norrie
    Pages 111-113
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 115-155

About this book


This book shows how bubonic plague and smallpox helped end the Hittite Empire, the Bronze Age in the Near East and later the Carthaginian Empire. The book will examine all the possible infectious diseases present in ancient times and show that life was a daily struggle for survival either avoiding or fighting against these infectious disease epidemics. The book will argue that infectious disease epidemics are a critical link in the chain of causation for the demise of most civilizations in the ancient world and that ancient historians should no longer ignore them, as is currently the case.


infectious disease ancient history Hittite Empire Hittite Epidemic Bronze Age Amenhotep III Akhenaten Sekhmet

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of New South WalesFaculty of MedicineAustraliaAustralia

About the authors

Philip Norrie is a family physician in Sydney, Australia and a Conjoint Senior Lecturer in the Medical Faculty at the University of New South Wales, Australia. His main interest is medical history with the role of infectious disease epidemics on history and the history of wine as a medicine for the past 5,000 years.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title A History of Disease in Ancient Times
  • Book Subtitle More Lethal than War
  • Authors Philip Norrie
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-28936-6
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-319-80459-0
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-28937-3
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XV, 155
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 16 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Ancient History
    Classical Studies
    History of Science
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“Dr. Norrie perceptively depicts how plagues unlike armies, are unpredictable. Because contagions, such as bubonic plague or dysentery, leave few edifices or easily documented traces, historians have underestimated their devastating effect on ancient civilisations. His book seeks to correct these omissions in our understanding of epidemic scourges in human history. As illustrated by his review of ancient Egyptian and Hittite history, his book challenges prevailing dogmas into the role of infections in the downfall of these empires.”  (Thomas Gottlieb, Clinical Associate Professor, University of Sydney, Australia)

“Dr. Norrie’s excellent work–A History of Disease in Ancient Times–is one of the most important and novel contributions to the history and theory of epidemiology in decades. The book emphasizes a crucial concept that historians seem to have missed. This is that infectious epidemic diseases would have been a crucial explanatory variable for the cyclic changes of the Bronze Age, including the collapse of the major civilization of that era.” (Craig Molgaard, Professor and Chair, School of Public and Community Health Sciences, University of Montana, USA)