ACOM Book Club for December 2021

ACOM Book Club December 2021(Notes written by Peter)
The ACOM Book Club met on December 2, 2021 in the parlor at St Sahag.
In attendance were Francis, Tom, Azad, Jim, Margaret, Alfred, Tashina, Peter, and, via Zoom, Leroy and Cynthia.
This month we read "Justinian’s Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe" by William Rosen, which we discussed over the treats people brought. This book was chosen after reading Hamnet and the role the plague played in that narrative. It comes well-reviewed and created a buzz when it was released over a decade ago. Here's what the book club thought of it:

Generally speaking, people were both impressed and at times exasperated by the level of detail packed into the book. Which meant that nearly everyone had a favorite and least favorite part of the book. Here are just a few that came up:
Alfred was interested in the history, but also was curious about cats, which did not (surprisingly) get covered in this book.
Francis was impressed with the history and the architecture parts.
Margaret was impressed with the section on the silkworm.
Jim also liked the silkworm section, and told us the silk underwear story (if you missed it, you'll have to attend our next meeting). Jim also thought that while the flea hurt Justinian's empire, he thought the book showed us how overextended Justinian was by the time of the plague, including a depleted treasury, which meant the plague just hastened his fall.
Peter was impressed with the history of bacteria and how the strain that became the bubonic plague ended up in rats in Alexandria.
Azad liked the section that attributed the rise of Islam from the effects of the plague.
Tom was impressed with the picture it painted of the Eastern Roman Empire and the polyglot society it created.
We also discussed religion and bacteria.
While Armenians and Armenia was not the focus of the book, a few Armenians did show up, including the general Narses. Armenians also show up in sections describing dealings with the Persians. Research I did after book club showed that just 50 years after Justinian, in 610 AD, Heraclius the first Emperor of Armenian descent takes over the Eastern Roman Empire. There would be at least a dozen more after him.
Here ends the notes. Please add anything I missed. Thanks!
Peter Hajinian

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