This introduction frames a collection of four papers, originally presented at the 13th Shifting Frontiers in Late Antiquity conference, that examine late antique episcopal responses to disaster, typically military defeats caused by the barbarians. To contextualize what follows, this essay begins by introducing various ways disaster researchers define disaster, as well as the related concepts of hazard and vulnerability. The paper also examines several terminological and methodological challenges associated with the application of modern disaster studies to the ancient world. Importantly, disasters cannot be separated from their social context. Indeed, thinking of disasters as social phenomena encourages historians to look beyond the disaster events themselves, to consider why and how those in power reacted (or failed to react) and what the experience was like for the individuals who lived through them. Finally, this essay serves as an argument against the simplistic association of the period of Late Antiquity with disaster.

You do not currently have access to this content.