Department or Program

Classical and Medieval Studies


The Third-Century Crisis was a period of instability, dramatic upheaval, and devastation for the Roman Empire. Wars and economic depressions had disastrous effects, leaving Rome vulnerable to all manner of threats. One such threat was disease. Often overlooked, the Plague of Cyprian consumed Roman North Africa with impacts across the Roman Mediterranean. To fully understand the impact of this ancient pandemic and its implications, it is necessary to identify its cause and discover its source. I will begin by examining and contextualizing Cyprian as our main source, and the factors shaping how he thought and wrote. Using differential diagnosis and multiple inquiry methods, this thesis will attempt to discern the pathogen responsible for the plague and discuss its impact on Rome. In addition to analyzing the process of zoonosis leading to the outbreak, Roman trade routes will be delineated to explore their potential role in facilitating disease spread. Pandemics act as catalysts for societal change; the Cyprianic plague inflicted massive societal trauma on the Roman Empire with Christianity providing support for devastated communities. At the beginning of the third century Christianity was one of a number of mystery cults, yet, a century later, it held favor over Roman Emperors. The Cyprianic plague played a fundamental role in this dramatic expansion. Through Cyprian, other historical records, medical scholarship, and literary evidence, this thesis will explore the devastation of the Cyprianic plague and its role in Christianity's extraordinary concomitant growth during the third century.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Tizzoni, Mark

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.