The Ancient Roman Origins of Government Disaster Response

After a devasting fire in Rome in 64 CE, Emperor Nero successfully rebuilt the city.

When we reflect on the history of government response to natural disasters such as plagues, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and now Covid-19, we discover that the expectation that central governments should play a role in recovering from such disasters can be traced back to the actions of three Roman emperors of the 1st century: Titus, Nero and Tiberius. This video traces their history of response to disasters and how it relates to today.

Written by Steven L. Tuck, Professor of Classics at Miami University. Narration by Dr. Nicholas B. Breyfogle. 

Video production by Laura Seeger and Dr. Nicholas B. Breyfogle. Production assistance by Kristin Osborne. Audio production by Paul Kotheimer, College of Arts & Sciences Academic Technology Services. The Origins' editorial team includes Editors Nicholas Breyfogle, Steven Conn and David Steigerwald; Managing Editors Lauren Henry, Sarah Paxton and Brionna Mendoza; Associate Editor: Mina Park and Kristin Osborne

We thank the Stanton Foundation for their funding of this and other Origins projects.

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This content is made possible, in part, by Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this content do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.