As Britain and the rest of Europe swelter through a heat wave, a new study suggests that drought had bloody consequences for the rulers of the ancient world.
Academics have found that prolonged periods of low rainfall in the Roman Empire led to more emperors being assassinated by restive legions.
According to the thesis put forward by two Canadian scholars, drought led to food shortages on the far-flung frontiers of the empire, threatening soldiers with starvation and making them more likely to foment rebellion against Rome.
Cornelius Christian of Brock University in Ontario and and Liam Elbourne from St Francis Xavier University in Novia Scotia found a correlation between rainfall patterns on the empire’s borders in Gaul and Germany and political turmoil in the imperial capital from 27BC to 476AD.
During that period, 25 emperors were assassinated – about one-fifth of the total.
Their research found that a 20 per cent fall in average rainfall led to an increase in the probability that an emperor would be bloodily dispatched the following year.
The period between 235AD and 285AD was particularly murderous, with 14 out of 26 emperors being assassinated, the academics report in a paper published in the journal Economics Letters.
"Lower precipitation increases the probability that Roman troops, who relied on local food supplies, starve.
“This pushes soldiers to mutiny, hence weakening the emperor’s support, and increasing the probability he is assassinated,” they reported.
While modern-day democracies may not be at risk from droughts and crop shortages, climate change is a factor in some conflicts in the developing world, particularly in parts of Africa.
The wild fire that raced through the coastal town of Mati outside Athens last month has tested the Greek government, with survivors and relatives of the victims venting their fury against ministers and claiming that the evacuation was botched.
The hot weather continued in much of Europe on Thursday, with a blast of hot air sweeping in from North Africa and Italy recording temperatures of up to 38C.
In southern Portugal and parts of Spain, the mercury is expected to soar to 44C this weekend, while southern France is also likely to experience high temperatures.
In the UK, London and the southeast were expected to bask in temperatures of 31C this weekend, although northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be cooler and may see a few rain showers.
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