In the foregoing article, W. Scheidel builds on earlier work, most notably that of R. P. Duncan-Jones in JRA 9, to offer a model for the predicted effects of the Antonine plague and to argue that the model fits the evidence from Roman Egypt reasonably well within the limits of the quantity and quality of the latter. In his second footnote, he encourages critical response, suggesting that it “may either corroborate or undermine my interpretation.” The following pages are intended as a contribution to that discussion, but with lesser ambitions than either corroborating or undermining the model as a whole. They offer some of both, in fact, but more in the direction of undermining it.
There are three reasons for not claiming too much at this point and not offering any general conclusion (as I do not). The first is that I do not have any fixed views on the degree to which the plague was the prime mover behind the changes visible in late 2nd- and 3rd-c. Egypt. In the absence of any concerted attempt to formulate and test other hypotheses about the engines of social and economic change, it is hard to say if the degree of fit of evidence to model is impressive or not. The most obvious counter-candidate is the increased municipalization of Egypt during just this period, especially from A.D. 200 onward. It would be useful to generate a model of economic change from this force and see if it is equally capable of accounting for the evidence.