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The manual for handling plagues dates at least to Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor who was eventually killed by an epidemic.

While wealthy Romans fled to their villas, Aurelius stayed in the capital and led by example.

Aurelius took advice and empowered qualified people to lead.

The Roman emperor spread the burden of fighting the pestilence among classes. He raised taxes on Rome’s aristocracy, sold his own imperial luxuries and paid for the funerals of ordinary people.

 “Never will so many ask so much of so few,” Mr Varadkar said. Hospital staff battling an invisible enemy are the equivalent of the second world war pilots fighting the Luftwaffe. 

Which role will Mr Trump play? At the moment he is hovering between Marshal Philippe Pétain and General Charles de Gaulle. Let us hope he knows enough history to choose.

Edward Luce FT 19 March 2020

The Fate of Rome is the first book to examine the catastrophic role that climate change and infectious diseases played in the collapse of Rome's power--a story of nature's triumph over human ambition.

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