Empires are nothing compared to the might of a volcanic eruption. Wead/Shutterstock

"There is no simple method to get to the source of these past eruptions, and often it is only the combination of many methods from many disciplines to nail it down," co-author Michael Sigl, an analytical chemist at the PSI in Switzerland, told IFLScience.

"Often the only direct evidence of climate impacting eruptions comes with no name tag."

In any case, using cutting-edge climate modeling programs, the team have found that the rain belt above the kingdom would have weakened quite significantly during the dying days of the dynasty. This would explain why the Ptolemaic military failed to win several territorial wars at the time: the social unrest at home, driven by a lack of food, required more attention.

This study, then, directly links volcanism and climate change with the destruction of the empire – and it’s not the first time such a connection has been made. In the past, several mighty empires have been wiped out by the fires of Earth, including the Minoans of Thera, and even possibly the Mayans.

At one point, it was thought that humanity was almost rendered extinct by the supervolcanic blast at Toba 75,000 years ago, but this has since been considered to be an overestimation. Either way, it’s clear that when nature feels like lashing out, there’s very little we can do about it but bunker down and hope for the best.

If these eruptions hadn’t taken place, who knows? Perhaps the Roman conquest would have failed, and humanity’s history would have turned out very differently.

The Ptolemaic Empire in 200 BCE. Thomas Lessman/Wikimedia Commons; CC BY-SA 3.0


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