Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins was the 2008 commencement speaker. Collins became a household name when, in 2001, he was named Poet Laureate of the United States, a position he held for two years. He subsequently served as New York State Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006. Part of Notable Lectures & Performances series, Colorado College. Recorded May 19, 2008.
For centuries scholars have assumed that a ubiquitous deterioration in quality of life occurred throughout the former Western Roman Empire following its collapse in the 5th century AD. This presumption is largely the result of a lack of understanding of the common people and the so-called “barbarians.” My research addresses this gap in the literature through the bioarchaeological analysis of the impact of the Vandal occupation of the Roman city of Sanisera on the island of Menorca, Spain during the 5th-6th centuries AD. The frequencies of osteological indicators of pathological conditions are calculated and compared to frequencies at other sites throughout the Empire dated to before, during, and after the barbarian invasions and collapse of the Western Roman Empire. This data is used to determine relative quality of life and the level of continuity in health between Roman and Vandal rule. The indicators analyzed are dental caries, dental calculus, abscesses, antemortem tooth loss (AMTL), periodontal disease, dental enamel hypoplasias (DEH), traumas including fractures and dislocations, periostitis, osteomyelitis, degenerative joint disease, osteophytosis, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis. The results indicate a high rate of disease at Sanisera, likely as a result of the plague that swept the region during this period. The diet was relatively balanced and nutritious, and the level of mechanical stress was normal for a rural, non-mechanized society. Overall, these results indicate that the average level of health at Sanisera was relatively good for a rural, non-mechanized society from antiquity. The level of health seen at Sanisera is consistent with other sites prior to the collapse of the Empire, implying that the Vandal occupation of the island did not result in a decline in the quality of life of its inhabitants.