By any account, 590 was a disastrous year in Rome. Plague had struck, sweeping through the homes of poor and wealthy alike. Even the pope was carried away by the fearsome disease. The spring floods were the worst in memory; the Tiber broke through its retaining walls, causing enormous damage.
The Lombards, a fierce barbarian tribe that had been invading Italy, were now threatening the city itself. Food was in short supply, civi
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