Third Pod from the Sun

Third Pod from the Sun

Et tu Etna?

March 24, 2020

In 44 BCE, a momentous event occurred. Somewhere on Earth, a volcano erupted—one of the largest of last 2,500 years terms of climate impact. Traces of the eruption can be found in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica, in signs of cold weather in the growth rings of trees around the world, and records of famine and agricultural disaster from Egypt to China. The eruption caused global climate effects lasting several years.

Also, in Rome, a conspiracy of senators murdered Julius Caesar and the republic tumbled into civil war.

A group of young researchers say these events may be more closely intertwined than previously appreciated by classical historians focused on the internecine political machinations of the time period. They make the bold claim that the mysterious eruption in question is consistent with what seemed to be an unremarkable event at Mt Etna, a famous volcano in the center of the Roman provinces, in February of 44 BCE.


  • Rafael Castro, undergraduate student in atmospheric science, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California
  • Isabel Fendley, geochemist, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California
  • Morgan King, classicist, College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota
  • Tushar Mittal, planetary scientist, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California
  • Noah Randolph-Flagg, geologist, NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View, California

This episode was produced by Liza Lester and mixed by Kayla Surrey.