Having been prefect of Rome and city administrator, Gregory retired to a monastery to avoid the trappings of success, preferring instead the austere and joyful simplicity of monastic life. But this was not to last. In 589, Rome was in trouble. A flood had destroyed the grain reserves, leading to famine and a city-wide plague ravaged the populace and killed the pope. Gregory was elected pope and although he initially attempted to refuse the position, he eventually assumed the role, albeit reluctantly. But here his administrative skills and experience were put to excellent use. Rome was packed with refugees, poor and homeless people trying to scrape together a living in a city suffering plague, famine, floods, and constant threat of attack. They needed a wise and merciful leader.