Very interesting. The history of the Byzantine Empire being a major personal interest of mine, and knowing much about Justinian’s reign…
I recently read a paper linking it to other causes as well. (Of course I have read numerous theories linking it to all kinds of causes over time.) I’d like to examine the bacteriological findings for myself. I have often wondered what the exact vectors and point of origin was for this plague (prior to it’s arrival in Constantinople. and the Empire).
Sometimes secondary bacterial infections will ride upon another pathogen or secondarily infect an already weakened host.
Justinian Plague Linked to the Black Death
This Bible History Daily article was originally published in May 2013. It has been updated.—Ed.
“During these times there was a pestilence, by which the whole human race came near to being annihilated.”
–Procopius, 542 C.E. (scroll down for his full description)
The reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian I (482–565 C.E.) was marked by both glory and devastation. Justinian reconquered much of the former Roman Empire while establishing lasting legal codes and cultural icons, including Hagia Sophia, the world’s largest cathedral for nearly 1,000 years. However, his reign was scarred by the spread of the Justinian Plague, which claimed the lives of tens of millions of people in the 540s. Justinian himself was a victim of the plague. While he was able to recover, much of the Byzantine population did not, and the spread of the plague shaped world history for centuries to come. When Justinian’s troops had conquered nearly all of Italy and the Mediterranean coast, they were struck by plague and could not continue the conquest through Europe, ultimately losing much of the conquered territory after Justinian’s death. The Justinian Plague halved the European population and weakened the Byzantine Empire, making it vulnerable to the Arab conquests of the seventh century.