Talk:Plague of Justinian

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Talk:Plague of Justinian/Comments)
Jump to: navigation, search


Removed the "disputed" tag, added, apparently as a joke, by anon. User: a non-entity otherwise unheard from. --Wetman 11:31, 1 Mar 2005 (UTC)

bubonic plague?[edit]

It's not proven, whether this was the bubonic plague or not. see Black Death for this matter. and it is not proven either, if the death toll was as high as it is claimed here. -musschrott

Please see bubonic plague - for information on the disease and historic epidemics/pandemics. As with most historic events, we can't "prove" anything, but we can evaluate and discuss. It is true current scientists hold differing opinions (see bubonic plague alternatives as well as the written references). A general scholarly consensus says the Plague of Justinian was bubonic plague while the Black Death spread more rapidly due to the shifting of the disease from the bubonic to the pneumonic variety, with some septicemic plague as well. The Third Pandemic is considered to be a combination of the three plague varieties. Numbers are always an estimate (at best) from a historic source. I think the original author was quite clear about that and I left the concept in when I did my recent edit. WBardwin 06:22, 25 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Tell us more about this concensus. Is it a concensus among historians, or epidemiologists?? After all, historians are not scientists. Why not cite this and allow for controversy on this point. Unless there's been a serious study done on the cause of the plague (has there?) which turned up some concrete physical evidence (ie the pressence of plague bacteria found in the bodies of people known to have died in the Plague of Justinian... has there??) then I don't think this is a verifiable fact. Certainly not enough to be stated so concretely in the article. If the concensus is merely based on written records of the symptoms, then this is merely a theory--and a fairly weak one. So I think it's fair to ask for explaination as to just why it is believed to have been plague as opposed to something else. We must be careful when taking an authoritative tone in an article to state theory rather than fact. Also, I'm fairly sure I remember traditional theories regarding the evolution of Bubonic Plague tracing it to Central Asia at a later time period. Thus, if the Plague of Justinian was in fact Bubonic Plague, then wouldn't that contradict conventional theories of the origins of the disease?? It's these kinds of questions that demand further detail on the basis of the claim that it's bubonic plague. Anyone else know more? Links? Thelastemperor 01:07, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

At least some of the deaths from Justinian's Plague may have been from typhoid fever as well as Yellow Plague (Yellow Fever noticably different from bubonic from its jaundice tinge). Granted that bubonic sufferers, if they had time, would have been sufficiently weakened to catch typhoid fever in addition to their other woes. How this would abet Yellow Fever is not known to me, but some victims were definitely Jaundiced. The Yellow Fever spread north to Wales, Ireland, etc. Apparently they suffered no Black Plague there at that time. 02:34, 10 November 2006 (UTC)

My admittedly partial understanding: The evidence that this particular "plague" (pandemic) was caused by "plague" (Yersinia pestis) comes not only from reported symptoms but also from zoology, specifically the especially effective transport by, and transfer to humans from, Chinese black rats. These were the standard stowaway of the day (but have been displaced by Norwegian rats, who are not quite as "friendly" to the bugs). Jmacwiki (talk) 22:39, 9 March 2008 (UTC)

It looks like there is new evidence from DNA testing that this plague was indeed caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis: Yersinia pestis DNA from Skeletal Remains from the 6th Century AD Reveals Insights into Justinianic Plague However, I am hesitant to alter the page since I don't fully understand the science behind it. In any case, this article should somehow be added to the page but I'm hoping someone with a better understanding will do so. --Robin McNally (talk) 11:12, 14 May 2013 (UTC)


10,000 people a day? Really? Wasn't the city's population only about 500,000 at this point? -Dmz5 19:12, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Oh I missed the note about this later in the article. I'm going to rearrange it a little bit so it's clearer.--Dmz5 19:13, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

BE *and* ERE, and two questions[edit]

I have modified the empire's name in the opening line: "ERE or BE". This is not related to the controversy about the proper name for Justinian's empire (there is plenty of that at the Byzantine_Empire page). Rather, this is one of the few articles in which both names have appropriate uses. (a) Justinian's reconquest had the (very temporary) effect of reuniting the Eastern & Western parts of the RE, and a strategic project of this breadth only makes sense from the perspective that the two regions were "supposed" to be united. (b) However, the adjective "Byzantine" is used in several places, and "Eastern Roman" would be a stylistically poor replacement. (Arguably, "Roman" might be the right replacement, but that gets back to the whole BE naming controversy. ;-) Jmacwiki (talk) 03:09, 2 August 2009 (UTC)

Fraction of population?[edit]

100 million deaths worldwide is a LOT (even now!). Does anyone know what fraction of the global population this represented? My guess: At least 20%, which might make it the largest catastrophe in the history of our species. Jmacwiki (talk) 03:09, 2 August 2009 (UTC)

According to Wikipedia's world population page, it would be much more even than that —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:16, 24 January 2010 (UTC)

Insert or point to map?[edit]

It would be really nice to insert, or at least link to, a map of Justinian's holdings as of 540. Can anyone find one, and do this? Or at least the usual map of 565? (That one is present at Byzantine_Empire.) Jmacwiki (talk) 03:09, 2 August 2009 (UTC)

Impact on reconstructing the WRE (renovatio imperii)[edit]

The wording on this point is challenged with a note on "dubious - discuss". Specifically, the wording is, "could have credibly reformed the Western Roman Empire".

I believe the intended point of the text is not that conquering all of the former WRE - especially including Britain - was credible; only that conquering western North Africa, Italy, and either Iberia or Gaul (or both) might constitute a reasonable definition of a re-formed WRE (albeit as part of the reunited Roman empire).

Achieving that much, in the absence of this plague, seems entirely credible to me. (Justinian reconquered western NA and Italy, despite this plague.) Is there a strong contrary argument?

If not, any thoughts on improving the wording? Jmacwiki (talk) 02:55, 25 June 2011 (UTC)

Arrogance of some Wikipedians[edit]

Having stumbled on this page, I notice a couple dozen comments like "citation needed" and "dubious - discuss". I don't know who put them there, but this seems to me to be the work of yet another Wikipedian who doesn't actually write articles, but just criticises them. If you don't like what's written in the article, then do the work yourself and improve it. I'm not going to say what I really think of contributors like this, but please don't just drop these heavy handed comments everywhere in someone else's work. Roll up your sleeves and rewrite the damn thing -- or STFU. Schildewaert (talk) 13:51, 2 October 2011 (UTC)

So you just drop an attack on other editors here without doing anything yourself? Without even knowing if any of them were placed there by editors who searched for but didn't find sources, but decided not to delete first without giving other editors a chance to find some? What kind of example are you setting? Dougweller (talk) 14:59, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
It was indeed just one editor, and they put most of them before the punctuation, which is incorrect. This was in April, and someone tagged the article in July so I've removed almost all the tags. Dougweller (talk) 15:12, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
Don't do that, unless you have reasons they're inappropriate (which you don't give here, apart from not liking their placement). People need to know if and where the article is questionable.  — LlywelynII 22:48, 7 February 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────In my edit summary I did point out that some were already sourced. Eg:

"Procopius[1] recorded that, at its peak, the plague was killing 10,000 people in Constantinople every day, but the accuracy of this figure is in question and the true number will probably never be known; what is known is that there was no room to bury the dead, and bodies were left stacked in the open[citation needed]."

Isn't that sourced? Then there's:

"The long-term effects on European and Christian history were enormous[citation needed]. Justinian's imperial gambit was ultimately unsuccessful. The troops, overextended, could not hold on[vague]. When the plague subsided, they retook Italy, but could not move further north[citation needed]. The eastern empire held Italy for the remainder of Justinian's life, but the empire quickly lost all territory except the southern part after he died. Italy was ravaged by war and fragmented for centuries as the Lombard tribes invaded the north[citation needed]."

Is that an appropriate use of citation tags? I'd say no. Here:

"Nevertheless it is possible[vague] that there has been a tendency to exaggerate the differential effects[according to whom?]. British sources are more likely to report natural disasters than Saxon ones in this era[citation needed]."

I removed the first two and left the last, the important one.

Could I ask about this: " A genetic study of the bacterium causing bubonic plague based on samples taken from the remains of 14th-century plague victims in London and a survey of other samples[clarification needed] suggests[how?] that the Plague of Justinian and others from antiquity arose from either now-extinct strains of Yersinia pestis genetically distinct from the 14th-century strain or came from pathogens entirely unrelated to bubonic plague." I'm not clear what we need to know, and why we need to know it, about the samples or how the study suggests ... - isn't that all in the sources? Thanks. Dougweller (talk) 09:20, 8 February 2013 (UTC)

Aw, you're sweet. I was just speaking generally against Schild's attitude ("shaddup and lemme alone, y'#!$@ editors") and not against your particular edits, which – as you noted – I didn't bother leafing through the history to check one-by-one. And, as you now note here, you had excellent reasons for each one and (more importantly) left the important {{fact}} tags alone. Good show.
As for my particular edit, sorry if I was unclear. It may very well be included in the source, but (mho) the article's gloss should be clarified – how can a study of 14th-century victims "and others" (from where? 3rd-dynasty Egypt? 20th-century India?) possibly identify the 6th-century disease that we're talking about? They don't seem to have actually studied the actual victims from the actual disease under discussion; by rights, the whole thing should be removed as off-topic.
That said, I'm sure (since it's here) that the authors had some rationale for extrapolating their results. It may even be a valid one, but it's not currently on display. Hence, the need for clarification on those two points. (Yeah, Schild would tell me to go do it myself, but I've got a dozen other windows open so... {{Inline cleanup tags}})  — LlywelynII 09:45, 8 February 2013 (UTC)
Only a dozen? lol (I've about 250 but only maybe half are Wikipedia related). Life's too short - we try our best but we can't fix it all! Dougweller (talk) 12:56, 8 February 2013 (UTC)

British vs. English[edit]

The final paragraph of the Origins and spread section implies that the British were separate from the English. These days the English are a subset of the British. Are the English in this paragraph the Angles of the Anglo-Saxons? If so, referring to them as Angles throughout, instead changing the term to English without explanation would make it clearer to the reader. Or including an explanation of what the term English meant during the period would be another way to make it clearer. (Obviously I don't know too much about it myself.)--Wikimedes (talk) 00:12, 2 August 2012 (UTC)

I didn't notice that, but presumably any distinction being made between Brits and English at this point is talking about Britons (Celtic people) – basically, the Welsh – not the members of the remains of the empire named for a pope's affection for some slaves of the Angles (tribe).  — LlywelynII 22:45, 7 February 2013 (UTC)
Yeah, this section is bad. I think I should just delete it. It is not helping anything to talk about British versus English. Not only was "English" not much of a language yet, the "British" speaks of a geography that can't at this point in history be distinguished from "English." There are older names for the people and the location and more descriptive names for the tribes and peoples. This section needs a rewrite. I like to saw logs! (talk) 03:27, 12 October 2014 (UTC)

Whittow's article and other doubters[edit]

The article looks OK to me ... however, other than in half a footnote (a citation of Mark Whittow, one of the foremost active historians of the early Byzantine periods), no hint is given that the Justinianic Plague's intensity, duration and spread have all been questioned can be found in the article. Only a very few sources from the period even mention it and there's no solid archaeological data ... so ... something might be added about the possibility that it was not nearly as serious as some recent popular histories make out. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:10, 1 October 2012 (UTC)

No illness in Europe from 750 to 1300[edit]

It should go without saying that this is dubious, especially when given uncited, but just one example – smallpox entered Europe at the beginning of this time frame and broke out repeatedly for the next millennium. If memory serves, some weird leprosy issues were on-going as well. Is there a "new" missing from the sentence? or is this just a matter of defining epidemic up so it no longer applies to repeated massive infections? If so, we should remove the point or clarify that we're using the term in a non-obvious manner. — LlywelynII 22:53, 7 February 2013 (UTC)

I don't understand this either. Dougweller (talk) 09:22, 8 February 2013 (UTC)
Well it depends on what is meant by "major epidemic". I think it is true that, until the Black Death, nothing killed anything like as large a proportion of Europe's population as the Justinian plague. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:10, 14 July 2013 (UTC)

China as the primary source[edit]

I am confused by the sentence at the top of the article that says Genetic studies have pointed to China as the source of the Justinian plague. I read the footnoted quote at the bottom and that seemed to indicate Egypt as the source, so i read the Times article which is cited and that seemed to be discussing plagues that were at a much later time in history. Have I missed something, or is this something which should be re-worded to be clearer. In other words, based on the source cited, I don't see how China can be the source of the Justinian plague.Trucker11 (talk) 12:04, 28 April 2013 (UTC)

It calls the Justinian Plague the first of three waves and says all three originated in China, and quotes another expert who says it is possible. Maybe it needs qualifying, but the article does say China. Dougweller (talk) 14:19, 28 April 2013 (UTC)

Halley's Comet A.D. 536[edit]

SAN FRANCISCO — The ancients had ample reason to view comets as harbingers of doom, it would appear.

A piece of the famous Halley's comet likely slammed into Earth in A.D. 536, blasting so much dust into the atmosphere that the planet cooled considerably, a new study suggests. This dramatic climate shift is linked to drought and famine around the world, which may have made humanity more susceptible to "Justinian's plague" in A.D. 541-542 — the first recorded emergence of the Black Death in Europe.

The new results come from an analysis of Greenland ice that was laid down between A.D. 533 and 540. The ice cores record large amounts of atmospheric dust during this seven-year period, not all of it originating on Earth. [‪Photos of Halley's Comet Through History]

"I have all this extraterrestrial stuff in my ice core," study leader Dallas Abbott, of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, told LiveScience here last week at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Certain characteristics, such as high levels of tin, identify a comet as the origin of the alien dust, Abbott said. And the stuff was deposited during the Northern Hemisphere spring, suggesting that it came from the Eta Aquarid meteor shower — material shed by Halley's comet that Earth plows through every April-May.

The Eta Aquarid dust may be responsible for a period of mild cooling in 533, Abbott said, but it alone cannot explain the global dimming event of 536-537, during which the planet may have cooled by as much as 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius). For that, something more dramatic is required.

Ice core data record evidence of a volcanic eruption in 536, but it almost certainly wasn't big enough to change the climate so dramatically, Abbott said.

"There was, I think, a small volcanic effect," she said. "But I think the major thing is that something hit the ocean."

She and her colleagues have found circumstantial evidence of such an impact. The Greenland ice cores contain fossils of tiny tropical marine organisms — specifically, certain species of diatoms and silicoflagellates.

An extraterrestrial impact in the tropical ocean likely blasted these little low-latitude organisms all the way to chilly Greenland, researchers said. And Abbott believes the object responsible was once a piece of Halley's comet.

Halley zooms by Earth once every 76 years or so. It appeared in Earth's skies in A.D. 530 and was astonishingly bright at the time, Abbott said. (In fact, observations of Halley's comet go way back, with research suggesting the ancient Greeks saw the comet streaking across their skies in 466 B.C.)

"Of the two brightest apparitions of Comet Halley, one of them is in 530," Abbott said. "Comets are normally these dirty snowballs, but when they're breaking up or they're shedding lots of debris, then that outer layer of dark stuff goes away, and so the comet looks brighter."

It's unclear where exactly the putative comet chunk hit Earth or how big it was, she added. However, a 2004 study estimated that a comet fragment just 2,000 feet (600 meters) wide could have caused the 536-537 cooling event if it exploded in the atmosphere and its constituent dust were spread evenly around the globe.— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:19, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

So what is your suggested edit to this page? Ckruschke (talk) 16:34, 19 December 2013 (UTC)Ckruschke
This paper shows significant climate cooling at the time, possibly affecting people in the region. TGCP (talk) 12:05, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

Total death toll[edit]

The article sites a "high estimate" of 25 Million, but US CDC cites 100 million.[2] I realize these estimates are wildly uncertain, but shouldn't the latter high estimate be used instead? Or maybe both should be presented. (talk) 04:29, 10 November 2014 (UTC) Tom

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Plague of Justinian/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

The article should have HIGH importance for the WP Middle Ages project. The article accurately states the cultural, political, and epidemiological consequences of the plague.

Last edited at 22:04, 9 March 2008 (UTC).

Substituted at 03:05, 30 April 2016 (UTC)

  1. ^ Procopius, Persian War II.22-23.
  2. ^