This is the Emperor Justinian whose long and successful reign in the 6th century was marked by by two events, massive crop failure across the Roman world when ash spewed into atmosphere from a volcanic eruption in south asia, this brought an end to the Romano-British dominance in the British Isles and what is known as the migration period or dark ages, the second was the Justinian plague.
In 542, a devastating outbreak of Bubonic Plague, second only to Black Death of the 14th century, killed tens of millions. Justinian and members of his court, physically unaffected by the previous 535–536 famine, were afflicted, with Justinian himself contracting and surviving the pestilence. The impact of this outbreak of plague has recently been disputed, since evidence for tens of millions dying is uncertain, but it was thought to have killed a fifth of the population. The outbreak persisted until 549 in Northern Europe, for seven years.
The parallels with the Emperor Boris are quite striking, an alleged leader struck down by a ‘plague’ that it is alleged to have killed fifty thousand out of a population in excess of 67m is hardly the stuff of killing twenty per cent of the population, or even the half a million by the discredited soothsayer Ferguson at Imperial ( the parallels continue). The soothsayer is still in post even though his ‘sooth’ is dismissed by the scientific community as not credible.
In the absence of antibiotics to treat the plague, the only thing open to Justinian’s officials was, drum roll, lockdown. It did not work in 542, it did not work in 1348 either. Are we seriously saying Covid 19 is the equivalent of the Black Death and the Justinian plague, are we seriously advocating lockdown where trade and travel ended as the answer?
The Justinian plague burnt itself out after seven years. This disaster is not on the scale of those two events, but the consequence are going to be the same. The collapse of commerce and the value of currency, the collapse of a civilisation that started in the Age of Enlightenment, and the collapse of community. That is the new normal.
The benefits of these pestilences were the ridding the world of Roman Imperialism and in 1348 the ending of serfdom, it remains to be seen whether the old order of forelock tugging obeisance will be destroyed. Remember the date of the ending of these lockdowns shifts every week, the temporary state of emergency will soon be celebrating its first birthday, the Justinian plague took seven years to burn out, will you be still wearing your mask in 2027?
We are all descendants of the survivors of the Justinian Plague and the Black Death, future historians are going to point at us and laugh at how we threw away our commerce and civilisation.
Andrew Withers – Wessex Coordinator