10 Scary Facts About The Justinian Plague

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There have been numerous plagues throughout human history that managed to kill an innumerable amount of people within a short span of time. The Justinian Plague was one of the deadliest plagues in known history, with millions of fatalities. It was right up there with The Black Death, an infamous plague that killed off half the population in Europe in the mid-1300s.


10. First Major Plague In Recorded History

The Justinian Plague, which began in AD 541, is considered the first pandemic in recorded history because it swept across three continents. The plague may have started in Egypt and was carried to other continents by merchant ships infested with disease-carrying rodents. When the plague reached Constantinople, it killed roughly 300,000 people there in the first year.

The plague got its name from the Byzantine emperor Justinian, who reigned from AD 527 to 565. Just as Emperor Justinian was trying to rebuild his empire to the glory of ancient Rome, the plague struck and left it devastated. The plague destroyed his military and his economy. Emperor Justinian was also infected with the plague but pulled through, unlike many others.

9. The Deadly Microbe

Both the Justinian Plague and the Black Death were caused by the same microbe, Yersinia pestis. Although the strains of each plague differed, both had deadly consequences. The Black death, which happened between 1347 and 1351, killed 50 to 200 million Europeans. The earlier Justinian Plague killed up to 100 million people across Europe, Asia, Arabia, and North Africa in 50 years.

Although roughly 800 years apart, both plagues are known to have been spread by rodents and their fleas, which transferred the deadly bacteria to humans. Strains of the original microbes are still carried by rodents today.

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