The Plague of Justinian

21 Jan, 2021 940 History of Europe

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the plague that broke out in Constantinople 541AD, in the reign of Emperor Justinian. According to the historian Procopius, writing in Byzantium at the time, this was a plague by which the whole human race came near to being destroyed, embracing the whole world, and blighting the lives of all mankind. The bacterium behind the Black Death has since been found on human remains from that time, and the symptoms described were the same, and evidence of this plague has since been traced around the Mediterranean and from Syria to Britain and Ireland. The question of how devastating it truly was, though, is yet to be resolved.

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  • John Haldon No other episodes
    Professor of Byzantine History and Hellenic Studies Emeritus at Princeton University
  • Rebecca Flemming No other episodes
    Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Cambridge
  • Greg Woolf 8 episodes
    Director of the Institute of Classical Studies, University of London

Reading list

  • Biology of Man in History
    Robert Forster and Orest Ranum (eds.) (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975) Google Books →
  • The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease and the End of an Empire
    Kyle Harper (Princeton University Press, 2017) Google Books →
  • A Companion to the Global Early Middle Ages
    Erik Hermans (ed.) (Arc Humanities Press, 2020) Google Books →
  • Plague and the End of Antiquity: The Pandemic of 541-750
    Lester K. Little (ed.) (Cambridge University Press, 2007) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian
    Michael Maas (ed.) (Cambridge University Press, 2005) Google Books →
  • Gregory of Tours on Sixth-Century Plague and other epidemics
    Michael McCormick (Speculum, 2021)
  • The 'Justinianic Plague': An 'Inconsequential Pandemic'? A Reply
    Mischa Meier (Medizinhistorisches Journal, 2020)
  • History of the Wars: Books I and II
    Procopius (trans. H B Dewing) (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013) Google Books →
  • Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire and the Birth of Europe
    William Rosen (Jonathan Cape, 2007) Google Books →

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Programme ID: m000rc43

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Auto-category: 940.1 (Europe–History–476-1492)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 541 AD, in the reign of Justinian, there was a plague by which the whole human race came near to being destroyed, embracing the whole world and blighting the lives of all mankind.