We've all heard of areas going dark because of an eclipse. Not a big deal, it lasts for only minutes. But in the year 536 AD, the lights went out for nearly eighteen months. The darkness covered Europe, the Middle East and even parts of Asia. It rolled in like a fog dropping temperatures and blotting out the sun. Leaving people frightened and not knowing the cause.
Today we have speculation that the fog that rolled in wasn't any average fog but brought on from the ash carried by the wind from an active eruption. The volcano that was the culprit is believed to have been located in Iceland.Attribute: peterhartree - https://www.flickr.com/photos/41812768@N07/15123275226/
The darkness caused hardships for the people living in those areas. With the loss of sunlight, came the drop in temperature. The drop in temperature caused many crops to fail which led to famine spreading across the land.
Procopius, a Greek scholar from Caesarea wrote: "During this winter Belisarius remained in Syracuse and Solomon in Carthage. And it came about during this year that a most dread portent took place. For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during this whole year, and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear nor such as it is accustomed to shed. And from the time when this thing happened men were free neither from war nor pestilence nor any other thing leading to death. And it was the time when Justinian was in the tenth year of his reign."
A Roman politician noted that they no longer had shadows, the sun had a bluish tint, and the moon had lost its luster.
Starvation became a real problem with the loss of crops. People didn't know if the sun would ever return and bring temperatures back to where they were. Even when the fog finally began to dissipate, the effects continued to be felt. The people hadn't recovered from the last eruption when another volcano erupted just a few years later, extending their cool temperatures.
But the darkness and lack of food was not all this decade would have to endure, because in 541 they saw the beginnings of the first ever bubonic plague epidemic. Many people had died from the results of the volcanic eruption, but that wouldn't hold a candle to what this generation was about to experience.The plague of Justinian
The plague hit Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, and the Near East (part of the Byzantine Empire). Some contemporary writers at the time stated that 10,000 people a day died from the plague during the height of the epidemic. Scholars today believe it may have been more like 5000 a day in the city of Constantinople. But whatever the amount, they believe that 40% of the city population was wiped out from the bubonic plague and 25% of the Mediterranean Basin lost their lives.As if these people hadn't endured enough, the plague had swept through most of the farming community, taking with it many of the people who grew the food. But the Byzantian Emperor, Justinian, showed no mercy on the people. Instead, he demanded they pay their annual tax. And if you were so unlucky to have a neighbor who died from the plague, you were now responsible for their taxes as well.
The mini-ice age had left its mark on this decade, but the plague had left a trail of death.
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