Around the year 541 it began. The first recorded visitation of an illness that would spread throughout the known world, laying waste to cities, leaving so many corpses piled up that there were not enough people left to bury them. The bubonic plague of the Justinian era ravaged the Roman Empire, killing as many as half of its inhabitants, and changed the balance of power throughout the world. What triggered this outbreak that so changed the balance of power was the weather.
Some time around AD 530, a dramatic event occurred that blocked out much of the sun’s heat for more than a year. The effect on East Africa was a severe drought which ended suddenly with a deluge of rain. The drought killed crops, which unleashed a chain reaction in the ecosystem. Gerbils and mice that fed on the grain died, and the larger predators that normally would eat the rodents also died. As soon as the drought ended, however, increased rainfall brought plant life back at a speedy pace and the fast-breeding gerbils were able to replace their numbers. Because their larger predators took longer to spring back, the rodents were able to multiply.
For a brief period, East Africa was overrun by mice and gerbils which were carriers of the plague but immune to it themselves. They came to Europe on merchant ships.
Learn how the weather has effected many historical events!
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