Catastrophe (what happened in 6th century?)

Sep 2013
1,110
Abu Dhabi
The extreme weather events of 535–536 were the most severe and protracted short-term episodes of cooling in the Northern Hemisphere in the last 2,000 years. The event is thought to have been caused by an extensive atmospheric dust veil, possibly resulting from a large volcanic eruption in the tropics, or debris from space impacting the Earth. Its effects were widespread, causing unseasonal weather, crop failures, and famines worldwide.
Extreme weather events of 535?536 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Byzantine historian Procopius recorded of 536, in his report on the wars with the Vandals, "during this year a most dread portent took place. For the sun gave forth its light without brightness...and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear."

Tree ring analysis shows abnormally little growth in Irish oak in 536 and another sharp drop in 542, after a partial recovery. Similar patterns are recorded in tree rings from Sweden and Finland, in California's Sierra Nevada and in rings from Chilean Fitzroya trees. Ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica show evidence of substantial sulfate deposits around 533–534 ± 2 years, evidence of an extensive acidic dust veil.

In 1999, David Keys in his book Catastrophe: A Quest for the Origins of the Modern World (supported by work of the American volcanologist Ken Wohletz), speculates that the climate changes may have contributed to various developments, such as the emergence of the Plague of Justinian, the decline of the Avars, the migration of Mongolian tribes towards the West, the end of the Sassanid Empire, the rise of Islam, and the fall of Teotihuacán.

The book's thesis is that a global climatic catastrophe in AD 535 to 536 triggered between 18 months and 3+ years of bad weather worldwide and was the decisive factor that transformed the Ancient World into the Medieval Era (and beyond). Ancient chroniclers recorded a disaster in that year that blotted out the Sun for months (possibly years) causing famine, droughts, floods, storms and an epidemic of bubonic plague.

In his scenario, the ensuing disasters precipitated the disintegration of the Byzantine Empire, beset by Avar, Slav, Mongol, and Persian invaders propelled from their disrupted homelands. The 6th-century collapse of Arabian civilization under pressure from floods and crop failure created a religiously apocalyptic atmosphere which set the stage for the emergence of Islam.

In Mexico, the cataclysm supposedly triggered the collapse of Teotihuacán, while in China the ensuing half-century of political and social chaos led to a reunified nation. Also the triumph of the Anglo-Saxons over the Celts, the entrenchment of Buddhism in Japan, and Japan's unification. The book concludes with a roundup of trouble spots that could conceivably wreak planetary havoc.

David Keys (author) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
Sep 2013
1,110
Abu Dhabi
In 2000, a 3BM Television production (for WNET and Channel Four) capitalized upon Keys' book. This documentary, under the name Catastrophe! How the World Changed, was broadcast in the US as part of PBS's Secrets of the Dead series.

Secrets of the Dead (2000): 1. Catastrophe! ? Part II. - YouTube


(No copyright infringement intended. All material property of 3BM Television, Thirteen / WNET New York, and PBS.)
 
Sep 2013
1,110
Abu Dhabi
...emergence of the Plague of Justinian, the decline of the Avars, the migration of Mongolian tribes towards the West, the end of the Sassanid Empire, religiously apocalyptic atmosphere which set the stage for the emergence of Islam.

I find this part particularly interesting! Any ideas?

Doesn't sound unreasonable, eh?
 
Dec 2010
1,998
Oregon
Giant Meteorites Slammed Earth Around A.D. 500?

Pieces of a giant asteroid or comet that broke apart over Earth may have crashed off Australia about 1,500 years ago, says a scientist who has found evidence of the possible impact craters

material thrown high into the atmosphere by the [Gulf of] Carpentaria strike probably triggered the cooling, which has been pinpointed in tree-ring data from Asia and Europe.
 
Sep 2013
1,110
Abu Dhabi
Interesting. Seems we are slowly getting the missing pieces of the puzzle.
Thanks for sharing!
 
Oct 2012
1,266
SF bay area
I will suggest this book, you can get a copy for $1.25 plus shipping.
[ame="http://www.amazon.com/Justinians-Flea-First-Plague-Empire/dp/014311381X"]Justinian's Flea: The First Great Plague and the End of the Roman Empire: William Rosen: 9780143113812: Amazon.com: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61Vd0OTGkkL.@@AMEPARAM@@61Vd0OTGkkL[/ame]


Rosen subscribes to the premise that the Krakatoa event was responsible for the global climate changes of 535-536.
Read the reviews on Amazon.
 
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Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,904
Blachernai
I will suggest this book, you can get a copy for $1.25 plus shipping.
Justinian's Flea: The First Great Plague and the End of the Roman Empire: William Rosen: 9780143113812: Amazon.com: Books


Rosen subscribes to the premise that the Krakatoa event was responsible for the global climate changes of 535-536.
Read the reviews on Amazon.
It's really quite bad. Rosen spends large portions of the book doing nothing more than reciting what Procopius and Agathias say, and going off on wild and irrelevant tangents. It's not that all of his ideas are bad: it's just that they're contained within a book that really needed a good editor to rip a third of it out. The essays in the following volume are excellent and with provide with a good variety of scholarly opinion on the problems presented by the source material pertaining to climate change and plague in the sixth century.

[ame="http://www.amazon.com/Plague-End-Antiquity-Pandemic-541-750/dp/052171897X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1388984583&sr=8-1&keywords=plague+and+the+end+of+antiquity"]Plague and the End of Antiquity: The Pandemic of 541-750: Lester K. Little: 9780521718974: Amazon.com: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51BxOyT-GGL.@@AMEPARAM@@51BxOyT-GGL[/ame]

The following articles are also useful, if not terribly conclusive:

P. Farquharson, 'Byzantium, Planet Earth, and the Solar System' in Allan and Jeffreys (eds.) The Sixth Century: End or Beginning? Brisbane, 1996.

J. Koder, 'Climatic Change in the Sixth Century' in Allan and Jeffreys (eds.) The Sixth Century: End or Beginning? Brisbane, 1996.
 
Oct 2012
1,266
SF bay area
It's really quite bad.
Not enough snob appeal?
Rosen spends large portions of the book doing nothing more than reciting what Procopius and Agathias say, and going off on wild and irrelevant tangents.
Would you have him quoting Josephus or Herodotus about 6th century Constantinople? Procopius and Agathias are two historians who were alive and writing in Constantinople in the period covered, how could a historian go wrong by using eye witnesses? And I ask that with the knowledge that Procopius was spinning his tale for his own purposes, after all if one reads just a little Procopius they are in danger of being misled, but if one reads a lot of Procopius, a reader with discretion will have their guard up.

I have no idea what subjects you consider "wild and irrelevant tangents" but I considered everything he touched on illustrative of the period and informative. He did a good job of introducing the subject of Dara which I find scant information about in most renderings of the period. He covered the 532 riots well including background on the Greens and Blues, he covered the 529 Samaritan revolt. If these subjects (along with much on Narses and Belisarius and the wars in Italy, the building of the Haga Sophia and his legal code) annoy you I have to wonder where your interest in history lies.
It's not that all of his ideas are bad: it's just that they're contained within a book that really needed a good editor to rip a third of it out.
Which third?


The Author, William Rosen had training as a biologist and his explanations of the relationship between the grain, the rat, the flea and Yersinia pestis were outstanding IMO, and that was the heart of the book.
Rosen himself worked professionally as an editor for many years, so I guess your call for editing help is just a matter of personal preference, if that. All in all, your complaints are vague, I don't even know why you didn't like the book. Have you ever read it?
 

Mike McClure

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
6,233
Indiana
[ame="http://www.amazon.com/Catastrophe-Investigation-Origins-Modern-World-ebook/dp/B000FC1H7I/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1389022802&sr=8-2&keywords=Catastrophe"]Amazon.com: Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World eBook: David Keys: Kindle Store@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31tDTwnCYHL.@@AMEPARAM@@31tDTwnCYHL[/ame]