The Justinian, which occurred around 541, it

            The Byzantine Empire, it was a mighty
civilization that lasted over a decade only to fall due to Ottoman armies in
1453. Historians believed that the Byzantine Empire went into a slow decline
due to the political and the economic instability in the mid-1000’s. But there
was an earlier historical point of time that laid the foundations for the
decline and the eventual fall of the Byzantine Empire, it was the plague of Justinian,
which occurred around 541, it was the first recorded account of what was
assumed to be of the bubonic plague in Europe.1 Modern
historians named this plague after the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. The
plague of Justinian isn’t normally thought of as a factor for the decline of
the Byzantine empire, there were still moments of prosperity that occurred in
the western Roman empire after it struck, but the Plague of Justinian was a
disaster for the Byzantine Empire because it was one the contributing factors
for its decline.

            The
Justinian plague caused a massive loss to the Byzantine population, it
was comparable to the Black Death of the Fourteenth century. Procopius, an
archivist for Emperor Justinian, reported that the plague killed between
5,000-10,000 people daily in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine
Empire, for four months.2 3 The disease
caused a massive die-off of the large proportion of the urban dwellers in, the
overall reduction of the population took centuries to return to prior numbers
before the plague. The plague devastated the economy of the Byzantine Empire.
The empire relied heavily on its agriculture and its ability to tax, once the
plague struck the countryside, it affected the empire in multiple ways, trade
throughout the empire was interrupted due to the massive die-off and the fear
of catching the plague which kept people from conducting business, this lead to
massive loss of tax revenue. The deaths of landlords who caught the plague
caused a huge financial burden to the landlord’s neighbors as they were
responsible to pay the deceased taxes. The loss of manpower caused by the
plague caused severe work shortages which led to famines and inflation. In 544
and 545, Justinian has to issue edicts to help alleviate the financial burdens
of surviving landlords, to curb inflation, and he froze both wages and prices
to their pre-plague levels.4

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            To
Further Show how devastated the economy of the Byzantine empire was the after
the plague, between 538 and 551, the weight of the copper coinage started to
decline close to 23 %, this meant that the monetary value of the coins we been
reduced in an effort to save Byzantine’s economy.5
Nevertheless, the instability of the copper coinage, taken alongside the
appearance of the light-weight solidus coin provides evidence that there was a
financial crisis in which coincided with the appearance of the plague.

            When
the plague struck the Byzantine empire, it destroyed all hope for emperor
Justinian to restore the empire of Rome to its former glory. By 554, Justinian reconquered
the lands of the former Western Roman Empire, but the empire was unable to keep
these conquered lands close to the sixth Century. There were many factors on
why this campaign failed, but one can definitely attribute the massive die off
from the plague as a one. By 568 CE, Byzantine couldn’t defend against attacks
from the Lombards who invaded northern Italy and the Arabs the attacked Roman
provinces in North Africa and the Near East.6 The
decreased size and the inability of the Byzantine army to resist was largely
due to being unable to recruit and train new soldiers due to the plague. The
decrease in the population affected the military and the empire’s defenses, and
as the peasants formed the backbone of the Byzantine army, consequently the
army faced severe manpower shortages in the sixth and seventh centuries.
Byzantine had to recruit barbarians into their armies, this showed how
desperate they were to defend themselves with the traitorous barbarians that
caused the downfall of the Western Roman Empire. The mercenary barbarian
soldier had to be paid, and with the ruined economy and the lack of taxes due
to the plague, the imperial government was perpetually on the verge of
financial ruin and the unpaid soldiers had frequently resorted to mutiny.
Agathias wrote about the state of the army after the plague: “The Roman armies
had not in fact remained at the desired level attained by the earlier Emperors
but had dwindled to a fraction of what they had been and were no longer
adequate to the requirements of a vast empire. And whereas there should have
been a total effective fighting force of six hundred and forty-five thousand
men, the number had dropped during this period to barely one hundred and fifty
thousand.”7 Agathias
wasn’t stating that the plague was the direct cause for the decline of
Rome’s armies, but the statement does lead to one to assume that the plague was
one of the many factors that led the armies decline as it coincided with the same
time period that plague struck.

            The
reigns of Justinian’s successors had to endure ever greater economic and military
strife when they came into power. It was recorded that Justin II declared in
565 that he “found the treasury burdened with many debts and reduced to utter
exhaustion.”8
In 588, There was a massive reduction in military pay close to 25% imposed by
the imperial officials due to lack of funding, this eventually lead to a major
mutiny from the underpaid military. Further military resentment at imperial administration
caused a coup in 602 which turned into a civil war that opened the way to
Persian invasion.

                        The Justinian plague contributed to the
weakening of the Byzantine Empire in both the economy and military capabilities.
By 540 the Byzantine Empire was close to realizing his dream of restoring the Roman
empire to its formal glory. The Byzantines took Africa with little effort and
brought Italy under control as well. Belisarius was granted reinforcements
promptly when they were requested, not the case in the years after the plague
struck. The temporary territories that Justinian occupied were taken away less
than a century of being conquered, and his dreams of restoring the empire were
never fully realized. The loss of manpower caused by the plague was crippling
for Byzantine’s economy and military. Many of the eyewitness accounts of Procopius
and Agathias
recorded the rampant death toll, severe work shortages, and the decline of the
Byzantine’s military that resulted from Justinian’s plague. The famines and inflation
put the empire in trouble financially, which also contributed to the shrinkage
of the military force. While eventually the empire would able to recover from
the plague and see a short amount of prosperity, despite that it was already too
weak and entering into a decline, the glory of Rome would forever be lost to
the ages.