Good morning, we are continuing to explore the catastrophe that impacted the world in 535 AD. This time, the episode will focus on the political consequences for the world as a result of the climate catastrophe. The run time is 49:28.
Evidence suggests that a massive volcano went up in the tropics. It put so much dust in the air that summer became winter. Crops failed and millions died. Which volcano went off? It was the volcano Krakatoa. Krakatoa had the largest eruption on record and the aftermath impacted the world for one hundred years.
What would the eruption look like? A computer simulation provides the answer. This simulation would have estimated how much debris would have been thrown up in the air. The volcano would have torn itself apart and created a thirty-mile-high column of ash, dust, and magma. A secondary explosion would have happened due to rushing seawater into the cracks in the earth. The ash cloud climbed higher and higher, blocking out the sun. The ash would have rained down on forests and the countryside up to one thousand miles away. The fallout from the volcano would have been the equivalent of a nuclear winter.
The result of the explosion would have resulted in temperatures dropping, less rain, and the atmosphere becoming dryer and dryer. There would have been droughts and famine. There would have been political consequences as well. This catastrophe would have brought the Roman Empire to its knees. The Late Roman Empire in Constantinople was flushing. However, that changed with the eruption. The bubonic plague was recorded for the first time in history. How could such a disease flourish as a result of a volcanic eruption?
Animals and insects like humans were impacted by starvation. Since the bubonic plague was transmitted by fleas, the fleas must have been starving. In fact, the climate temperature impacts the fleas’ stomachs. So the fleas hopped from rat to rat in search of a source of food. They were ravenously hungry but the fleas could not satisfy their hunger. As rats died off, the fleas turned to humans for feeding. Cooler conditions caused the fleas to become hungrier and hungrier.
In a normally hot climate, the plague does not thrive in Africa, Africa would have been lethal breeding down for plague. Its trade networks were extensive. The Roman desire for ivory continued to fuel the trade, which would have fueled the bubonic plague. Through trade, the plague made its way to Constantinople. The impact was immediate, with thousands of people dying every day. There were no places to bury the bodies. People abandoned Constantinople bringing the plague with them.
A secondary threat was also on the move and it was causing barbarians to move. This particular group made their way to Europe. They were called the Alvars and they were the world’s most advanced writers in the world. The horse was central to their existence. Unfortunately, the Mongolian plains that they called home were impacted. They were eventually attacked by the Turks. The Turks had been ruled by the Alvars for years and now the Alvars’ fortunes have changed. How was this?
It came down to the animals the Turks and the Alvars have. The Alvars used horses extensively while the Turks had Cattle. Was this the difference? Perhaps, cows and horses digest food differently. Cows could eat a wider range of food and digested their food thoroughly. Horses did not eat a variety of food and did not digest their food as well. So when drought-hit on the Mongolian steppe, the horses could not get fed. The horses’ digestive system would have left the Alvars vulnerable to attack.
The Alvars were slaughtered and so they eventually moved across Siberia. Eventually, the horses and the people recovered and they grew into a dominant people once again. The Alvars eventually were able to blackmail the Byzantine Empire into paying them off for not attacking. The Roman Empire would eventually become unstable as a result of the plague and the Alvar invasion.
What would the volcanic eruption do to the people in the Americas? Continue to watch this episode to find out more!
This would be an excellent documentary to show in a history classroom and I would also show a clip in an animal sciences classroom.
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