In 536 A.D., an Icelandic volcano explosion occurred, blanketing the Earth with such thick ash that it plunged the entire planet into a volcanic winter for the next several years. Nothing like this had ever happened before or since. Day looked like night and the temperature dropped significantly. Several centuries later, people still felt the repercussions of this natural disaster. This volcanic disaster initiated for the West, not just physical darkness, but a cultural and political one as well. Eventually, when things seemed absolutely hopeless, a great and miraculous rebirth occurred. This post is about nothing less than the death and resurrection of the West.
Before getting into the main story, I would like to discuss the meaning of “dark ages” in order to get historical context. If you wish to get right to the story, please start with the heading “The Collapse of Infrastructure” below.
The Entire Middle Ages as the Dark Ages?
There are two basic meanings to the term “dark age”. One meaning is antiquated, and the other is still in use.
The first meaning originates from the Italian humanists who viewed the entire Middle Ages, from the fall of Rome to the Renaissance, as the Dark Ages. It was pejoratively termed by Italian humanists such as Petrarch (1304-1374) to distinguish what they considered the time of intellectual “darkness” in which they lived from the more “enlightened” classical times of the Greeks and Romans. They viewed the “rediscovery” of these classical works as a rebirth, which is what the term “renaissance” signifies.1 So, according to them, sandwiched in between the enlightened classical times and the Renaissance was this murky, dark, and ignorant time termed the Middle Ages or the Dark Ages.
Later historians further developed this theme, contrasting the Middle Ages with the Enlightenment that followed the Renaissance.2 One supposedly was a time of ignorance and superstition, the other of illumination in regard to science and knowledge. The latter allowed freedom of the mind, while the former enslaved it.
Contemporary historians rarely use these terms, but they likely remain part of high school and college undergraduate curricula in many places. In fact, for years I had the idea in my mind that the entire Middle Ages was synonymous with the Dark Ages because it was a time of ignorance and superstition. No doubt I picked this idea up in school somewhere.
Why don’t we use the term “Dark Ages” to describe the Middle Ages anymore? Firstly, because it inaccurately and, at worst, pejoratively portrays this enlightened historical period as one of barbarity and intellectual darkness, solely due to its dominance by Christianity.3 Nothing could be further from the truth.
Secondly, where the Italian humanists claimed that they discovered the classics for the first time since antiquity, there had actually been two classical revivals in the medieval period. There was the Carolingian Renaissance of the 8th and 9th centuries and another renaissance in the 12th century.4 In the former, people preserved many works of antiquity, and in the latter renaissance, they witnessed the “revival of Roman law, Latin poetry, and Greek science, including the whole corpus of Aristotelian writings known today.”5
Thirdly, the Italian humanists did not really discover anew ancient manuscripts; they simply availed themselves to medieval copies found in monastery libraries.6 From this perspective, manuscripts known to the humanists were also known to the medieval scholars as well. Despite the similarities, there are important differences that legitimately distinguish the humanists, in their own right, from medieval churchmen who shared the same classical manuscripts. These differences centered on how they utilized these manuscripts, but that is a topic for another time.
The True Medieval Dark Ages
Having said all of that, there is a period of time in the Middle Ages that can be considered a time of darkness. The true Dark Ages, now more commonly termed the Migration Period, occurred in the period of what is termed the Early Middle Ages, which began with the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 A.D. and lasted until the middle of the 10th century.
Like Dante’s La Divina Comedia, we must go through the Inferno first before we get to the hope of Paradise. So, we will peer into the deep darkness of the Dark Ages before finding the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Collapse of Infrastructure
One thing the Romans excelled at was infrastructure. Master engineers, surpassing all who came before them, were never truly surpassed until modern times. With the demise of the Roman Empire, it didn’t take long for the infrastructure to collapse. As the roads fell into disuse, trade virtually came to a halt.7 As a result, former trade routes over land and sea became dangerous places.
Warfare, including civil wars as well as the plundering of cities, became a constant threat to existence in medieval times. Because of this, many low-class workers, both Roman and Barbarian, fled to the countryside, away from the urban centers. They sought protection under the auspices of Roman landowning aristocrats. Thus, Europe returned to the pre-Roman days of small agrarian communities, prefiguring the feudal system that came to characterize the later Middle Ages.
Along with warfare, crumbling infrastructure, and social instability came disease and famine. Which led to shortened life expectancies, population decline, and most importantly, the collapse of education during this early medieval period. The literacy rate fell to a dismal 1%, which was primarily among the clergy.8
Interestingly enough, forests started to grow back and because of the lack of communication and trade. Previously familiar places became far-away mysteries. Europe became an eerily dark and empty place – fertile ground for the scary German folktales that we are all familiar with, like Hansel and Gretel.
This was also a time of great migration and social upheaval. People generally lived in insecurity. They don’t know when raiders would suddenly emerge from the forest to plunder or even kill them. This warfare tore apart pre-medieval cities and caused them to fall into disrepair. Furthermore, people stripped the ruins for building supplies, and even the famous Colosseum in Rome ended up as a landfill. And all this was just the beginning.
The Volcanic Winter of 536
If things weren’t already bad, beginning in the year 536, things took a turn for the worst. In that year, an unusual fog appeared in Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia.9 Little did people know that the source of this strange phenomenon was a massive volcanic eruption in Iceland, 2000 miles north of Rome. What people today only worry about concerning climate change, the world at that time experienced.
The volcano emitted sufficient volcanic ash, causing a volcanic winter that shrouded a significant part of the Earth in darkness. In the year that this happened, the Byzantine historian Procopius recorded:
“During this year a most dread portent took place. For the sun gave forth its light without brightness…and it seemed like the sun in an eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear.”10
Two years later in 538, we have an eerie description of the continuing effects of this eruption by the Roman statesman Cassiodorus. He stated the following:
“The sun’s rays were weak, and it appeared a bluish color and its heat was feeble. Prolonged cloudiness stretched like a hide across the sky preventing the true colors of the sun and moon from being seen. At noon, no shadows of people were visible on the ground. The full moon was empty of splendor. The seasons seemed all jumbled together – a winter without storms, a spring without mildness, and a summer without heat. There was prolonged frost and unseasonable drought. Frosts during harvest made apples harden and grapes sour. Because of famine, it was necessary to use stored food.”11
Global Cooling, Severe Famine, and Death
The Icelandic volcanic eruption was just the beginning. Aside from the sun dimming for 18 months, it initiated one of the most severe and sustained episodes of global cooling that the world had experienced in the previous two millenia.12 Ice core samples from the period, roughly November 24, 535, to March 14, 536, determined this. Tree ring studies from the 1990s also supported this data, revealing unusually cold summers around the year 540.14
This scientific date in combination with historical accounts, points to the fact that the decade from 536 to 545 was the coldest in 2000 years, with summer temperatures ranging from 1.4 – 2.7 degrees C (2.52 – 4.86 degrees F) below normal in Europe. To add insult to injury, halfway through that infamous decade, another enormous volcanic eruption occurred in 540 that guaranteed that the temperatures would remain below normal for at least another five years. The culprit this time was most likely the Ilopango volcano in what is present day El Salvador.15
Because of this major climate disruption, there ensued one of the largest famines in world history. During this time, snow fell in China, crops failed on a large scale, and there was mass starvation. The Irish chronicles recorded that there was “a failure of bread from 536-539.”16 We talk about climate change today. Imagine actually living through it.
The Gothic War, 536-545
And if all of that weren’t enough, in 536, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I initiated a war with the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy that had supplanted the Roman Empire to the west. He aimed to recapture Italy and other lost territories to unify them under a single leader.
It took Justinian 20 years to conquer Italy, but it was a pyrrhic victory. This conquest ruined much of Italy and cost Byzantium 300,000 pounds of gold to rebuild it.17 In addition, he found that much of the societal structure of Rome had essentially collapsed and was beyond repair. His depleted resources left him in a weakened state in fighting against foes to the east such as Persia.
During the Middle Ages, constant warfare led to the sack of Rome five times, casting this once splendid ancient capital into the darkness of the medieval Dark Ages. After 20 years of fighting, Justinian then had to abandon Italy after a plague struck Byzantium.
The Plague of Justinian, 541-549
The Bubonic Plague, also known as the Plague of Justinian, was the first major plague pandemic of world history, the other two being the Black Death of the 14th century and the Bubonic Plague of 1894. All three were caused by the Yersinia pestis bacteria – highly lethal before the age of antibiotics. The bacteria was transmitted by fleas that lived on rats.
Even though the first wave of the Plague of Justinian ended in 549, there was more to come. There were approximately 18 more waves of this pandemic occurring approximately every 12 years until around 750.18 Although the Plague of Justinian hit Byzantium particularly hard, it had also spread throughout the European continent and lasted approximately 200 years.
The Byzantine historian Procopius noted that in Constantinople, dead bodies were left stacked up in the open because there was no room to bury them. For the most part, funeral rites were abandoned and the entire city reeked with the stench of death.19 Eric Idle pulled a cart around the city imploring people to bring out their dead.20
Although it is difficult to know the true number of deaths from the Plague of Justinian, some historians have estimated that up to 100,000,000 people died in this first pandemic in a 20-year period, accounting for 60% of the population of Europe, Byzantium, and Northern Africa.21 Even though this is the high estimate, if it were only half of that amount, it would still have been devastating. Recent scholarship has tended toward a lower number of total deaths of only 50,000,000.
This plague greatly weakened the Byzantine Empire, so much so that all the gains made by Justinian in reconquering Western Europe by 545 were quickly ceded to the Lombards after they invaded Italy in 568.22
Who knows? Maybe if the plague never happened, Justinian would have reunited East and West, thus resurrecting the old Roman Empire. European history would have been completely different. It’s like speculating on how the United States would have been different if Lee won the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
We are all familiar with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse found in St. John’s Revelation from Jesus Christ, one interpretation being that the horsemen symbolize plague, famine, warfare, and death. The people of the early Middle Ages must have thought that a judgment of God was upon them, between the Plague of Justinian, a volcano that caused weather and hunger problems, and general warfare.
To the people who lived through this medieval period of plague, famine, warfare, and death, indeed it must have seemed that God unleashed His Four Horsemen to finish off a fallen Roman Empire once and for all. In fact, this period was viewed as a time of God’s judgment unleashed on the world. And it is no wonder, considering the frightening contemporary accounts of the disease like those of 6th century cleric Evagrius:
“With some people it began in the head, made the eyes bloody and the face swollen, descended to the throat and then removed them from Mankind. With others, there was a flowing of the bowels. Some came out in buboes [pus-filled swellings] which gave rise to great fevers, and they would die two or three days later with their minds in the same state as those who had suffered nothing with their bodies still robust. Others lost their senses before dying. Malignant pustules erupted and did away with them. Sometimes people were afflicted once or twice and then recovered, only to fall victim a third time and then succumb.”23
Finally, we have the verdict of John of Ephesus:
“[But] then I thought that it was right that, through our writings, we should inform our successors and transmit to them [at least] a little from among the multitude [of matters] concerning [God’s] chastisement [of us]. Perhaps during the remainder of world [history] which will come after us, they will fear and shake because of the terrible scourge with which we were lashed through our transgressions and become wiser through chastisement of us wretches and be saved from [God’s] wrath here [in this world] and from future torment.”24
As a society, would it bode well for us to heed such admonishments and consider repentance a viable option when faced with some calamity, natural or otherwise, or should we just continue on in dire circumstances as if God did not exist?
A Glimmer of Hope, 800 A.D.
Researchers have found from examining ice samples that beginning around the year 640, over 100 years after the infamous Icelandic volcanic eruption, there was an increase of lead in the atmosphere. The amount of lead was minuscule and not toxic, but it did indicate that something significant was happening: silver mining. And silver mining indicates that the world was starting to recover, transitioning from merely surviving to thriving.25 Finally, after a century of suffering, a new day seemed to be dawning.
Eventually the sun shone brightly for a brief time in the early medieval period during the reign of Charles the Great, also known as Charlemagne. In 768, he became King of the Franks, eventually expanding his kingdom to rule over the Lombards in 771, and finally in 800, he became Emperor of the Carolingian Empire. This, in effect, made him the first Holy Roman Emperor.
As such, he became the first emperor to rule over Europe since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire over 300 years earlier. He was crowned by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day Mass, December 25, 800.
Despite the occasional war, this system of the two rulers, secular and religious, more or less worked well for 1800 years until the last Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II, was deposed by Napoleon in 1806. It worked because they kept a check on one another.
This is why, with the weakening of the Catholic Church vis-à-vis the Reformation, we have seen the rise of the all-powerful nation-state responsible for the deaths of millions – 170,000,000 to be precise – from 1900 to 1994.26 If you think about it, that is more than three times the conservative estimate of people killed in the Plague of Justinian.
The number one cause of unnatural death in modern times has been government. Death by government is the biggest scourge of modern times. Once the soul of the state, the Church, is removed, the State will act like a beast, devouring its inhabitants. Juxtapose that against the Spanish Inquisition that executed 3000-5000 people in 350 years…about one per month.27 And none of the victims were executed by the Church. They were all executed by civil authorities.
If I had my druthers, knowing that there will never be a perfect scenario, I would rather live in a society that has a formidable Church and State in tension with one another, rather than under the oppression of an unbridled, all-powerful, leviathan (Hobbes), soulless State like we have witnessed in the 20th century. But I digress.
Charlemagne has been called Pater Europae, “Father of Europe,” because he united most of Western Europe under Christianity, initiating significant cultural and intellectual reforms, thus laying the foundation of modern Europe.28 These reforms, which gave great hope to Europe, are known as the Carolingian Renaissance. It was a brief respite in the middle of the medieval warfare and general misery of the Early Middle Ages.
Descent Into Chaos, 840
As Chaucer’s proverb states, all good things must come to an end. For after Charlemagne died in 815, his empire was passed on to his feckless son, Louis the (not so) Pious, who died in 840. His kingdom was then divided between his three sons. They fought for three years and then made a treaty that divided Western Europe in a manner such that we can start to see the emergence of what would become modern France and Germany:
It is at this point that the wheels started to come off the bus again. The division of Europe and the civil wars that ensued after Louis the Pious died greatly weakened Europe’s ability to fend off her external enemies.
There were not one but three enemies battering Europe at the same time – from the north, east, and south. Already, under the “leadership” of Louis the Pious, Viking raiders made serious incursions into Western Europe starting around 830. After he died, the Vikings took advantage of the division that followed to continue to make inroads into the former Carolingian Empire.29 They would continue to wreak havoc until September 25, 1066. when they were defeated by the English at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.30 The most well-known Vikings were the ones who settled into Normandy. Eventually, the Vikings became Christianized.
The Magyars or Hungarians from the east were the second enemy Europe faced. In 899, they invaded the northern regions of Italy. They would continue to trouble Europe until King Otto of Germany annihilated them at the Battle of Lechfeld on August 12, 955.31 They were eventually Christianized by the year 1000. Never again would they terrorize Europe.
And finally, if the Vikings and Magyars weren’t enough, Europe had to face Muslim invaders from the south. They first raided Sicily in 652. From that time on, they invaded and eventually conquered parts of Europe. In 846, four years after the breakup of the Carolingian Empire, they even sacked Rome and would have defeated it if it had not been for the Aurelian walls built by the Emperor Aurelius c. 275.32
Eventually, in 965, they established the Emirate of Sicily and held onto that until they were defeated by, ironically, the Normans – previous Vikings who had settled in Normandy – at the Battle of Cerami in June of 1063. It is interesting that my personal DNA reveals that I am 95% Southern Italian and 5% Middle Eastern, a leftover most likely from the Muslim invaders of Italy.
A New Dawn, 955
After almost 500 years of death from plague, famine, and warfare in the early medieval period, the dawn of a new era started to break. In the several centuries prior, Europe and the Catholic Church were almost destroyed by invasions on three fronts, but as the saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn.
When King Otto defeated the Magyars at the Battle of Lechfeld on August 12, 955, it effectively ended the part of the Middle Ages usually known as the Dark Ages, officially termed the Age of Migration. He was thereafter known as Otto the Great. He greatly expanded the borders of his kingdom to include part of Italy itself, uniting and bringing political stability to central Europe. This laid the foundation for what is considered the High Middle Ages.
A lot transpired during this time, but the Reader’s Digest version is that Otto traveled to Italy where he was crowned the first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire on February 2, 962 by Pope John XII. Like all palace stories, intrigue surrounded these events, but that is too much of a tangent for this post.33
The crowning of Otto not only marked the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire that would last until August 6, 1806, but transferred the Empire crown from the Carolingian Franks to the Germans. This newfound stability launched a renaissance of sorts under Otto that would continue to transform Europe in the years that followed.
A Silver Lining and a Resurrection
From all the great suffering of the Dark Ages was born a glorious medieval society – although far from perfect – that displayed the best that Christianity had to offer as opposed to being characterized by warfare and death. The next several centuries would produce great advancements in philosophy, art, architecture, education, science, technology, medicine, literature, music, and theater, among other things. Dante would write his masterpiece, the Chartres Cathedral would be built, Gothic art would flourish, the philosopher Anselm would initiate the Age of Scholasticism, and the first university in the world would be founded in Bologna, Italy in 1088. Universities soon began to populate Europe.
In addition, the very enemies that sought to destroy the Church and Europe, the Vikings and the Hungarians, became Christians. When the dust finally settled, the Catholic Church emerged stronger than before. It built an incredible civilization.
But of course, this has all been besmirched by the Enlightenment modernists who portray the medieval period as one of pure darkness and backwardness. In my mind, the litmus test is beauty, because beauty is a reflection of truth and goodness. When truth and goodness are lacking, the end result is ugliness, the ugliness that is ubiquitous in modernity. Compare the beauty of a gothic church to the ugliness and soullessness of a strip mall, housing project, or a high rise.
If we take into consideration this incredible story of the near demise of the Church and Europe in the Dark Ages to its rebirth in the High Middle Ages, we are witnessing nothing less than a death and resurrection. And we shouldn’t be surprised, for if Jesus Christ founded his Church on his death and resurrection, then it only makes sense that his Church would do the same.
G.K. Chesterton remarked:
“Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a [G]od who knew the way out of the grave. But the first extraordinary fact which marks this history is this: that Europe has been turned upside down over and over again; and that at the end of each of these revolutions the same religion has again been found on top.“34
The purpose of the Dark Ages was to purge the Church of the impurities acquired from its pagan roots in the Roman Empire. It emerged from the grave purified and refined. After their emergence from the Dark Ages, the Christians were working with a fresh canvas.
This brings up the question – are we in a new Dark Age? If we truly are in a time of spiritual darkness, we can take heart. Pondering the first Dark Age teaches us that no matter how dark it may get, God always knows the way out of the grave.
In his Epistle to the Philippians, St. Paul says the following:
“That I may know him and the power of his resurrection and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
– Philippians 3:10-11
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future? Please leave your comments below and don’t forget to subscribe. Thank you!
From Amazon: “It was a catastrophe without precedent in recorded history: for months on end, starting in A.D. 535, a strange, dusky haze robbed much of the earth of normal sunlight. Crops failed in Asia and the Middle East as global weather patterns radically altered. Bubonic plague, exploding out of Africa, wiped out entire populations in Europe. Flood and drought brought ancient cultures to the brink of collapse. In a matter of decades, the old order died and a new world—essentially the modern world as we know it today—began to emerge.”
- Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Middle Ages.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 6 May. 2021
- The term “humanist” used in this manner should not be confused with the modern designation of humanism which has a mostly secular connotation, whereas the Italian humanists where Catholic Christians through and through. The designation of “humanist” for them simply meant someone who had rediscovered the classics of antiquity in order to better understand and improve the existence of the human person.
- Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Migration period.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 23 Mar. 2018
- Herlihy, David , Sørensen, Marie-Louise Stig , Frassetto, Michael , Weinstein, Donald , Peters, Edward , Champion, Timothy C. , Treasure, Geoffrey Russell Richards , Herrin, Judith Eleanor , Mayne, Richard J. , Salmon, John Hearsey McMillan , Parker, N. Geoffrey , Aubin, Hermann , Stearns, Peter N. and Barzun, Jacques. “history of Europe,” “Italian humanism,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 26 Nov. 2020
- “The Dark Ages” (Documentary), Fire of Learning, YouTube video, June 7, 2018
- Gibbons, Ann, “Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive,'” Science, Nov. 15, 2018
- Ochoa, George; Jennifer Hoffman; Tina Tin (2005). Climate: the force that shapes our world and the future of life on earth. Emmaus, PA: Rodale, gives this quote as “The Sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon during this whole year, and it seemed exceedingly like the Sun in eclipse”; Procopius; Dewing, Henry Bronson, trans. (1916). Procopius. vol. 2: History of the [Vandalic] Wars, Books III and IV. London, England: William Heinemann. p. 329
- Cassiodorus; Hodgkin, Thomas, trans. (1886). The Letters of Cassiodorus, London, England: Henry Frowde. pp. 518–520. See: “25. Senator, Praetorian Praefect, to his deputy Ambrosius, an Illustris.”
- Abbott, D. H.; Biscaye, P.; Cole-Dai, J.; Breger, D. (December 2008). “Magnetite and Silicate Spherules from the GISP2 Core at the 536 A.D. Horizon”. AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts. American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2008. 41. pp. 41B–1454. 2008AGUFMPP41B1454A, Abstract #PP41B-1454.
- Mayewski et al., 1997. J. Geophys. Res., 102:26345-26366
- Gibbons, Ann, “Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive'”
- Zielinski, Sarah, “Sixth-Century Misery Tied to Not One, But Two, Volcanic Eruptions,” Smithsonian Magazine, July 8, 2015
- Gibbons, Ann, “Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive'”
- “The Dark Ages” (Documentary), Fire of Learning
- Stathakopoulos, Dionysios (2018), “Plague, Justinianic (Early Medieval Pandemic,” The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity, Oxford University Press
- Procopius, History of the Wars, Books I and II (The Persian War). Trans. H.B. Dewing. Vol. 1. p. 542, Cambridge: Loeb-Harvard UP, 1954
- Rosen, William (2007). Justinian’s Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe, New York City: Viking Adult, p. 3.
- Ibid., pp. 321-332
- Keys, David, Catastrophe, p. 9, Ballantine Publishing Group, New York, 1999
- Ibid., p. 13
- Gibbons, Ann, “Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive'”
- Rummel, R.J., Death by Government, Table 2.1, page 4, Routledge, Oxford and New York, copyright 1994, latest publication 2017
- Beaumont, Douglas, “The Spanish Inquisition: Debunking the Legends,” Strange Notions
- Papst Johannes Paul II (2004). “Ansprache von seiner Heiligkeit Papst Johannes Paul II” (in German). Internationaler Karlspreis zu Aachen. Archived from the original on 17 January 2012.
- Bagge, Sverre (2014). Cross and Scepter: The Rise of the Scandinavian Kingdoms from the Vikings to the Reformation. Princeton University Press. pp. 21–22.
- Adams, Simon. “Battle of Stamford Bridge”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 18 Sep. 2021
- Bowlus, Charles R., The Battle of Lechfeld and Its Aftermath, August 955: The End of the Age of Migrations in the Latin West, p. 166. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006
- Mclaughlin, William, “Arab raids on Rome: The Eternal City Saved by 600-Year-Old Wall,” War History Online, May 2, 2017
- Reindel, Kurt. “Otto I”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 19 Nov. 2021
- Chesterton, G.K., The Everlasting Man, p. 140, Independently Publishes, Jan. 1, 2021
Bowlus, Charles R., The Battle of Lechfeld and Its Aftermath, August 955: The End of the Age of Migrations in the Latin West, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
Cassiodorus, The Variae: The Complete Translation, translated by M. Shane Bjornlie, University of California Press; First edition, October 15, 2019
Chesterton, G.K., The Everlasting Man, Independently Publishes, Jan. 1, 2021
Dupré, Louis, Religion and the Rise of Modern Culture, University of Notre Dame Press, 2008
Keys, David, Catastrophe, Ballantine Publishing Group, New York, 1999
Lees, Beatrice, The Central Period of the Middle Ages, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (May 13, 2016)
Procopius, The Secret History, Translators: Peter Sarris and G.A. Williamson, Editor Peter Sarris, (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 18, 2007
Procopius, The Wars of Justinian, translated by Anthony Kaldellis and H.B. Dewing, (Hackett Classics) Revised Edition, 2014
Rosen, William, Justinian’s Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe, New York City: Viking Adult, 2007
Rummel, R.J., Death by Government, Routledge, Oxford and New York, copyright 1994, latest publication 2017
You can read a very interesting extended text and commentary of Procopius’ account of the Plague of Justinian at “Procopius on the Plague of Justinian: Text & Commentary,” by Joshua J. Mark, World History Encyclopedia, April 1, 2020, and Procopius’ text at “Medieval Sourcebook: Procopius: The Plague, 542,” History of the Wars, II.xxii-xxxiii, Fordham University