The Good

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

Though difficult to believe that any good truly came from such a tragic set of events, there are some hard-earned lessons to be gleaned from the Plague of Justinian. Ultimately it could be said that failures met throughout the course of this pandemic laid groundwork for future pandemics to be handled better, and it is important in all things to review and learn as best we can.

The first lesson that seems to rear its head proudly is unfortunately also one that has seen some resistance in our present day: Isolation works. Whether you look at the fearful Roman citizen hiding away in their homes to avoid the infected, or take a look to the more relaxed lifestyle of the smaller communities of that time outside of large cities, a trend emerges; simply put, that the less contact you have with others gives you less of a possibility to contract the disease. It is a concept, that while easy to preach, seems equally difficult for some to practice but it nonetheless stands as something that the Romans learned for us. A lesson some of us choose to ignore.

There is also some supporting research made to the fact that the Plague of Justinian and it's nasty habit of coming back repeatedly forced a greater focus on Emperor Justinian and later Emperors of the Byzantine Empire to put more support into widespread health measures. Physicians of those times had previously operated primarily outside of actual facilities in more "House-visit" type approaches, with equal limitations to their effectiveness to treat large swathes of population and in effective training of future practitioners. Similarly, stressors of the time and the influence of Christianity took power from the leaders of the Roman Empire to affect much change. While Christian monasteries of the time would begin to establish infirmaries within themselves for the sick to be treated regardless of economic class, facilities that could be seen as precursors to modern-day Hospitals were few and far between. Even examples of such facilities are often notorious for only having served the upper echelons of society.

Later rulers like Charlemagne would support decrees that would see the construction of hospitals in every cathedral, no doubt in part of the Plague's recurrence well into the 8th century and the need of healthcare of the common citizens. This speaks to another lesson that appears to have been won from the first plague - that accessibility to care leads to better health for all. If, during its initial onset, citizens could have sought help for the symptoms they were exhibiting, in places they knew they would receive care (As opposed to waiting for private physicians likely prioritizing richer patients) would the impact of this disease have been more contained?

With later strains of Bubonic plague emerging and wreaking similar havoc upon the populations of their affected locales, it remains unclear, but also an interesting thought experiment. In shocking news, there appears to be very little good to have come from Yersinia Pestis, its various strains and its tragic toll throughout history.

But, hey? Cool bird masks, right?

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