Earlier this evening I was watching a documentary on the Biography Channel about the Middle-Ages. This particular episode was about one of the last Roman Emperors named Justinian I. He ruled from Constantinople from 527 to 565 AD, while the Western and Central part of the Empire collapsed. His goal was to raise a new Roman army that was capable of sweeping West and reclaiming the glory of Rome from five centuries before. He wanted to re-conquer Italy and Gaul (modern day France) the barbarian territories (Germany, Austria, Denmark, etc) and then across the channel to Great Britain.
It seemed as if he actually had a chance, except for two problems. As his power grew he became a despot and oppressed his own people to the point that, at a stadium during barbaric games, his own people rose against him. Now he himself was a bit of a coward and was literally at the dock getting ready to board an escape ship, but his wife, the Empress Theodora, was a strong willed woman who insisted that he not escape, but instead that he should rally his loyal palace troops and attack back against the riots and the uprising. He did and his troops slaughtered 30,000 of his own people before restoring order.
At that point Justinian I ordered a form of draft. Serve him or you and your family would die. He started to raise a huge army that would soon rival they troops of Rome itself. He readied himself and his troops for war and glory and set out. He marched his armies Westward and it seemed as if he could do the impossible, recapture the glory of Rome. He had many seemingly easy victories and looked to be on the verge of becoming the new Julius Cesar. Of course that didn't happen. What did happen was the first major wave of the plague, the black death.
The plague came in from the East and he and his army and empire were the first to experience it's terrors as one after another after another after another died in horrible agony. His troops and his empire eventually suffered loses of an estimated 100 million deaths. The Emperor himself contracted the plague, but was one if it's minority of survivors. Still, considering his successes through this region of the world and his potential successes, there is little or no doubt that the Plague is what stopped a second Roman Empire that could have saved mankind from the Dark Ages between his death in the 6th century and the Renaissance Period of the 14th Century. Mankind went through nearly 800 years of darkness and despair, because of a flea transmitted illness carried by Norwegian brown rats. It makes one wonder what the world of today would be if he had brought back Roman civilization.
So this brings me to my question. What would happen to modern mankind if something similar happened? When the Black Plague swept across the small Empire of Justinian I, it killed one half of all of his subjects. One hundred million people. In America we have nearly four hundred million people. What would happen to our society, to our government and to our way of life if two hundred million of them died of a disease within a year or so? Could we survive it as a nation? Would it tear us apart? Would it depend on if he rest of the world had the same losses? Nearly 4 billion human beings, cut down to less then 2 billion, within 12 months. How bad would it get?
This is under politics, because in the end that's what will decide our future.
Links below for those history buffs among us. And again, please remember that I am a fan of history and not a teacher of it. So please forgive any historical inaccuracies. Thank you for taking the time to read my article and (hopefully) to comment on it.