Try our corporate solution for free!
+1 (212) 419-5770
support@statista.com

Estimates of the Plague of Justinian's death toll in Constantinople 541

The Plague of Justinian was the first major bubonic plague pandemic recorded in Europe, and was the first pandemic to ever be described or documented with any relative reliability. The plague takes its name from Emperor Justinian I, who ruled the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire) at the time of the outbreak. The Byzantine capital of Constantinople (also known then as Byzantium, and Istanbul today) was the hardest hit city during the pandemic, and where the majority of sources are from. Until recently, it was only assumed that the outbreak was bubonic plague, due to the symptoms described by contemporary historians, but scientists were able to confirm that it was in fact Yersinia pestis (the bacterium that causes plague) in 2013.

Constantinople overwhelmed

It is thought that the plague was brought to Constantinople by Egyptian grain merchants, although a recent theory suggests it was brought from the Eurasian Steppes (from where Yersinia pestis originates) to Europe by Hunnic tribes. While the exact origins of the plague remain unclear, it is estimated that up to 300,000 people died in Constantinople in the first year of the outbreak. Contemporary sources claim that there were approximately 5,000 deaths in the city every day at the height of the pandemic, even reaching highs of 10,000 on some days.

Constantinople outbreak was unique

A 2019 study, conducted by researchers from Jerusalem and Princeton raises some important questions about the scale of the outbreak across Europe. They dispute the claim by some modern historians that this pandemic killed up to half of the population of the Mediterranean (or that it was instrumental to the collapse of the Eastern Roman Empire), instead suggesting that the scale of the outbreak in Constantinople was unique to that city. They use a variety of literary, archeological and scientific sources to show that the plague was unlikely to have reached this magnitude across other cities at the time, nor did it spread in the same way that the Black Death did six centuries later. While future studies are likely to provide further insight into these theories, it is important to remember this contrasting hypothesis when studying pre-2019 sources.

Estimates of the Plague of Justinian's death toll in Constantinople in 541CE

Loading statistic...
You need to log in to download this statistic
Register for free
Already a member?
Log in
Show detailed source information?
Register for free
Already a member?
Log in
Source

Release date

April 2020

Region

Worldwide, Turkey

Survey time period

541CE

Supplementary notes

This data was compiled and cross-referenced with a variety of sources, most notably; Expectations of Life, by H.O. Lancaster (1990).

Statista Accounts: Access All Statistics. Starting from $468 / Year
Basic Account
Get to know the platform

You only have access to basic statistics.

Single Account
The ideal entry-level account for individual users
  • Instant access to 1m statistics
  • Download in XLS, PDF & PNG format
  • Detailed references
$59 $39 / Month *
in the first 12 months
Corporate Account
Full access

Corporate solution including all features.

* All products require an annual contract; Prices do not include sales tax.

Statistics on "Plague"

Further Content: You might find this interesting as well

Topics

Plague
Statista Accounts: Access All Statistics. Starting from $468 / Year
Learn more about how Statista can support your business.