Kritische Blicke auf die Coronakrise und ihre Folgen
Kritische Blicke auf die Coronakrise und ihre Folgen

The Justinianic Plague

Forum: Zeiterfahrung: Mischa Meier: Die Justinianische Pest – im Spiegel der Covid-19-Pandemie betrachtet (The Justinianic Plague – seen in the mirror of the Covid 19 pandemic), in: H-Soz-Kult, 27.11.2020, online in: (Stand: 14.12.2020).

Based on the basic assumption that the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic has framed the subjects of his own research in a new way, the author of the article examines the Justinianic Plague on the basis of four texts from late antiquity and with the help of a theoretical model of the Tübingen Sonderforschungsbereich 923 “Bedrohte Ordnungen” (Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 923 “Threatened Order – Societies under Stress”). The author is concerned with the question of how his own experience of a pandemic changed his view of the historical material. The focus here is less on analysis than on “collecting impressions” that have resulted from the new framing.

Quote from the conclusion:

“I was not so much interested in showing superficial parallels between the Covid-19 pandemic and the Justinianic Plague, but rather in looking at the latter in the light of the former, and thus in highlighting aspects that have played a rather marginal role in previous research, in order to be able to point out: The new framing of our approach to the late antiquity pandemic from the perspective of our own experience has analytical potential. The categorization of both pandemics as threatened orders opens up a frame of reference that facilitates the classification of individual observations and at the same time prevents a purely subjective reading. It becomes clear that in the future we should look less at the testimonies within their literary traditions and genre conventions, but rather take their intrinsic value more seriously and interpret them more strongly from the communication and action logics characteristic of threatened orders, as they also emerge in the current situation. And last but not least, it should have become clear that the relativization of the Justinian plague, as demanded by the authors of the “Washington Post” article summarized at the beginning, is probably misleading. It reflects for the last time the perspective of the time before Covid-19. For the future pandemic historiography, it can already be stated that with the spring of 2020, a new age has dawned that will develop its own methodological approaches and narratives that have grown out of Covid-19-framing.”

Link to the article on H-Soz-Kult as PDF file