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Looking for Plague in All the Wrong Places: On Using Legislation as Evidence for the Sixth-Century Epidemic

Scooby Doo Mystery
Thursday, October 20, 2022, 5:30 pm – 6:45 pm

Few areas of recent scholarship of the Eastern Mediterranean in Late Antiquity have shed more heat and less light than the debate over whether the so-called Plague of Justinian had devastating impacts or was merely “inconsequential”. Legislative evidence has featured prominently on both sides of this increasingly polarised dialectic. This talk addresses specific instances of new laws made during the first wave of plague and argues that both “maximalists” and “inconsequentialists” (terms each of them would hate) have misconstrued what these laws can tell us about the impact of plague upon empire. In their efforts to interpret Justinian’s new law-making primarily in light of concurrent legislation, both sides have failed to engage in the necessary diachronic analysis, that is, an evaluation of where each new law fits within the development over time of the area of law to which it relates. Only such a diachronic analysis can reveal the extent to which new law-making constitutes a genuine new policy response to plague and thus evidence for the severity of its impact.


You can attend the seminar either in person or via Zoom. 

Zoom link:…

Meeting ID: 949 5836 5583
Passcode: 608792