Did a Natural Disaster Spark the
By James Donahue
A book by British historian David Keys suggests that the Dark
Ages were caused, or at least helped along by a natural disaster of such magnitude that it altered human behavior for the
next thousand years.
The Dark Ages is a name for a long period of European history ranging from at about the time of
the fall of the Roman Empire in the First Century to the beginning of the Renaissance in the Twelfth Century AD. It is called
a dark period because it was a time when European people lacked stability in government and consequently fell under the rule
of the Roman Catholic Church. Lacking the refinement and culture that was brought to the area under Roman rule, civilization
at that time is remembered as barbaric in its nature. After the refinements of the Roman and Greek periods, the Dark or Middle
Ages are marked as a thousand years of silence. No great thought, music, invention or human advancement is known to have sprung
from this time.
Until Keys raised the question, however, historians seemed to have overlooked the suggestion
that there might have been something abnormal about a culture that plunged so completely into barbaric obscurity after existing
under the light of the refined cultures introduced to Europe by the Greeks and later the Romans.
His book suggests
that a major cataclysmic event, such as a powerful volcanic eruption or a meteor strike that sent enough dust and ash into
the stratosphere to dim the sunlight for several years, might have turned the world as it was known into a form of chaos.
some historical accounts indicate that the sun actually became dim and the Earth got cold in the year 535. The Roman historian
Procupius wrote that "the sun gave forth its light without brightness. . . for the whole year." A Chinese record states that
"yellow dust rained down like snow."
People who study such things confirm that a sulfuric fall-out appears in ice cores,
drilled from the ice sheets in both Greenland and Antarctica, suggesting that a major volcanic eruption occurred at about
this time in history.
Keys also attempts to use a study of tree rings to show a cooling for a period of several years,
although he was not clear on just where he found someone who was an expert on 2,000-year-old tree trunks.
A more interesting
argument is the onset of the bubonic plague during this time, which Keys believes was caused by a breeding explosion of rats
in East Africa. This, he believes, was brought about by a massive increase in normal rainfall. The moist climate altered the
balance between the plague-carrying rats and their natural predators.
Keys notes that the plague was killing people
in Alexandria in 541 AD, and it was apparently spread from there, via ships plying the Red Sea to Constantinople where an
estimated 900,000 people were eradicated in less than 100 years.
The author also argues that the climate change also
created famine, which collapsed the old empires. This opened the door to invasions by the barbarian tribes from the east,
and consequently brought on a long period of warfare and civil unrest. This, Keys believes, is the root of the civil phenomenon
we now call the Dark Ages.
So just what happened in 535 AD that would cause such a catastrophic disruption of the advance
Keyes suggests a very large volcanic eruption, something even larger than the great
blast of Krakatoa that sunk ships and killed civilians caught within many miles of the volcano in 1883. This famous eruption
between the islands of Sumatra and Java send ash and smoke into the stratosphere that, indeed, dimmed the light and brought
brilliant sunsets all over the world for months. It is Keys suggestion that the villain in the year 535 also may have been
Krakatoa, which erupted with an even more powerful blast.
The concept of social and economic change brought about by
catastrophe certainly is not a new one. Historians have been coming up with various theories, ranging from a meteorite collision
to a pole shift for the sudden extinction of the dinosaurs. Then there was Immanuel Velikovsky, who theorized in the 1950s
that the Earth was once in collision with a maverick planet.
Indeed, the cause of the one-thousand-year period of war,
barbarism, and mass suffering by the illiterate masses throughout Europe is not an easy riddle to solve when looked at in
the light of contemporary religious and social belief systems.
J. S. Chiappalone, author of various books condoning
Gnosticism and explaining his version of the current condition of the world, suggests an entirely different reason for the
period of dark history. He argues that the world has been under the control of evil forces for so long that people believe
war, corruption, violence and disease is a status quo.
In his book The Kingdom of Zion, Chiappalone quotes historian
Charles Van Doren who declares "a large part of mankind's ingenuity has gone into inventing new ways of killing and torturing
other human beings, and the threat of pain of death has been found to be the best, and often the only, means of ruling large
numbers of people."
Describing the so-called "civilizations" that arose in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia,
India and China, Van Doren said "these empires gave their people law, which is to say, a measure of peace and security against
the violence of other people like themselves. But they provided no security against the rulers themselves, who ruled by violence
Chiappalone goes on to point out that throughout known history, nothing has changed. Even though there
has been an occasional flowering of great nations, mankind has never really evolved from the barbaric character he was when
it all began. We have demonstrated this over and over again in our actions, right up to modern times.
asks: "Have there been less wars, less carnage, less torture, less violence, more civilization in this century than existed
thousands of years ago? If anything, there have been far more. This has been described by many and confirmed by the number
of deaths to be the most violent century in known human history."
Looking at the world from Chiappalone's perspective
we must conclude that the dark ages never ended.