The Antonine plague and Cyprian plague raged through the Roman Empire from A.D. 165 to 262, killing up to one-third of the empire’s population, and potentially sparking a major religious shift. Before the Antonine plague started, the empire was pagan, with only around 40,000 Christian followers, yet within a generation of the end of the Cyprian plague, Christianity had become the main religion in the Roman Empire. How did this happen? Historians claim that Christian worshipers played a key role in managing the pandemic by caring for the sick and building charity networks, whereas pagan Romans mostly looked after themselves. Essentially what happened is people of Christian faith survived these plagues at higher rates than pagans, and developed immunity much faster. Romans quickly attributed this success to religion, drawn by its selfless and charitable nature they’ve started considering Christianity as a more attractive option. Christians also didn’t miss out on the opportunity to attract more believers.
The following plague was far more devastating, once again wiping out those at the top of the food chain. The plague of Justinian plague had disrupted Medieval Europe’s slave supply chain, forcing it to drop slavery and push peasants into serfdom, a form of forced labor that guaranteed certain rights and military protection.Serfs were successfully exploited until the Black Death broke out in 1347, killing around 80 million Europeans. By the time it was over in the early 1350s, a once overpopulated and feudal society started to once again experience major economic shifts, this time defined by fair labor, technological innovation, and even culture. Labor shortages enabled serfs to negotiate for better treatment and utilize a whole arsenal of labor-saving technology such as iron plows, printing presses, water pumps and gunpowder weapons. It was a long road to abolishing serfdom for good, yet the first lucky free peasants expressed desire to move up in the world. They’ve rushed into cities to take up crafts and trades, with some of them becoming rich and forming a new middle class. With wealth came the desire for luxury goods, especially from exotic countries, therefore significantly increasing spending power and development of shipping technology. And if that’s not enough, take into account that the middle class also became patrons for arts, literature and science, setting trends that would eventually explode into the Renaissance. The post-pandemic situation even reformed stone-written rules of male inheritance: citizens would pass on property to their daughters for the first time.