Friday 1 May 2020

The Eclipse of the Sun in 664 and the Yellow Plague

The Eclipse of the Sun in 664 and the Yellow Plaque 

On May 1st 664 CE an eclipse of the Sun was visible over southern Scotland and northern England or Northumbria, as northern England was known as then. This eclipse lasted for 3 minutes and 56 seconds, the eclipse also coincided with the first recorded major epidemic in recorded English history. The Yellow Plague.  The eclipse was naturally blamed for the epidemic.

An Eclipse of the Sun

This epidemic appears to have started on the south coast and quickly spread across all of Britain, with many people dying in 664 including Bishop Tuda of Lindisfarne and King Eorcenberht of Kent. The Yellow Plaque would be around for the next 20 to 25 years.

The term Yellow Plaque was used by later writers who assumed that the Irish Yellow Plaque of the 540s was the same pestilence as that of 664. I assume the term yellow was used because people would have appeared yellowish or jaundiced in colour. 

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