535 AD Cataclysmic Event

Why is the global climatic cataclysm of the sixth century virtually unheard of?


There was a sign from the sun, the like of which had never been seen and reported before. The sun became dark and its darkness lasted for 18 months.  Each day, it shone for about four hours, and still this light was only a feeble shadow.  Everyone declared that the sun would never recover its full light again.
Historiae Ecclesiasticae

Between the years 535 and 536, a series of major global climatic events that took place that could easily be described as a global cataclysm with catastrophic consequences. The above abstract is from the sixth century historian and church leader, John of Ephesus, in his historical work, Church Histories (‘Historiae Ecclesiasticae’).

John of Ephesus is not the only one that mentions this event. Procopius lived between 500 and 565 AD and he was a late antiquities scholar and one of the main historians of the 6 th century. He also refers to the strange behaviour of the sun and believed that it was a bad sign and the beginning of other events.

… during this year a most dread portent took place. For the sun gave forth its light without brightness...and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear.,
History of the Wars: The Vandalic War.



And we have yet another reference from the sixth century writer, Zacharias of Mytilene, who authored a chronicle that contains a section referring to the ‘Dark Sun’ for the period of 535/536 AD.

The sun began to be darkened by day and the moon by night, while the ocean was tumultuous with spray from the 24th of March in this year till the 24th of June in the following year... And, as the winter was a severe one, so much so that from the large and unwonted quantity of snow the birds perished... there was distress... among men... from the evil things,
Zacharias of Mytilene (Chronicle, 9.19, 10.1)

Krakatoa VolcanoThese three extracts are just a representative sample of numerous accounts from all over the world, written in the same period of time. In all cases, the sun was described as getting dimmer and losing its light. Many also described it as having a bluish colour. The effects were also observed with the moon – it wasn’t as bright anymore. The reduction of the light resulted in the reduction of heat on the planet; no rain and a very long winter resulted in crop failures and for birds and other wildlife to perish, as Zacharias of Mytilene writes. Famine and plagues struck many areas and there were a huge number of deaths.

In China and Japan, the event was also recorded in great detail. Massive droughts and thousands of deaths. The water wasn’t enough for the people and the land. Hundreds of thousands of square miles became infertile. In the Beishi chronicles, the official history of the Northern Dynasties, mentions that in 536, in the province of Xi’an, 80% of the population died and the survivors ate corpses to survive.

The catastrophic event struck Korea, the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Australia.  While written records do not exist for all countries, archaeological and geological data revealed evidence of the climatic changes. Studies done on the trunks of trees, for example, showed that 536 AD had been the coldest in 1,500 years.

The important question in all of this is, why did it happen?  While there are no definite answers, one theory that has been put forward is that there was a large asteroid or comet impact which landed in the sea (if it hit land there would be evidence of a crater). Geologist Dallas Abbott is one proponent of this view and bases his view on evidence that he found studying ice cores from Greenland. However, this wouldn’t explain the dim light of the sun, and no tsunamis have been recorded for this period, which would have occurred if an asteroid landed in the ocean.

Another theory that has been put forward is a gigantic volcanic eruption – the dust thrown up into the atmosphere could have caused the dimming of the light.  One candidate is Krakatoa, located between the islands of Java and Sumatra in Indonesia. Indeed, the Book of the Ancient Kings or Pustaka Raja Purwa, written in 1869, describes an ancient volcano.

There was a furious shaking of the earth, total darkness, thunder and lighting.
… Then came forth a furious gale together with torrential rain and a deadly storm darkened the entire world.
… When the waters subsided it could be seen that the island of Java had been split into two, this creating the island of Sumatra.

However, this manuscript refers to the year 416 AD and not 535 AD.  Nevertheless, the fact that it was written in the 19 th century could account for inaccuracies in the time reference.

Whether or not the answer will ever be found is unknown. It is unclear whether scientists are even continuing to pursue research on this event. One thing that is quite peculiar about this global cataclysm is that it is a very little known event. Why is it that this climatic event is not taught in schools? Why isn’t there a plethora of research examining it? Perhaps it is because it reminds us of our fragility as human beings and the fact that no matter how powerful and ‘advanced’ mankind becomes, we are still at the mercy of nature. 

By John Black


AD 536: The year that winter never ended

Global Cataclysm in 535 AD

Catastrophe: An investigation into the Origins of the Modern World, David Keys, Century, London

Related Books


Don't be misled into thinking there might have been some natural cause to the devastating climate changes of the 500's. It was obviously man-caused. Yet another example of how man, the enemy of nature, has adversely affected the weather and harmed our beautiful Gaia. Damn that insatiable 6th-century human greed, which resulted in the breeding of all those methane-spewing bovines and equines which...did something or other which caused, uh, something in the weather.

My apologies for the typo. It should read AD 562. However, that said, there sems to be quite a lot of ancient texts with differing dates, for the events in the 6th century. Europe was using the Julian calendar at the time, but what of other countries and particularly Asia. What calendars were they using, and could this explain the difference in dates of what appears to be the same catastrophic event/events, whether it was a comet, a volcanie, or both.

The article concerns a recorded event in AD 535 by various authors/historians. You are referring to a possible event in AD 652, some 117 years later. I do not see the relevant connection.

Don Knox-Heffernan

It has been established that a comet passed over Britain in AD652, and impacted in Bolivia. There is a 6 mile debris field in the mountains of Bolivia. For years the signs had been misinterpreted, until today's testing techniques are now able to make sense of the evidence. 

Britain experienced a mass exodus at this time, and nothing grew for a decade. This was the Dark Ages. Gildas has chronicled these events, and it also explains why the ancient British language is found in parts of Brittany, where the British fled to. Gildas is also buried at a monastery in Brittany.

Book by David Keys, "Catastrophe", (Ballantine Books, published 1999 - just now noticed that it is available as a Kindle book on Amazon) covers this topic in detail.  It's a very well-researched and extremely nteresting analysis of the possible explanations for this global catyclysm.  Having read the book when it was first published, I thought the evidence was fairly conclusive, and had not realized that the climate events of this period were considered to this day to be pretty much unexplained.

Sub-title is "An Investigation into the origins of the modern world" which is appropriate as Keys covers the significant effects of this weather changing event on civilisations around the world. 

Various options explaining the cause are considered - comet or asteroid striking the earth, along with the conclusion which points to a massive Krakatoa-like explosion which Keys  traced to Indonesia. 

Well worth the read. Plenty of info on the book on the internet.



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