Posts on social media claim 16th century French astrologer Nostradamus predicted the new coronavirus. The different posts include a quote attributed to Nostradamus describing the spread of a plague in Italy that will be the end of the global economy as we know it. Some iterations of the claim also reference Nostradamus’ famous book "Les Propheties" (“The Prophecies”). ( here , here , here , here )
The claims include a prophecy written out as follows: “There will be a twin year (2020) from which will arise a queen (corona) who will come from the east (China) and who will spread a plague (virus) in the darkness of night, on a country with 7 hills (Italy) and will transform the twilight of men into dust (death), to destroy and ruin the world. It will be the end of the world economy as you know it.”
This claim is unfounded. Reuters found no evidence of this prophecy being written by Nostradamus. Stephane Gerson, Professor of French, French Studies, and History at New York University, told Reuters this text “does not come from Nostradamus's ‘Prophecies’,” nor from other prognostications made by Nostradamus ( here ).
Gerson told Reuters, “One should keep in mind that plagues were recurrent in 16th-century Europe, during his lifetime. They were one of the travails about which he wrote (indeed, there are at least 35 references to plagues in his ‘Prophecies’).”
A search for key words in "Les Prophéties” online including “twin year”, “queen” and “east” brought no results ( here ).
The text is also not written in Nostradamus’ famous quatrains style, a type of poem that consists of four lines. Examples of Nostradamus quatrains can be seen here .
In his book “Nostradamus: How an Obscure Renaissance Astrologer Became the Modern Prophet of Doom” ( here ), Professor Gerson says Nostradamus’ lasting appeal relies on the fact that his “arcane predictions could mean anything”. According to Gerson, past experts linked Nostradamus’ success to “the “sheer number of quatrains and the Prophecies’ dearth of categorical statements and references to specific times and places”.
Gerson told Reuters why the timing of this claim during this outbreak doesn’t come as a surprise. “There is nothing surprising about the reemergence of such false Nostradamian prophecies in the wake of a disaster. The same thing has happened for over 400 years: invented or altered predictions, endowed with the aura of Nostradamus, surface again and again, part of an economy of forgery, mass media circulation, and yearnings for order and design each time an unforeseen event threatens our material well-being and our conceptual frameworks.”
False: There is no evidence to support that Nostradamus prophesied the coronavirus outbreak.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work here .