Black Death Essay

936 words - 4 pages

Black Death was an outbreak of bubonic plague, that struck Europe and theMediterranean area from 1347 through 1351. It was the first of European plagueepidemics that continued until the early 18th century. The plague had been preceded byancient plagues between the 6th and 8th centuries A.D.; they were followed by other cycle,but less deadly, plagues that began in the late 19th century and continue in the 20thcentury. The term "Black Death" was not used to refer to the plagues of 1347 through1351 until much later. They usually referred to it as the Pestilence, or the Great Mortality.Scientists and historians are still not sure about the origins of the plague. Mediev-al European writers believed that it began in China. People wrote that it began withearthquakes, fire falling from the sky, and plagues of vermin. These statements are basedon a number of myths about life in areas outside of Europe. Scientists and historians nowthink it's probable that infected rodents migrated from the Middle East into southernRussia. Plague was then spread west along the trade routes. The plague was then passedfrom them to the colonies of Italians living in towns along the Black Sea. Merchantsprobably carried the disease from there to Egypt in 1347. It then moved to Damascus andLibya in 1348. The plague moved quickly along the major trace routes. From Pisa ittraveled to Florence and then on to Rome and Bologna. From Venice it moved intosouthern Germany and Austria. Then from Genoa it crossed the Tyrhennian Sea toBarcelona in Spain and Marseille in France. It continued through the towns of southernFrance, reaching Paris by early June 1348. From there the plague spread to England bylate June 1348 and the low countries by the summer of 1349.Doctors and theologians agree that the plague had both religious and physicalcauses. The first and most important was God's judgment on a sinful humanity. Thesecond was a lack of balance in the body's fluids. As with earthquakes, floods, and fires,medieval Christians believed illness was a call to repentance. In response someChristians, known as flagellants, began to ritually beat themselves as penance for theirown and for others' sins. Although groups of flagellants had existed since the 10thcentury, the outbreak of the plague increased their numbers. Medieval physiciansinherited their medical ideas from the Greeks and Romans, who believed that healthinvolved a balance of bodily fluids. Imbalance by emotional, dietary, or external factorscould result in sickness or even death. Physicians then suggested that people eatmoderately and avoid anything that could upset the body's delicate balance.People began to see patterns and to sense what they might do to limit the impactof the plague. It was cleat that the plague was most likely to arise in summer or earlyautumn. After striking everyone, observers noticed that the plague most often settled inthe poorest, most crowded neighborhoods. That led an Italian...

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