The Plague, also known as The Black Death, was first recognized in the sixth century during the Byzantine Empire. It later arose during the Late Middle Ages and then again in small amounts in places like Seville and London in the mid-1600s. The plague is carried by fleas which attach to rodents. From a bite of a flea-bitten rodent, a human would now be infected with the disease. Even after all of these years of knowing what the Plague does, we do not have a definite cure. We only have ways to lessen the symptoms by the use of antibiotics and quarantine. The mortality rate is extremely high, about 80%. There are many different variations about the plague’s origins, symptoms, and precautions. I question whether it was the plague that indeed killed thousands of people in every situation.
The Plagues discussed in the readings vary. In Thucydides’ The Great Plague at Athens, he says that the town of Piraeus was one of the first to catch the Plague. They believed the sickness coming over their town was from the water. They blamed it on Peloponnesians, accusing them of poisoning their wells. Obviously now we know that it was not true that the Peloponnesians were harming the people in Piraeus. At the same time, the populations were growing and people were moving to the city. Closer living quarters caused the disease to spread easier.
A similar type of blame game was used in Germany and other towns. Anti-Semitic countries blamed the Jews for infecting their water, believing that is why everyone was suddenly getting ill. Without knowing the actual origin, Jews were being charged with polluting air, water, and water systems. In the reading of The Plague in France by Jean De Venette, it states, “The whole world rose up against them cruelly on this account.”
Thucydides also named the symptoms as a strong fever in head and a reddening and burning heat in the eyes. The first internal symptoms were that the throat and tongue became bloody and the breath was unnatural. Later on, the infected person would be sneezing, have hoarseness and violent coughing. Thucydides also noted that “Those who recovered were congratulated by the others, and in their immediate elation cherished the vain hope that for the future they would be immune to death from any other disease.” They believed since they conquered such a rough and deadly disease, they assumed they could fight off anything.
Unlike Thucydides claim on plague symptoms, Procopius says “For there ensued with some a deep coma, with others a violent delirium, and in either case they suffered the characteristic symptoms of the disease. For those who were under the spell of the coma forgot all those who were familiar to them.” It seems that these two diseases may have been different. Thucydides account of what the plague does to you doesn’t mention comas or any sort of dementia. The coma and dementia may have simply been effects of the fever, but Thucydides does not...