Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Plague in Athens, 430BC - Part I

The Athens plague has not been identified with any known disease; albeit, it had some of the symptoms of typhus fever.

“The disease began, it is said, in Ethiopia beyond Egypt, and then descended into Egypt and Libya and spread over the greater part of the King's territory. Then it suddenly fell upon the city of Athens, and attacked first the inhabitants of the Peiraeus ... That year .. was .. unusually free from disease so far as regards the other maladies; but if anyone was already ill or of any disease all terminated in this. In other cases from no obvious cause, but suddenly an while in good health, men were sized first with intense heat of the head, and redness and inflammation of the eyes, and the parts inside the mouth, both the throat and the tongue, immediately became blood-red and exhaled an unnatural and fetid breath. In the next stage sneezing and hoarseness came on, and in a short time the disorder descended to the chest, attended by severe coughing. And when it settled in the stomach, that was upset, and vomits of bile of every named by physicians ensued, these also attended by the distress; and in most cases ineffectual retching followed producing violent convulsions, which sometimes abated directly, sometimes not until long afterward(s). .. the body was not so very warm to the touch; it was not pale, but reddish, livid and breaking out in small blisters and ulcers. But internally it was consumed be such a heat that the patients could not bear to have on them the lightest coverings or linen sheets, but wanted to be quite uncovered and would have liked best to throw themselves into cold water – indeed many of those who were not looked after did throw themselves into cisterns – so tormented were they by thirst which could not be quenched; and it was all the same whether they drank much or little.

They were also beset by restlessness and sleeplessness which never abated. And the body was not wasted while the disease was at its height, but resisted surprisingly the ravages of the disease, so that when the patients died, as most of them did on the seventh or ninth day from the internal heat, they still had some strength left; or, if they passed the crisis, the disease went down into the bowels, producing there a violent ulceration, and at the same time and acute diarrhea set in, so that in this later stage most of them perished through the weakness caused by it.” - Thucydides

... to be continued

Label: Pandemics – Pestilence - Plague

No comments:

Post a Comment

Whether you like this and agree with me, or not, thank you for your comments. I normally do not purge an individual comment, unless it is obscene or obvious spam. If you have a question, do feel free to e-mail me at this address - SW