Human race had to experience various plagues, epidemics and pandemics from the very beginning of its existence. Got me thinking If ancient texts contain any references, descriptions, tales, stories… of these things.
A search through Loeb Classical Library, a series of books which presents important works of ancient Greek and Latin literature, yielded a few interesting results.
Here’s an excerpt from one of the top results I got for term “plague”.
The author is Herodian, according to Wikipedia a minor Roman civil servant who wrote a colourful history in Greek titled History of the Empire from the Death of Marcus in eight books covering the years 180 to 238, and he describes the plague that hit Rome around the year 188 AD, when Commodus was running the Roman empire. It’s a very vivid tale, makes you wonder what sources Herodian used to describe events he didn’t witness personally in such detail.
Just at this time a plague struck Italy, but it was most severe in Rome, which, apart from being normally overcrowded, was still getting immigrants from all over the world. The result was a tremendous toll of life among men and beasts of burden. On the advice of his doctors, Commodus retired for the time to Laurentum, a cooler spot, shaded by huge laurel groves (which give the place its name).
The doctors thought this place was safe because it was reputed to be immune from infectious diseases in the atmosphere by virtue of the redolent fragrance of the laurels and the pleasant shade of the trees. The inhabitants of the city followed the doctors’ orders, too, by filling their nostrils and ears with sweet scented perfume and making constant use of incense and aromatic herbs. Some said that if the sweet-smelling scent filled the sensory passages first, it stopped them inhaling the polluted air. If an infection were to get in, they said, the scent drove it out by its greater potency. In spite of this the plague was rampant, causing enormous loss of life among men and all the animals that came into contact with men.
That’s more or less on the plague. Herodian further describes Commodus’ struggle to stay in power
. Fascinating read. You can also find the .