View Full Version : Plague in Athens

Oct 30, 2001, 09:46 AM
The Pelopponesian War is one of the most interesting conflicts of all time, both because of its own significance - and, perhaps more importantly, its History by Thucydides. It's a work that discusses not just history, but also politics, philosophy, international relations, and human nature. Thucydides' conclusions, in some respects, are just as valid now as they were in the fifth century BC. Sometimes, though, there are connections with the War that are just eerie...this is from the Weekly Standard:

Throughout much of recorded history, anthrax has periodically devastated both rural and urban populations. For instance: The mystery has never been solved definitively, but more than a few medical historians have long believed that the 430-427 b.c. "plague of Athens," a famously gruesome, eyewitness account of which appears in Thucydides' "History of the Peloponnesian War," was a bacillus anthracis pandemic. Certain symptoms Thucydides described--fever, bleeding, and "small pustules and ulcers"--are strikingly consistent with a severe form of cutaneous anthrax infection, in which the bacteria enter the body through abrasions on the skin, which then breaks out into ulcerating lesions and large, scabby "eschars." It is from the color and discomfort of these characteristic eschars, incidentally, that the anthrax bacillus derives its scientific name, after the Greek word (anthrakis) for "burning coal."

If you would like to read the full article, it is here:

Oct 31, 2001, 07:35 AM
I think there's a significant difference betw incidents in the past and the present anthrax scare. Most of the cases in the past were in the category of natural disasters whilst the present was man-made and an act of terrorism.
Anyway, I am not that familiar with Greek history (except generally), so nothing further to contribute here. :)

Oct 31, 2001, 01:47 PM
Well, of course, that one was naturally occuring. I just thought it was an interesting connection. :)

However, if I remember correctly, "biological weapons" were used in ancient times, by doing things such as catapulting dead bodies into cities behind walls, in order to make the population sick.

SKM, if you get the chance, pick up the History of the Pelopponesian War. It's really an important and interesting book to anyone interested in history and politics - Greek or otherwise.

"At this time our allies came to us of their own accord and begged us to lead them. It was the actual course of events which first compelled us to increase our power to its present extent: fear of Persia was our chief motive, though afterwards we thought, too, of our own honour and our own interest. Finally there came a time when we were surrounded by enemies, when we had already crused some revolts, when you had lost the friendly feelings that you [Sparta] used to have for us and had turned against us and begun to arouse our suspicion: at this point it was clearly no longer safe for us to risk letting our empire go, especially as any allies that left us would go over to you. And when tremendous dangers are involved no one can be blamed for looking to his own interest."

-From the speech of Athens at the debate at Sparta