The deadliest epidemics in history
History has witnessed many deadliest epidemics. These deadliest epidemics lead to the death of many. In this article we bring for you some of these deadliest epidemics and the havoc they created.
Epidemic at ‘Hamin Mangha’: deadliest epidemics
IMAGE CREDITS: Britannica.com
A Chinese prehistoric town was wiped out by an epidemic some 5,000 years ago. Inside a residence that was later set on fire, the dead were stacked high. The house included the skeletons of people of all ages, including children, teenagers, and adults.
The prehistoric site, which is today known as “Hamin Mangha,” is one of the best preserved in northeastern China. According to anthropological and archaeological research, the outbreak happened too swiftly to allow for adequate graves, and the area was never occupied again.
Prior to the discovery of Hamin Mangha, a different prehistoric mass grave from around the same time period was located in northeastern China at a location named Miaozigou.
Plague at Athens: deadliest epidemics
A disease that decimated Athens for five years struck the city in around 430 B.C., not long after Athens and Sparta started fighting. The death toll has been estimated to be as high as 100,000. According to the Greek historian Thucydides, those who were well suddenly began to experience “great heats in the head, redness and inflammation in the eyes, the internal parts, such as the throat or tongue, turning crimson and releasing an unnatural and foetid breath” (460–400 B.C.).
Scientists have long argued over the specifics of this pandemic; a number of illnesses, including typhoid fever and Ebola, have been suggested as potential causes. Many academics think that the war’s effects on population density made the disease worse. The Athenians were forced to hide behind a line of fortifications known as the “long walls” that guarded their city since Sparta’s army was larger and more powerful. Despite the pandemic, the battle raged on, finally coming to a close in 404 B.C. when Athens was compelled to submit to Sparta.
IMAGE CREDITS: CNBC.com
Campaigning soldiers brought more than just the prizes of victory back to the Roman Empire. In an article included in the book “Disability in Antiquity,” published by Routledge in 2017, senior lecturer in Roman history April Pudsey claimed that the Antonine Plague, which may have been smallpox, decimated the army and may have killed over 5 million people in the Roman empire.
Several historians concur that soldiers returning home from a battle with Parthia carried the disease into the Roman Empire for the first time. The Pax Romana, or Roman Peace, which lasted from 27 B.C. to A.D. 180 and saw Rome at the pinnacle of its power, was brought to an end in part by the pandemic. Due to an increase in internal conflicts and “barbarian” group incursions after 180 A.D., the Roman Empire became increasingly unstable. In the years that followed the epidemic, Christianity gained popularity.
Plague of Cyprian: deadliest epidemics
The Plague of Cyprian is thought to have claimed 5,000 lives a day in Rome alone and was named after St. Cyprian, a bishop of Carthage (a city in Tunisia), who said the outbreak heralded the end of the world. Archaeologists in Luxor discovered what looks to be a mass grave for plague victims in 2014. Their bodies had a thick film of lime covering them (historically used as a disinfectant). Three lime-making kilns were discovered by archaeologists, together with the burnt remains of plague victims.
The bubonic plague decimated the Byzantine Empire, which signaled the beginning of its decline. After that, the epidemic occasionally returned. According to some estimates, up to 10% of the world’s population perished.
After the Byzantine emperor Justinian, the illness is known by that name (reigned A.D. 527-565). The Byzantine Empire expanded to its greatest size during his rule, encompassing lands from the Middle East to Western Europe. Hagia Sophia, or “Holy Wisdom,” was a massive church built by Justinian in the capital of the empire, Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). Justinian contracted the plague as well but lived. However, after the plague, his empire began to lose ground slowly.
THE BLACK DEATH
IMAGE CREDITS: The Globe and Mail.com
From Asia to Europe, the Black Death spread, wreaking havoc in its wake. Some estimates claim that it wiped off more than half of the population in Europe. It was caused by a rodent-transmitted strain of the now likely extinct Yersinia pestis bacterium. Victims’ remains were interred in large graves.
The epidemic altered the history of Europe. With so many people dead, it was harder to find labor, which led to higher wages for employees and the abolition of serfdom in Europe. According to studies, the workers who survived had easier access to meat and tastier bread. Technology innovation may possibly have been influenced by the scarcity of inexpensive labor.
COCOLIZTLI EPIDEMIC: deadliest epidemics
A viral hemorrhagic fever infection that led to the cocoliztli epidemic claimed 15 million lives in Mexico and Central America. The disease turned out to be completely disastrous among a population that had already been severely depleted by severe drought. Pest is described by the Aztec word “cocoliztli.”
In a recent study DNA from the skeletons of the victims revealed that they had been infected with S. paratyphi C, a subspecies of Salmonella that causes enteric fever, a type of fever that includes typhoid. Nowadays, enteric fever remains a serious health risk since it can result in high fever, dehydration, and gastrointestinal issues.
THE PLAGUES OF AMERICA
IMAGE CREDITS: UNsplash.com
The Eurasian diseases that made up the American Plagues were spread by European travelers to the Americas. Smallpox was among the diseases that led to the decline of the Inca and Aztec empires. According to some estimations, the indigenous population of the Western Hemisphere was wiped off to the tune of 90%.
Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztecs, was taken by a Spanish expedition under Hernán Cortés in 1519 thanks in part to the diseases. In 1532, an additional Spanish army under Francisco Pizarro overthrew the Incas. Both empires’ lands were seized by the Spanish. Both times, sickness had decimated the Aztec and Incan armies, rendering them helpless against the Spanish army.
Learn more about these epidemics:
10 of the worst pandemics
Check out some basic facts about history:
The basic facts about human history
Become an expert in modern history:
How to memorize modern history quickly