PureInsight | December 17, 2007
[PureInsight.org] From the
fourteenth until the mid-fifteen century, there were many calamities in
the world. The most serious one was the Black Death. The plague lasted
for a long time, particularly in Europe. It caused 30 million deaths in
Europe. Many people at the time considered this plague as "God's
penalty on the sinners of the human world" and it was "the disease no
medicine could overcome or mitigate."
Just as its name implies, the Black Death got its name because of its
fearsome symptom. The pathogenic bacterium was spread by fleas on rats
and other rodents and, later in the epidemic, between people. A typical
symptom was that the sufferers would have black specks on their skins.
Once a person caught the disease, he would develop high fever and
delirium. They would most likely die in pain. There was no hope for a
cure. Most people died in 48 hours after they were infected. But a
small number of people had resistance to the disease and survived. That
is still a puzzle.
The Black Death erupted in Central Asia in 1339. As the rats that
carried the fleas that carried the bacterium ran about busily, the
plague quickly spread. The outcome was that India's population dropped
sharply. Southwest Asia, Mesopotamia, Armenia, and other regions under
the rule of Mongolians were littered with corpses. In 1347, the Black
Death spread to Constantinople and Alexandria. Deaths increased rapidly
in these two cities early in the following year. More than 1000 people
died each day in Alexandria. Death in Egypt and Cairo reached more than
7000 a day.
The calamity in Europe may have started in October 1347 when a ship,
which carried rats with fleas that could transmit the bacterium,
arrived in Sicily from the Crimean Peninsula. The plague quickly
enveloped the island. In the beginning of 1348, the Black Death spread
to Venice and Genoa, and then to all of Italy. Rich cities like
Florence were most seriously affected. Fifty-five thousand people out
of 95000 died. The adjacent France was hoping to shut the door against
the plague, but it was too late. The plague had already landed at
Marseilles and then entered Spain. The plague started to spread all
over Europe. In 1349, it threatened the southern part of England and
Ireland and then extended to the northern Germany and Sweden. In 1532,
Russia wasn't spared.
When the plague erupted, there were no exceptions. It didn't matter
whether one was rich or poor, man or woman. Some people were fine the
night before but, suddenly, illness struck in the night. After they
went through a painful struggle, they stopped breathing the following
morning. Many doctors were also infected, and died even sooner than
their patients. Corpses were piled up like mountains on the streets. On
the sea, so many sailors died, one after another, that many ships
became ghost ships. When the plague spread to London, the British royal
family and many rich people escaped the city. More than ten thousand
houses were abandoned. Some houses were nailed up with pine boards on
the windows. Some houses were marked with a red cross to indicate
sickness. There weren't any lawsuit, since all the lawyers had fled the
In the fourteenth century, death rates exceeded 50% in cities with high
populations. Corpses were tossed on handcarts like garbage. According
to estimates, a third of Europe's population died from the plague in
the fourteenth century,. However, the plague didn't stop there. The
Black Death raided Europe every ten years until the fifteenth century.
The exact number of deaths from the plague is still unclear today. One
historian from Oslo University in Norway estimated that there were 8
million death in 1347 and 30 million after six years. During the
following three hundred years, the plague broke out many times. It is
possible that total death reached 200 millions. The epidemic form of
the plague then mysteriously disappeared after 1670.
Because of the large number of death from the plague the labor force
was in short supply. Many villages were abandoned and farmlands lay in
waste. The farm slaves were thus set free and were paid salaries.
Famine followed closely bbehind the plague.
In addition, the influence of the plague far exceeded the bleak
situation from the death. Its influence on people's mentalities was
more serious. Many survivors were unable to endure the death of their
dear ones and became so sad that they became mad or committed suicide.
Governments were forced to release prisoners to help bury the corpses
piled up like mountains.
Why did the plague strike Europe? Why did God punish human beings? Will
history repeat itself? Perhaps we need to think deeply about it.