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Athenian and Roman Plagues – Part 2

April 4, 2013

Having spent the majority of the day researching my brain appears to no longer be functioning so I will keep this short tonight.

One concept in particular has come to the forefront of my mind today;the origin of plagues. This thought stems from the following quote at the beginning of The Iliad;

Apollo the son of Zeus and Leto. Incensed at the king he swept a fatal plague through the army – men were dying and all because Agamemnon spurned Apollo’s priest

During the Athenian and Roman plagues, 430 BC and 296 BC, the concept of ‘rational medicine’ had developed and as such logic would suggest that it would be unlikely for the masses to blame the gods for inflicting the plague. However, this does not appear to be the case as demonstrated through the induction of the god Asclepius into the cities. There was clearly either some belief that the cities were being punished for religious impropriety, for example the death of people within holy grounds, or simply that as ‘rational medicine’ had failed to cure the plague thoughts turned to religion. Presently I consider that it is likely to be a combination of the two.

I will be considering this matter further tomorrow starting with J. Longrigg’s Death and Epidemic Disease in Classical Athens.

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From → Ancient Medicine

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