1902 Encyclopedia > Plague > Plague - Introduction

(Bubonic Plague; Black Death; etc.)
(Part 1)

Plague - Introduction

PLAGUE (loimos [Gk.], Pestis [Lat.], Pestilentia [Lat.]). This name has been given to any epidemic disease causing a great mortality, and in this sense was used by Galen and the ancient medical writers, but is now confined to a special disease, otherwise called Oriental, Levantine, or Bubonic Plague, which may be shortly defined as a specific ferbrile disease, transmissible from the sick to healthy persons, accomplished usually by buboes and sometimes by carbuncles. This definition excludes many of the celebrated pestilences recorded in history, -- such as the plague of Athens, described by Thucydides ; that not less celebrated one which occurred in the reign of Marcus Aurelius and spread over nearly the whole of the Roman world (164-180 A.D.), [Footnote 159-1] which is referred to, though not fully described, by the contemporary pen of Galen ; and that of the 3rd century (about 253), the symptoms of which are known from the allusions of St Cyprian (Sermo de Mortalitate). There is a certain resemblance between all these, but they were very different from Oriental plague.

159-1 Amm. Marcell, xxiii. 7; see Hecker, De Peste Antoniana, Berlin, 1835.

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