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The Bad and the Ugly

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

To be expected when discussing any pandemic, there are tragic consequences to consider. As previously mentioned, somewhere between 30-50 million people succumbed to the first strain of the Bubonic plague, this places it among the most deadly of pandemic to ever sweep the stretches of our world.

It reached a point that civilians would do little else but stay home for fear of contracting the disease - which strikes close to home in our current situation. Similarly, just as deadly as the bacterium itself were the circumstances that it bred. Out of desperation or some kind of induced delirium some people, infected or not, would choose to take their own lives. Other more dependent on the grace of kind strangers, were left to starve when that same kindness was abandoned in lieu of fear and an increased risk of infection for those who would have otherwise gone out of their way.


In general, what were once lively and active cities throughout the Roman Empire changed drastically. The economy was ground to a standstill, the arts were largely abandoned, and the skilled labor of the trades were likewise dropped. Between the loss of vibrant city life and the growing attitude of despair some people even took to wearing nametags for the purpose of identification should they fall ill and die in the street.

Of course, the lack of understanding that physicians had in those times left them all but hopeless to manage the growing number of sick that bulged with every day. Less focus was paid to the actual human condition and treatment of various symptoms, with preference paid to adhering to strict religious superstitions and bygones beliefs like "balancing the four humours" of blood, phlegm and black and yellow bile. Similarly, these medical practices, such as they were, exposed those same Doctors to the bacterium and put them at greater risk. As a result, many of the physicians brave enough to treat the sick succumbed to the disease themselves.


Cemeteries found themselves overfilled, with multiple bodies stacked to a grave and the surplus of those finding sometimes even more morbid homes. Corpses thrown just outside city walls, or worse yet, piled, stored and stamped to fit as many as possible inside abandoned guard posts along those same walls. The smell was reportedly all-intruding across the city. It is estimated that the mortality rate of those that contracted the Plague was approximately 40%. Though the blows dealt to the economic and agricultural sectors at large were substantial, perhaps the largest overarching consequence of the Plague may have been it's death toll - not just for the terrible loss of life on a massive scale, but because that same loss reverberated through the Roman army. This led to a weakness of the Roman Empire to properly repel incoming threats and defend itself from its enemies.

While recent studies of the available material from the time has delegitimized the above image of what doctors of the time might have looked like, it nonetheless paints a grim picture of the atmosphere the populace had to endure. We can consider ourselves blessed that, at the time of this writing, we are not faced with as bleak a worldview as they were subject to.


Though bleak and grim, the hardships faced by the Roman Empire was not without its successes, the slim silver lining can be read about in the following post; The Good



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