Front Page Titles (by Subject) THUCYDIDES UPON THE PLAGUE AT ATHENS. - The Writings of Hippocrates and Galen
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THUCYDIDES UPON THE PLAGUE AT ATHENS. - Hippocrates, The Writings of Hippocrates and Galen 
The Writings of Hippocrates and Galen. Epitomised from the Original Latin translations, by John Redman Coxe (Philadelphia: Lindsay and Blakiston, 1846).
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THUCYDIDES UPON THE PLAGUE AT ATHENS.
In the very beginning of summer, the Peloponnesians, with two-thirds of their allies, invaded Attica, as they had done the first year of the war, under the conduct of Archidamus the son of Zeuxidamus king of Sparta; and, after encamping, wasted the country about them. They had not been many days in Attica, before the plague first broke out among the Athenians, after having before that visited, as the report went, Lemnos and many other places: but so great a plague and mortality was never yet known, in the memory of man. The physicians were so far from being able to cure it at first, for want of knowing the nature of it, that they themselves died faster than others, as being most familiar with the sick; nor could any other art of man make head against it. All supplications to the gods, and inquiries of oracles, and the like, signified nothing; so that, at last, overcome with the distemper, they left them all off. It began, by report, first in that part of Ethiopia that lies above Egypt, and so came down into Egypt and Lybia, and a great part of the King of Persia’s dominions. Athens was seized with it on a sudden, but first in Piræus; which occasioned a report that the Peloponnesians had thrown poison into the wells; for at that time they had no springs or fountains there. Afterwards it came up into the high city, and proved much more mortal than before. Now let every man, physician or private person, say, according to his knowledge, what the origin of this distemper might be, or what causes might be sufficient to produce so great an alteration. For my own part, having been ill of it myself, and seen others that were so too, I shall now declare what the manner of it was, that, if ever it should happen again, nobody who reflects upon it, may be at a loss through ignorance.
The year was universally allowed to be the healthiest and freest from other diseases of any; and, if any one was sick before, all his illness was converted to this. Others, who were in perfect health, were taken suddenly, without any apparent cause, with violent heats in their heads, and with redness and inflammations in their eyes. Their tongues and throats within became immediately bloody; their breath in great disorder and offensive. A sneezing and a hoarseness ensued; and, in a short time, the pain descended into the breast, attended with a violent cough. When it was once settled about the mouth of the stomach, a retching, and vomiting of bilious stuff, in as great a variety as ever was known among physicians, succeeded, but not without the greatest anxiety imaginable. Many were seized with a hiccup, that brought up nothing, but occasioned a violent convulsion, which in some went off presently, but in others continued much longer. The body outwardly was neither very hot to the touch, nor pale, but reddish, livid, and flowered (as it were) all over with little pimply eruptions, and ulcers; but inwardly the heat was so exceedingly great, that they could not endure the slightest covering, or the finest linen, or any thing short of absolute nakedness. It was also an infinite pleasure to them to plunge into cold water; and many of those who were not well attended did so, running to the wells, to quench their insatiable thirst: not that it signified whether they drank much or little; a great uneasiness and restlessness attending them, together with a continual watching. While the distemper was advancing to the height, the body did not fall away, but resisted the vehemence of it beyond expectation; so that many of them died the ninth and the seventh day of the inward burning, some strength yet remaining; or, if they held out longer, many of them afterwards died of weakness; the distemper descending into the belly, and there producing violent ulcerations, and fluxes of the simple or unmixed kind. For the disease went through the whole body, beginning first in the head; and, if any escaped, where the case was very desperate, this was denoted by the extremities being affected: for it broke out upon the private parts, the fingers and toes; and many came off with the loss of those parts. Some, again, lost their eyes; others were seized, immediately upon their getting up, with an absolute forgetfulness of every thing, not knowing themselves, or those that were most familiar; the appearance, or the nature, of the distemper being greater than words can possibly express, and harder to be borne than human nature is accustomed to. Nor indeed was it any of those diseases that are bred among us, as appeared very plain from this circumstance. For the birds and beasts that feed on human flesh, though many carcasses laid abroad unburied, either came not to them, or tasting died. The manifest defect or scarcity of such fowl was a proof of this; for they were neither seen any where else, nor about any of the carcasses: but the dogs, being brought up among us, made the case yet more evident. The disease therefore (to pass over many strange particulars that happened differently in different persons) was in general such as I have described it; and as to other usual distempers, none of them were then troublesome; or, if any appeared, they all centered in this. Some of them died for want of attendance, and some again with all the care imaginable. Nor was there any (to say) certain remedy, which, upon application, must have helped them: for, if it did good to one, it did harm to another. Nor was there any difference in bodies, as to strength or weakness, to enable them to resist it; but it swept all away, what care or method soever was taken. The terriblest circumstance of all was the dejection of mind in those that found themselves beginning to be ill (for, growing immediately desperate, they gave themselves over much more, without making any resistance); and their dying like sheep, infected by their care and concern for others, increased their despair; the greatest mortality proceeding this way. For, if they were unwilling to visit others through fear, they died by themselves without assistance (by which means many families became desolate, for want of somebody to take care of them); or, if they visited, they likewise died, especially those who had virtue or humanity enough to do any friendly offices: for such out of shame would not spare themselves, but went in to their friends, especially after it came to that pass that even the domestics, wearied with the lamentations of those that died, fell ill themselves, overcome with the greatness of the calamity. But those that were recovered had much compassion on those that were dying, and on those that lay sick, as having known the misery themselves, and now were in a secure and safe situation: for it never seized the same person twice, so as to be mortal. Others, therefore, esteemed them happy, and they themselves, through excess of present joy, conceived a kind of small hope never to die of any future sickness.
The bringing provisions from the country to the city was an additional grievance, and equally affected those who came with them into the city. For, having no houses, but dwelling, at that time of the year, in stifling booths or huts, the mortality was now without any form or order; dead men, and those that were just expiring, lying upon one another in the streets, while men half dead lay about every well, desiring a little water. The temples, also, where they dwelt in tents, were also full of the dead that died there: for, oppressed to the last degree by the violence of the distemper, and not knowing what course to take, men grew equally careless both of holy and profane things. All the laws relating to funerals, that had been observed before, were now violated and confounded; every one burying where he could find room. Many, for want of necessaries, after so many deaths before, were become even impudent in the article of funerals. For, when one had made a funeralpile, another, getting before him, would throw on his dead, and set fire to it: and, while one was burning, another would come, and throwing him upon it that he had brought along with him, would go away again.
The great licentiousness, which was also used here in other respects, began at first from this disease. For what a man would before dissemble, and not acknowledge to be done for the sake of pleasure, he now durst freely own, seeing before his eyes such quick revolutions of things, rich men dying suddenly, and succeeded by others not worth a groat; so that they thought it better to have a speedy enjoyment of their estates and pleasures, as men that held their lives and fortunes alike by the day. As to laborious works, no man was forward to undertake any thing noble or laudable; not knowing whether he should live to finish it; but what any man knew to be delightful, and every way conducing to pleasure, that was made both profitable and honourable; neither the fear of the Gods, nor the laws of men, restraining any. For, with respect to the one, they concluded, from what they saw, that it was all the same whether they worshipped, or not worshipped; all men dying without distinction; and, with respect to the other, no man expected his life would last until the law could punish him for his misbehaviour. But they thought there was now, over their heads, some greater judgment decreed against them, before which fell, it was but fit they should enjoy some little part of life. Such was the calamity that came upon the Athenians, and oppressed them greatly; their men dying of the disease within, and the enemy wasting the country without.
conclusion of the history of the plague at athens.