A pandemic killed emperors .. and weakened the strongest empires

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Source: Arabic.Net – Taha Abdel Nasser Ramadan

Between the years 165 and 180, the Roman Empire lived through the horrors of a pandemic that swept the country from the east, causing the death of about 15 million people, equivalent to a quarter of the empire’s population.

Bust of Emperor Marcus Aurelius
Bust of Emperor Marcus Aurelius

With the end of the epidemic and the disappearance of its danger, the Romans found themselves coinciding with the death of Emperor Marcus Aurelius and the assassination of his son Commodus in the face of a suffocating political crisis around the throne as a large number of emperors were commanded over the country, many of whom were assassinated by the Praetorian Guard. (Praetorian Guard), barely 50 years ago.

Pandemic .. Wars and famine

In addition to all these suffocating crises, the Roman Empire lived less than a century after the first wave of disease, after another epidemic broke out in the country from Ethiopia, causing during the middle of the third century the death of millions of people. The absence of political stability in the country over the decades.

This epidemic, which appeared around the year 250, was nicknamed the “Cyprian” epidemic, in relation to the Cypriot saint Cyprianus, who dated the event and provided accurate details of the disease and its horrors in Rome, describing it as the end of the world, and he talked about its spread to the Roman capital and its transfer during the following year towards each of Countries of Greece and the East.

Statue of the Emperor Hostellian
Statue of the Emperor Hostellian

At its height, the epidemic, according to Cyprian, killed 5,000 people daily in Rome, whose bodies were piled on its streets. In the face of this situation, the people used deep digging to bury the bodies on which they put lime to accelerate their decomposition.

The wrath of the gods

During the period before the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the country, the Rome authorities accused the Christians of accusing them of stirring the wrath of the gods and spreading the epidemic, to begin as a result of revenge campaigns in Rome and its colonies, especially Carthage and North African regions, which resulted in large numbers of deaths.

Bust of Emperor Commodus
Bust of Emperor Commodus

On the other hand, Cyprian presented the symptoms of the disease, and he spoke of severe fatigue, physical weakness, muscle pain, redness of the eyes, and fever accompanied by severe vomiting. He also noted the rapid spread of the epidemic among the people of Rome, confirming that the disease is highly contagious.

Based on this description, contemporary historians disagreed about the nature of this disease that caused the epidemic of Cyprian in the middle of the third century. They talked about bubonic plague, typhus, smallpox and measles, while others went further than that and linked it with linear viruses, stressing the compatibility of all these symptoms presented by Cyprian with the symptoms of Ebola. .

Bust of Cyprianus
Bust of Cyprianus

Easy prey

Until the borders of the year 270, the epidemic of Cyprienus resulted in the death of millions of the inhabitants of the Roman Empire. Among the victims were the Emperor Hostilian, who died during the month of November 251 at the age of 20 years after he ruled the country for only 4 months in addition to the Emperor Claudius The second (Claudius Gothicus), who died in difficult circumstances in 270, after suffering badly with this disease.

Bust of Emperor Claudius II
Bust of Emperor Claudius II

On the other hand, the epidemic of Cyprianus caused the death of large numbers of soldiers, making the Roman Empire, which suffered from political imbalance, an easy prey for the Germanic tribes. Moreover, the country experienced poor agricultural seasons that resulted in starvation due to the death and departure of many peasants who were given the option to flee the disease.





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