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Justinian and his successors*, first appeared in c HA P. the neighbourhood of Pelusium, between the Ser- XLIII. bonian bog and the eastern channel of the Nile. From thence, tracing as it were a double path, it spread to the East, over Syria, Persia, and the Indies, and penetrated to the West, along the coast of Africa, and over the continent of Europe. In the spring of the second year, Constatinople, 'during three or four months, was visited by the pestilence; and Procopius, who observed its progress and symptoms with the eyes of a physician †, has emulated the skill and diligence of Thucydides in the description of the plague of Athens. The infection was sometimes announced by the visions of a distempered fancy, and the victim despaired as soon as he had heard the menace and felt the stroke of an invisible spectre. But the greater number, in their beds, in the streets, in their usual occupation, were surprised by a slight fever; so slight, indeed, that neither
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* The great plague which raged in 542 and the following years (Pagi, Critica, tom. ii. p. 518.), must be traced in Procopius (Persic. 1. ii. c. 22, 23.), Agathias (1. v. p. 153, 154.), Evagrius (1. iv. c. 29.), Paul Diaconus (1. ii. c. 4. p. 776, 777.). Gregory of Tours (tom. ii. 1. iv. c. 5. p. 205.) who styles it Lues Inguinaria, and the Chronicles of Victor Tunnunensis (p. 9. in Thesaur Temporum), of Marcellinus (p. 54.), and of Theophanes (p. 153.1.
+ Dr. Friend (Hist. Medicin. in Opp. p. 416-420. Lond. 1733) is satisfied that Procopius must have studied physic, from his knowledge and use of the technical words. Yet many words that are now scientific, were common and popular in the Greek idiom.
See Thucydides, 1. ii. c. 47-54. p. 127-133. edit. Duker, and the poetical description of the same plague by Lucretius (1. vi. 1136-1284.). I was indebted to Dr. Hunter for an elaborate commentary on this part of Thucydides, a quarto of 600 pages (Venet. 1603, apud Juntas), which was pronounced in St. Mark's library, by Fabius Paullinus Utinensis, a physician and philosopher.
CHA P. neither the pulse nor the colour of the patient gave XLIII. any signs of the approaching danger. The same
the next, or the succeeding day, it was declared by the swelling of the glands, particularly those of the grom, of the arm-pits, and under the ear; and when these buboes or tumours were opened, they were found to contain a coal, or black substance, of the size of a lentil. If they came to a just selling and suppuration, the patient was saved by this kind and nataral discharge of the morbid humour. But if they continued hard and dry, a mortification quickly ensued, and the fifth day was commonly the term of his life. The fever was often accompanied with lethargy or delirium; the bodies of the sick were covered with black pustules or carbuncles, the symptoms of immediate death; and in the constitutions too feeble to produce an eruption, the vomiting of blood was followed by a mortification of the bowels. To pregnant women the plague was generally mortal : yet one infant was drawn alive from his dead mother, and three mothers survived the loss of heir infected fætus. Youth was the most pe. rilous season; and the female sex was less susceptible than the male : but every rank and profession was attacked with indiscriminate rage, and many of those who escaped were deprived of the use of their speech, without being secure from a return of the disorder *. The physicians of Cone
* Thucydides (c. 51.) affirms, that the infection could only be once taken ; but Evagrius, who had family experience of the playue, observes, that some persons, who had escaped the first, sunk under the second attack; and this repetition is confirmed
stantinople were zealous and skilful: but their art c HAP. was baffled by the various symptoms and pertina cious vehemence of the disease: the same remedies were productive of contrary effects, and the event capriciously dissappointed their prognostics of death or recovery. The order of funerals, and the right of sepulchres, were confounded; those who were left without friends or servants, lay unburied in the streets, or in their desolate houses.; and a magistrate was authorised to collect the promiscuous heaps of dead bodies, to transport them by land or water, and to inter them in deep pits beyond the precincts of the city. Their own danger, and the prospect of public distress, awakened some remorse in the minds of the most vicious of mankind; the confidence of health again revived their passions and habits; but philosophy must disdain the ob. servation of Procopius, that the lives of such men were guarded by the peculiar favour of fortune or providence. He forgot, or perhaps he secretly recollected, that the plague had touched the person of Justinian himself; but the abstemious diet of the emperor may suggest, as in the case of Socrates, a more rational and honourable cause for
his recovery *. During his sickness, the public consternation was expressed in the habits of the citizens;
by Fabius Paullinus (p. 588.). I observe that on this head physicians are divided: and the nature and operation of the disease may not always be similar.
* It was thus that Socrates had been saved by his temper ance, in the plague of Athens (Aul. Gellius, Noct. Attic. ii. ). Dr. Mead accounts for the peculiar salubrity of religious houses, by the two advantages of seclusion and abstinence (p. 18, 19.).
CHAP. citizens; and their idleness and despondence occa. XLIII. sioned a general scarcity in the capital of the
East. Extent and Contagion is the inseparable sympton of the duration, A. D.
plague ; which, by mutual respiration, is trans343—594. fused from the infected persons to the lungs and
stomach of those who approach them. While philosophers believe and tremble, it is singular, that the existence of a real danger should have been denied by a people most prone to vain and imaginary terrors *. Yet the fellow-citizens of Procopius were satisfied, by some short and partial experience, that the infection could not be gained by the closest conversation t; and this persuasion might support the assiduity of friends or physicians in the care of the sick, whom inhuman prudence would have condemned to solitude and despair. But the fatal security, like the predestination of the Turks, must have aided the progress of the contagion, and those salutary precautions to which Europe is indebted for her safety, were unknown to the government of Justinian. No restraints were imposed on the free and frequent intercourse of the Roman provinces; from Persia to France,
• the • Mead proves that the plague is contagious, from Thucydides, Lucretius, Aristotle, Galen, and common experience (p. 10-20.); and he refutes (Preface, p. ii.-xiii.) the contrary opinion of the French physicians who visited Marseilles in the year 1720. Yet these were the recent and enlightened spectators of a plague which, in a few months, swept away 50,000 inhabitants (sur la Peste de Marscille, Paris, 1986) of a city that, in the present hour of prosperity and trade, contains no more than 90,000 souls (Necker, sur les Finances, tom. i. p. 231.).
+ The strong assertions of Procopius-uri yag "Te Vrt yang idwry-are overthrown by the subsequent experience of Evagrius.
the nations were mingled and infected by wars and CHAP. emigrations; and the pestilential odour wbich lurks for years in a bale of cotton, was imported, by the abuse of trade, into the most distant regions. The mode of its propagation is explained by the remark of Procopius himself, that it always spread from the sea-coast to the inland country; the most sequestered islandsand mountains were successively visited ; the places which had escaped the fury of its first passage, were alone exposed to the contagion of the 'ensuing year. The winds might dif. fuse that subtle venom : but unless the atmosphere be previously disposed for its reception, the plague would soon expire in the cold or temperate climates of the earth. Such was the universal corruption of the air, that the pestilence which burst forth in the fifteenth year of Justinian was not checked or alleviated by any difference of the sea
In time, its first malignity was abated and dispersed, the disease alternately languished and revived ; but it was not till the end of a cala. mitous period of fifty-two years, that mankind recovered their health, or the air resumed its pure and salubrious quality. No facts have been preserved to sustain an account, or even a conjecture, of the numbers that perished in this extraordinary mortality. I only find, that during three months, five, and at length ten thousand persons died each day at Constantinople; that many cities of the East were left vacant, and that in several districts of Italy the harvest and the vintage withered on the ground. The triple scourge of war, pestilence, and