Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

have perished in the earthquake of Antioch, whose domestic multitudes were swelled by the conflux of strangers to the festival of the Ascension. The loss of Berytus * was of smaller account, but of much greater value. That city, on the coast of Phoenicia, was illustrated by the study of the civil law, which opened the surest road to Wealth and dignity: the schools of Berytus were filled with the rising spirits of the age, and many a youth was lost in the earthquake, who might have lived to be the scourge or the guardian of his country. In these disasters, the architect becomes the enemy of mankind. The hut of a savage, or the tent of an Arab, may be thrown down without injury to the inhabitant; and the Peruvians had reason to deride the folly of their Spanish conquerors, who with so much cost and labour erected their own sepulchres. The rich marbles of a patrician are dashed on his own head: a whole people is buried under the ruins of public and private edifices, and the conflagration is kindled and propagated by the innumerable fires which are necessary for the subsistence and manufactures of a great city. Instead of the mutual sympathy which might comfort and assist the distressed, they dreadfully experience the vices and passions which are released from the fear of punishment: the tottering houses are pillaged by intrepid avarice; revenge embraces the moment and selects the victim; and the earth often swallows the assassin, or the ravisher, in the consummation of their crimes. Superstition involves the present danger with invisible terrors; and if the image of death may sometimes be subservient to the virtue or repentance of individuals, an affrighted people is more forcibly moved to expect the end of the world, or to deprecate with servile homage the wrath of an avenging Deity.

III. ^Ethiopia and Egypt have been stigmatized in every age, as the original source and seminary of the plague, f

of an harbour. * The university, splendour, and ruin

of Berytus, are celebrated by Heineocius (p. 351—356), as an essential part of the history of the Roman law. It was overthrown in the twenty-fifth year of Justinian, A.d. 551, July 9 (Theophanes, p. 192); but Agathias (1ib. 2, p. 51, 52) suspends the earthquake till he has achieved the Italian war. + I have read with pleasure Mead's

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

In a damp, hot, stagnating air, this African fever ia generated from the putrefaction of animal substances, and especially from the swarms of locusts, not less destructive to mankind in their death than in their lives. The fatal disease which depopulated the earth in the time of Justinian and his successors,* first appeared in the neighbourhood of Pelusium, between the Serbonian 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

Africa, and over the continent of Europe. In the spring

short, but elegant treatise, concerning Pestilential Disorders, the eighth edition, London, 1722. * The great plague which

raged in 542, and the following years (Pagi, Critica, tom, ii, p. 518), must be traced in Procopius (Persic, lib. 2, c. 22, 23), Agathiaa (lib. 5, p, 153, 154), Evagrius (lib. 4, c. 29), Paul Diaconus (lib. 2, c. 4, p. 776, 777), Gregory of Tours (tom, ii, lib. 4, c. 5, p. 205), who styles it Lues fnguitiaria, and the Chronicles of Victor Tununensis (p. 9, in Thesaur. Temporum), of Maroellinus (p. 54), and of Theophanes (p. 153). [The Locus Sirbonia inspired terror among all the nations of antiquity. It was the fabled abode of Typhon, the evil genius of so many mythologies. Beneath its bed were boiling streams of bitumen and springs of naphtha, which often sent up lurid flames and heavy vapours; these were imagined to be the breath of the demon. (Herodotus, 2. 6. Plutarch. Anton. c. 3. Strabo. 16. 762.) In the course of ages this formidable lake was reduced within very narrow dimensions. (Pliny, 5.14.) The retiring waters left a wide morass or bqg, over which the winds spread the sands of the neighbouring desert, fatal to the unwary who ventured on their surface (Diodorus Siculus, 1. 30). From this bog there issued, in the days of Justinian, a double miasma. The decaying exuvise of the sea and the fumes of heated bitumen, combined to impregnate the atmosphere with noxious vapours. These, inhaled by depressed and spirit-broken multitudes, living in filth, and indulging the artificial excitement of stimulating drinks, produced the disease, no less by moral than by physical infection, which was carried, with such calamitous violence, from clime to clime. The ancient lake of Sirbonis has nearly, if not entirely, disappeared. (Cellarius, 2. 792.) But the name is still retained in maps, given to an apparently more recent collection of pools and lagunes, separated from the Mediterranean by a newly formed bank. These are called by the Turks, Sebakhah Bardoual, or the lake of Baldwin, from that hero of the crusades having died, when king of Jerusalem, in 1177, at the neighbouring town of Rhinocorura, the modern El Arisen. One of the latest and most authentic accounts of them may be found in the "Description de l'Egypte," drawn up from the official papers of the memorable Fvesch expedition (torn, xvi, p. 203).—Ed.]

the Indies, and penetrated

[graphic]
[merged small][ocr errors]

of the second year, Constantinople, 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.f 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 the pulse nor the colour of the patient gave 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 groin, of the arm-pits, and under the ear; and when these buboes or tumours were opened, they were found to contain a coed, or black substance, of the size of a lentil. If they came to a just swelling and suppuration, the patient was saved by this kind and natural 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 its dead mother, and three mothers survived the loss of their infected foetus. Youth was the most perilous 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

* Dr. Freind (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, lib. 2, c. 47—54, p. 127—133, edit. Duker, and the poetical description of the same plague by Lucretius (lib. 6, 1136— 1284). I was indebted to Dr. Hunter for an elaborate commentary on this part of Thucydides, a quarto of six hundred pages (Venet. 1603, apud Juntas), which was pronounced in St. Mark's library, by Fabius Paullinua Utinensis, a physician a-.d philosopher.

PLAGUE—ITS SYMPTOMS, [CH. XIIII.

were deprived of the use of their speech, without being secure from a return of the disorder.* The physicians of Constantinople were zealous and skilful: but their art was baffled by tne various symptoms and pertinacious vehemence of the disease: the same remedies were productive of contrary effects, and the event capriciously disappointed their prognostics of death or recovery. The order of funerals, and the right of sepulchres, were counfounded; those who were left without friends or servants, lay unburied in the streets, or in their desolate houses; and a magistrate was authorized 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 prospects 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 observation 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.f During his sickness the public consternation was expressed in the habits of the citizens; and their idleness and despondence occasioned a general scarcity in the capital of the East.

Contagion is the inseparable symptom of the plague; which, by mutual respiration, is transfused 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

* Thucydides (o. 51) affirms that the infection could only be once taken; but Evagrius, who had family-experience of the plague, observes, that some persons who had escaped the first, sank under the second attack; and this repetition is confirmed 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.

f It was thus that Socrates had been saved by his temperance, in the plague of Athens. (Aul. Gellius, Noot. Att.c. 2. 1.) Dr. Mead accounts for the peculiar salubrity of religious houses, by the two advantages of seclusion and abstinence (p. 16,19).

[merged small][ocr errors]

terrors.* Yet the fellow-citizens of Precopius 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 nations were mingled and infected by wars and emigrations : and the pestilential odour, which 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 islands and 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 diffuse 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 seasons. In time, its first malignity was abated and dispersed; the disease alternately languished and revived; but it was not till the end of a calamitous 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

* Mead proves that the plague is contagious, from Thucydides, Lucretius, Aristotle, Galen, and common experience (p. 10—20); and he refutes (Preface, p. 2—13) 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 fifty thousand inhabitants (Sur la Peste de Marseille, Paris, 1786) of a city that, in the present hour of prosperity and trade, contains no more than ninety thousand souls. (Necker, sur les Finances, tom. i, p. 231.) + The strong assertions of Procopius—

ovre yap tarptf Ovti "yap ISniiry—are overthrown by the subsequent

VOL. IV. 2 O

« ForrigeFortsett »