Ashes Ashes We All Fall Down Essay

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Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down Essay, Research Paper Bubonic Plague I buried with my own hands five of my children in a single grave. No bells. No tears. This is the end of the world. (Deaux, 1969) These are the words of Italian author Agniol di Tura, but they reflect the emotions of an entire nation in the 1300 s. It was at that time that Europe was struck by the hardest blow that a plague would ever swing. The Bubonic Plague hit Europe with a ferocity that could never have been predicted. Spread of the Plague Through Europe The spread of the Bubonic Plague in the fourteenth century happened quickly as a result of poor living conditions, trade routes and ignorance of the disease. The first reported case of the plague was in 543 when it hit Constantinople. (Hecker, 1992) This

was a minor outbreak and there were others similar to it, but since no one knew where it came from and so few were dying from it, no one took the time to find out. But then in 1334, an epidemic struck the northeastern Chinese province of Hopei that people couldn t ignore. It killed up to 90% of the population- around 5,000,000 people. (Armstrong, 1981) This caught people s attention, but by then it was too late. Sadly, some of the events that aided the rapid spread of the Plague could have been avoided. In 1347, in the southern Ukraine near the Black Sea, the native people began dying of a mysterious disease. They suffered from headaches, weakness, and many staggered when they tried to walk. But most obviously, each carried a common trademark of the plague- they all began to

develop large swellings of the lymph nodes in the groin and underarm areas. Fear and anger at the disease gave way to accusation. The natives of the area pointed the blame for their curse at the Italian traders who traveled in and out of their ports. Convinced that they were the reason for their suffering, the natives attacked the ports. After a week of fighting, the natives found their soldiers dying of the disease. Hoping to infect the Italians, the natives used catapults that where normally reserved for large boulders or dead animals to throw dead or dying bodies of those infected with the plague over the barrier. They succeeded. When the traders fled to Sicily, they carried the plague with them. (Strayer, 1972) The plague first arrived in Messina, Sicily in October 1347, but

it would not stop there. Aware of the rate at which the plague would spread, the Sicilian officials tried to contain the disease by forcing the twelve men on board who were left alive to stay on the ship. But black rats, which carried fleas that where contaminated with the plague, managed to get off the ship and enter the city. Within eight months, the plague had spread throughout the island and the rats which carried the plague had boarded ships that were headed for mainland Italy and the rest of Europe. (Strayer, 1972) Despite the efforts of city officials, the plague continued to spread. They had ignored it too long, now it was out of their hands. The plague spread through port cities quickly because it is transmitted by rat fleas. The fleas, which spread the plague, would

catch the bacteria from a rat who had already acquired the disease. The bacteria would then completely fills the stomach of the flea, making it so the flea could no longer digest any blood. It would then be so hungry that it would sucks blood into its already full stomach, forcing it to regurgitate, thus spreading the bacteria. (Walker, 1992) A disease that is spread by rats would probably not pose a big problem to most places in the 21st century, but in the 14th century there were many rats aboard most ships and few people took notice to them, as they were such a common fixture in the unclean living habits. Because people were so accustomed to them, these rodents carried the plague from port to port with no one realizing that they were the accomplice to the disease which was