Saturday, 20 June 2020

Ancient Greek plague

Homer’s Iliad has the earliest account of plague in Greek literature and dates back to the eighth century BCE. Agamemnon captured the daughter of the Trojan priest of Apollon, Chryses. When Chryses attempted to ransom her, Agamemnon refused to return her. Chryses prayed to Apollon, “god of the silver bow.” Apollo was addressed with his epithet Apollon Smintheus, or “Apollo the mouse god.” The Greeks had noticed the correlation between rodent infestation and plague, and so prayed to this aspect of Apollon. Apollon heard the cry of his priest and sent a plague through the Greek armies, shooting his arrows at the Greek soldiers for nine days, leading to bodies burning on pyres.

In mythology, the arrows of Apollon (as well as those of his twin sister Artemis) were associated with the rapid onset of disease.
The Greeks appeased Apollon with sacrifices of bulls and goats, hymns, and the return of the priest’s daughter. They purified themselves and 'cast their filth into the sea'.

Modern research indicates that rats were not the main reason for spread of plague. The best models suggest it was human borne ticks and fleas.