Monday, October 19, 2009
Was the Black Death an early experiment with biological warfare?
In the fourteenth century, the Black Death wiped out around a third of the population of Europe; the article The Black Death and Its Route to Europe is a short account by Auron Renius of how it got here.
Quoting the article:
"In 1346, the plague arrived on the western shore of the Caspian Sea, infecting nearby cities and towns. A year later, it travelled to the Crimea and attacked the Mongol army that were laying siege to Caffa. De Mussis wrote that, Janibeg, in what some believe to be the first instance of biological warfare, ordered corpses to be placed in catapults and lobbed into the city in hopes that the intolerable stench would kill everyone inside…. Soon rotting corpses tainted the air… poisoning the water supply, and the stench was so overwhelming that hardly one man in several thousand was in a position to flee the remains of the Tartar arm. [In the medieval period, many believed that disease was spread by smell].
De Mussis may have invented the part about flinging corpses over the walls to cover the fact that God was not only attacking Mongols but also the Christians and infected rats may have carried the disease between the two armies.
However some historians believe the biological warfare scenario."
Read More: The Black Death and Its Route to Europe
More Black Death articles by Auron Renius:
Living in Fear: The Black Death
A selection of contemporary accounts of what it was like to live during the time of the Black Death.
The Black Death and the Decline of the Influence of the Catholic Church
In the aftermath of the plague epidemic that swept across Britain and the rest of Europe in the mid fourteenth century, the church began to weaken as an institution. People started to seek a more personal relationship with God and questioned the need for the clergy more and more.