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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/594

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

stantinople thus became infected early in 1347. During the summer Greece, Sardinia, Corsica and parts of the Italian coast developed the disease. In the fall it reached Marseilles. The following year it spread inland into Italy, France, Spain, and even into England. In another year or two it spread over Germany, Russia, and crossed to the Scandinavian peninsula. Within four years it had completed the circuit of Europe, spreading untold death and misery. No greater catastrophe has been recorded in the history of the world.

The rapidity with which the disease spread among the fugitives from Gaffa, and in the cities visited by their ships, is despairingly narrated by De Mussis, who, returning in one of the ships to Genoa, says: "After landing we entered our homes. Inasmuch as a grave disease had befallen us, and of the thousands that journeyed with us scarcely ten remained, the relatives, friends and neighbors hastened to greet us. Woe to us who brought with us the darts of death, who scattered the deadly poison through the breath of our words." According to this writer 40,000 died in Genoa, leaving scarcely a seventh of the original population. Venice was said to have lost 100,000, Naples 60,000, Sienna 70,000, Florence 100,000. All told, Italy lost half of its population.

Of the contemporaneous writers none has printed the horrors of the plague more vividly than does Boccaccio in his introduction to the 'Decameron.'

"What magnificent dwellings, what notable palaces were then depopulated to the last person! What families extinct! What riches and vast possessions left, and no known heir to inherit! What numbers of both sexes in the prime and vigor of youth, whom in the morning either Galen, Hippocrates, or Æsculapius himself but would have declared in perfect health, after dining with their friends here have supped with their departed friends in the other world!"

From Marseilles the plague spread through Provence with disastrous results. In some monasteries not even a single survivor was left. In one of these Petrarch's brother buried thirty-four of his companions. At Avignon, the seat of the Pope, 1,800 deaths occurred in three days. In Paris more than fifty thousand died of the plague.

In England the black death appeared in August, 1348, and continued till the autumn of 1349, when it disappeared. London, which at that time probably had a population of 45,000, had a mortality of about 20,000. No exact statement can be made of the relative mortality in England, although many undoubtedly extravagant guesses are recorded by contemporaneous writers.

It is estimated that the population of Europe previous to the outbreak of the black death was about one hundred and five millions. One quarter of the population, or about twenty-five millions, are said to