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From Raymond W. Beck ‘A Chronology of Microbiology. In historical context’. Washington D.C., American Society for Microbiology, 2000

  • Ca. 3180 BC: An account of the reign of the emperor Shemsu, or Shememsu, in Egypt’s First Dynasty reports the occurrence of a great pestilence. First recorded epidemic? Plague?
  • Ca. 1500 BC: The Ebers papyrus (Thebes, Egypt) describes epidemic fevers and their treatments.
  • Ca. 1190 BC: The Achean army is decimated near the end of the Trojan War, by an epidemic (Bubonic plague?). Homer’s Iliad mentions mice and rats.
  • Ca. 1122 BC: A disease (Smallpox?) in China is described causing skin pustules that increase in number, form pus and subside.
  • 790-640 BC: According to Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus and Titus Livius Patavinus, plague strikes Rome in 790 BC, 710 BC, and 640 BC.
  • 430 BC: The plague of Thucydides or Plague of Athens. Thucydides is probably the first to write that plague is contagious and than those who recover from disease are immune. The aetiology is controversial: bubonic plague, anthrax, toxic shock syndrome, epidemic typhus, and enteric fever are among the possible diseases. However, a viral infection, such as measles, cannot be discharged. Ebola, Marburg or a related viral hemorrhagic fever has also been considered, as Thucydides recorded that the Athenian plague apparently came from Africa. During the war between Athens and Sparta, at least one third of the Athenian population died of plague and Sparta, and the disease, also struck much of the eastern Mediterranean.

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