The Black Plague Essay

: From the early fourteenth to late seventeenth century,
Europe was decimated by one of the most horrifying
pestilence’s human kind has ever known(Coulton 493). The
killer’s name was later to be recognized by the detrimental
consummation it had seized upon a person’s life. It was
known as the Black Plague. This terrible epidemic exhausted
small towns across Europe, including the British Isles,
brutally killing an incredulous amount of people. The
disease had wiped out entire villages leaving dead bodies to
decompose within the gutters of streets and corners of
allies(Ziegler 17). Though people were introduced to the
severity of the plague, they were still mystified as to the
causes of the deadly disease. Because of this fact, a
parade of unconfirmed myths and questionable facts had
arisen concerning the sources of the abhorrent epidemic for
over five centuries(Coulton 493). In the nineteenth
century, the causes of the terrifying pestilence was
discovered and the Black Death was no longer
a conundrum. One myth, of the origin of the deadly plague
was said to be a result of medieval gas warfare. Yet
another myth, stated that the murderous disease was an
aftereffect of a great earthquake that occurred in Europe.
Scientists even believed that the epidemic was caused by
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heaps of unburned corpses left in churchyards(Beatty and
Marks 80). The last proven cause of the pestilence was
found to be a disease of rats and other related
animals(Rowling 186).
One of the myths as to the cause of the Black Plague is
quite an unusual story that was formed by peoples
unexplainable imaginations. One of the probable derivations
of the epidemic supposedly was born in a terrible war that
had occurred between the deadly waters of the Indian Ocean
and the sun(Ziegler 14). The immense waters of the
treacherous blue ocean were lifted up like a solid wall of
concrete to fight the flaming sun. As the wall stood in the
midst of the air still touching the base of the water,
dangerous vapors began to disperse from the water. The
high winds spurred the poisonous fumes spurred out in every
direction(Ziegler 14). The plague reached the nearby lands
and the epidemic began to take it’s murderous route. This
myth arose from small villages as people spread rumor after
rumor from the stories they had once heard as to the
unexplainable causes of the plague. Though this tale is
entirely nonsensical, people were still mystified because of
the secrecy as to the causes that they were eager to believe
any explanation that there was to offer concerning the
deadly plague.
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Another myth, as to the beginning of the dreadful
virus, is it arose from poisonous fumes as a direct result
of earthquakes that occurred during the Medieval times. It
was stated that a horrendous amount of pressure
had been building up underneath the Earth for several
years(Ziegler 21). Poisonous gases then began to stir
amongst each other. Then terrible earthquakes had rocked
Europe and the poisonous fumes, that were once enclosed by
the several layers of earth, were now being released through
cracks into the atmosphere. This viperous cloud streamed
across Europe and killed each individual who it met(Ziegler

Next, it was stated that the epidemic was caused by
innumerable layers of unburned corpses that were left in
churchyards(Beatty and Marks 81). A man named Galen had
The infection arose from ‘Inspiration of air
infected with a putrid exhalation. The beginning
of the putrescence may be a multitude of unburned corpses, as may happen in war; or the exhalations
of marshes and ponds in the summer?'(Ziegler 22).
A Dr. Crighton also supported the findings that the plague
had originated within the piles of dead corpses that were
left unburied. He stated that specific incidents that would
explain the tremendous amount of people left dead are
directly related to the tragedies that had struck
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China(Ziegler 24). He also concluded that, the probable
reason why there was such a high death rate among church
affiliated persons is the dead were buried in churchyards
where the priests and monks lived close to. The church
related people had obtained cadaveric poisoning from the
enormous amount of dead bodies and diseases that lied within
the corpses.

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Finally, the real truth to the origin of the Black
Plague was found essentially to be a pestilence of rats and
other small related animals(Rowling 186). This theory
somewhat coincides with the previous idea of the birthplace
of the epidemic being found in the mounds of dead bodies,
and also the incredibly high death rate that was cradled in
Central Asia between 1338 and 1339(Beatty and Marks 72).
The origin of the plague began when
a bacteria known as Pasteurella Pestis, which
formed itself within the piles of dead corpses,
had found it’s home either in the bloodstream of
an animal or the stomach of a flea(Ziegler 25).
During the time of the deaths in 1338 and 1339 in Central
Asia, near Lake Issyk-Koul, the rat was in great abundance
and in turn, so were the fleas(Beatty and Marks 72). The
fleas carried this deadly virus within their
bloodstream(Coulton 493). They would attack countless
numbers of rats by protruding their skin and transferring
the epidemic into the rats body(Rowling 186). Then a
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“massive exodus”(Ziegler 26) took place where the carrier of
the disease, the black rat, made a tremendous move to a
different various parts of Europe, including the British
Isles, for a reason that is still a mystery.
The Plague Research Commission of 1910
commented’? the transference of infected rats and
fleas in merchandise or, in the case of fleas,
on the body of a human being is a
probable cause of the spread of the deadly virus(Ziegler 27).
So basically, people had received the disease from rats
poisoning a persons food and living within their homes. It
was incredible easy for a person to become infected with the
disease. The disease continuously dispersed itself across
the continent of Europe by repeating this process
continuously(Rowling 188).
In conclusion, the Black Death became known as one of
the most mysterious and deadliest plagues to ever touch our
world. In medieval Europe, during this time, the epidemic
drastically decreased the population in Europe leaving only
a sparse number of people to remain(Rowling 188). It had
terrified the hearts of every person in Europe to know that
an unexplainable disease, of that magnitude, was out there.
The once positive outlook people had on the life of the
thirteenth century had perished along with the many lives
the plague took along with it(Rowling 188). The mystery of
the causes of the plague took over five centuries to
uncover. Several unjustifiable phenomenon and myths were
devised during this period concerning the causes of this
disease. To this day, people still find it mind-shattering
to believe the magnitude the disease had upon an entire
continent and the number of deaths it had caused.
Beatty, William K., and Geoffrey Marks. Epidemics. New York:
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1976.

Coulton, G.G. Medieval Panorama: The English Scene From
Conquest to Reformation. New York: W.W. Norton and
Company Inc., 1974.

Rowling, Majorie. Everyday life in Medieval Times. New
York: Dorset Press, 1968.

Ziegler, Philip. The Black Death. New York: Harper and Row
Publishers, 1969.


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