The End Of The Black Plague, One Of The Most Devastating Pandemics In Human History

How The End Of The Black Plague Brought Wars, Looting, And More Misery

The end of the black plague, the great pandemic of the mid-14th century, turned the world into an armageddon scene.

Corpses were piled up on the streets of cities, and villages emptied almost overnight. The stench of decaying bodies wafted out from the houses. Whole families would go to bed completely healthy and not wake up in the morning. Their dead bodies were found covered in black bruises. This was the reality of the "Black Death."

The Beginning Of The Pandemic Was In 1346

The Plague That Conquered The World: The End Of The Black Death Brought A War For Property, Looting, And Misery...

"Sail on the horizon," came a voice from the observatory of the port of Messina in Sicily. The ship was slowly approaching the port, and the flags fluttering on its masts said it was a Genoese ship. The Genoese had numerous trading posts worldwide and brought exotic goods from China and India. Merchants and customs officers were already rubbing their hands in satisfaction.

This ship came from Kefa (today Feodosia), which meant that the boat was full of silk and spice. Expensive and sought-after goods. A good trade was in sight.

But the ship sailing to Messina in October 1347 brought the greatest disease the world had ever seen. The sailors had black, painful swellings the size of an egg under their armpits and on their groins. They carried the most deadly plague of all times - and the end of the black plague will be longed for in the next four centuries.

As early as 1346, rumors of a plague ravaging China, Central Asia, and India reached Europe. But no one paid too much attention to it. It was a distant and unknown world, with strange customs and people. The merchants and adventurers, one of the few who saw these places, always exaggerated their experiences anyway.

After all, these were the lands of the "unbelievers." The ordinary people thought everything that happened to them was God's punishment. If they even thought about it.

That was until October 1347, when the sails of the Genoese merchant ship appeared at sea in front of Messina.

The plague spread in two variants and attacked two body systems. One was the circulatory system, and in this variant, the disease spread by touch. The other was the lungs or respiratory system, and in this variant, the disease was spread by air.

Death was incredibly quick. The symptoms themselves appeared five or three days after the infection. When they appeared - it was too late. Chroniclers note that many healthy families were laid to rest overnight. The doctor caring for the patient died before them, although they were infected later. The priests who took confession on the death beds would often perish in front of the patients.

By January 1348, The Whole Of Europe Was Infected

The Plague That Conquered The World: The End Of The Black Death Brought A War For Property, Looting, And Misery...

Later, it was established that the disease was spread by black rats, i.e., fleas that would infect rats. The actual cause of the disease - the bacterium Yersinia Pestis was not found until the late 19th century.

Swiss-French bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin discovered it during the black plague epidemic in Hong Kong. But even today, it is not entirely clear why the bacterium that attacks rodents mutated into "black death."

In January 1348, it appeared in France and Tunisia. In March 1348, Avignon, the seat of Pope Clement VI, was infected. Between February and May, the plague spread through Italy, the country with the most cities in the Middle Ages. Almost all of Europe was infected. The end of the black plague was just a distant thought nobody believed would happen.

Merchant ships often reached their destination with the entire crew dead. So, a boat with a load of wool and the dead bodies of sailors floated near Bergen for days until it ran aground.

With the arrival of winter, the disease subsided, even raising assumptions that this was the end of the black plague. Then in the spring of 1349, the Black Death began to attack with unprecedented force. It attacked Paris, Flanders, the Netherlands, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia, reaching, almost isolated, Iceland and Greenland.

The disease miraculously bypassed the Czech lands, creating a small pocket of immunity, and it did not reach Russia until 1351.

And when the "black death" knocked on the gates of the city, the corpses would start piling up. The mortality rate was from 1/5 to as many as 9 out of 10 inhabitants. One of the largest cities at the time, Florence, suffered the most, losing more than 75 percent of its population.

The First Real Quarantine

The End Of The Black plague Brought A War For Property, Looting, And Misery.

Neither villages nor isolated monasteries coped any better. The prosperous townlet of Givry, with 1,500 inhabitants, fell to 650. The rest were cut down by the end of the black plague. Many villages were abandoned as soon as the first infection appeared. However, the fugitives were not saved, and many died on their way, spreading the disease further.

As the physician Simon Covino wrote, "one sick person can infect the whole world." In isolated monasteries, this became even more evident. In the Franciscan monastery of Marseilles, no monk survived, and in the sanctuary of Montpellier, out of 140 monks, only seven survived.

Many sought refuge on the run, but there was nowhere to run, as the plague followed them everywhere. Although the first actual quarantine would be established in Dubrovnik as late as 1377, towns and villages had already begun to resort to isolation.

Every mean was used to try and cause the end of the black plague. But it was all in vain.

Poland has introduced strict quarantine at the borders. When the plague appeared in the city, the ruthless despot of Milan, Giovanni Visconti, ordered that the first three infected houses be walled up together with all the inhabitants in them. He left them to die.

This cruel act saved Milan to some extent, as only one-third of the population died. But it certainly didn't cause the end of the black plague in Italy.

Even more ruthless was a Leicestershire Nobleman who burned the entire village of Moseley and its inhabitants. His descendants are still part of the British aristocracy today.

Society was falling apart, and absolute callousness and violence were yet to come. At the end of the black plague, people were left broke, wounded, and miserable.

People Were Treated With Precious Gems

The Plague That Conquered The World: The End Of The Black Death Brought A War For Property, Looting, And Misery...

Strange "medical" advice is a companion to every disease, as well as stupidity, vulgarity, and violence. Amid the plague pandemic, word spread that visitors of the public toilets were more immune than others. Many started visiting public restrooms, thus ensuring an almost certain spread of the infection. All the more so because most cities in the Middle Ages did not have sewage systems but open street ditches through which feces and other waste flowed. Ideal place for rats, the main spreaders of the plague.

The medical arsenal of weapons to end the black plague went hand in hand with trickery. Drugs were made from ground deer antler, myrtle, and saffron, and doctors made mixtures from boiled gold. The more exotic the drug and rarer it was, the greater its therapeutic value.

Among nobles and kings, the more popular medicines were potions made of boiled gold and pills made from a combination of rare spices and crushed gems. The higher the price, the more popular the treatment was.

In addition to exotic medicines of little use, doctors fought the plague with some quite reasonable means. But, due to the general state of hygiene and the terrible speed with which the disease spread, they were not as effective as they could be.

Doctors burned various aromatic substances as protection, which was a suitable method because it drove away fleas, the leading carriers of the infection. They sprayed the floors with a mixture of vinegar and water for disinfection. People were advised to wash their hands and lips with vinegar and rose water, assuming this would protect them from spreading the infection.

By The End Of The Black Plague, A Third Of Humanity Had Died

The Plague That Conquered The World: The End Of The Black Death Brought A War For Property, Looting, And Misery...

In January 1348, as the "Black Death" spread its tentacles across Europe, a great earthquake left ruins all over Italy. From Naples to Venice, and as the country shakes, chroniclers note, it was felt even in Germany and Greece.

While the plague was spreading in Europe, and neither the church, kings, nor doctors had any meaningful explanation, people started creating their stories. After all, God abandoned them, and nobody knew when the end of the black plague would come.

It didn't take long for someone to be accused of a "black death." As early as the spring of 1348, the first attacks on Jews began in Narbonne and Carcassone. The mob was infuriated by deliberately spreading lies that Jews were spreading the plague by poisoning wells, breaking into their ghettos and houses, and throwing them alive into the flames.

The Black Death of 1348 led to European Jewish people becoming the scapegoats for the cause of the plague.

The Educated Population Almost Disappeared By 1352

The Plague That Conquered The World: The End Of The Black Death Brought A War For Property, Looting, And Misery...

By the end of the black plague, the countries were burned out. In just over two years, it killed a third of the population. Villages were left desolate, and towns deserted. Crafts were abandoned, and monasteries and universities, the only educational and scientific centers, were eerily empty. Former nobles and landowners left on deserted estates where no one had to work turned into mercenaries and bandits.

The end of the black plague looked like the end of the world. When the epidemic subsided, it seemed that the world it had left behind would collapse on its own.

But the end of the black plague had many contradictory consequences. It destroyed the previous economy and emptied the cities. At the same time, it caused significant relocations to an otherwise static society, which caused a new rise.

Although the economy based on agriculture stopped, there was more money. At the same amount of money was divided among a smaller number of people. There were more goods because no one bought them during the plague, and now it was distributed to a smaller number of people. Trade ceased almost entirely.

Labor became a special value, and the feudal system began to collapse. Fixed labor prices disappeared, and many of the wage earners were now better paid.

After the abundance in the first period after the plague, shortages, famine, and poverty emerged, bandits robbed the lands, as the estates were abandoned. That forced people to move to better areas, completely changing the image of a society that had not suffered the slightest change until then.

The Plague That Conquered The World: The End Of The Black Death Brought A War For Property, Looting, And Misery...

The end of the black plague cut down most of the more educated population. It equally cut off the rich, poor, educated and uneducated, strong and weak. Still, there were not many knowledgeable people anyway, so when the plague decimated their ranks, the world seemed to sink into illiteracy and ignorance. The universities were empty, and there was no one to teach.

At the same time, with the end of the black plague, there was a real boom in education, and new universities were established all over the continent.

The end of the black plague led to the breaking of discipline and strict social rules. The worldview collapsed during the epidemic. This was reflected in two opposite directions. On the one hand, chroniclers say people have become much more immoral, prone to violence, crime, drinking, gambling, and robbery. Others say the plague has changed the world for the better. People have become more moderate, polite, stopped swearing. And some and other impressions are entirely correct.

As public morality, the end of the black plague left extremely opposing consequences in the economy and education. It had the same opposite effect on the strongest social institution of the time - the church. It emerged richer and more popular on the one side. At the same time, attacks on priests became almost regular as the church's strict rules and dogmas became less and less respected.

The Pandemic Killed Entire Families Overnight

The End Of The Black Plague Brought Wars, Looting, And More Misery

The "Black Death" appeared six more times on different sides in the next six decades. It will cut with equal intensity. The suffering of the sick, and the hopelessness of those infected, will be the same as in the first wave. The only difference will be that it won't be a global pandemic. This time will appear in some, albeit large, areas, bypassing others. But the conflicting consequences coming with the end of the black plague will have a decisive impact on history.

Perhaps the most critical effect of the end of the black plague was the slow breaking of monolithic society. People turned to individualism and individual consciousness. This, until then, was a privilege that influential people like kings and popes could only exercise. And this resulted in modern society as we know it today.

Whether this is a tangible legacy of the end of the black plague or society would have developed in that direction without it is difficult to say.

The End Of The Black Plague Or Just A Time-out?

The Plague That Conquered The World: The End Of The Black Death Brought A War For Property, Looting, And Misery...

You may not have known, but throughout history, the plague has spread around the world in three big waves. The first occurred in the 6th-century and is known as the Justinian plague. It killed about 40 percent of the inhabitants of Constantinople.

Then it disappeared for seven centuries, only to return, with terrible ferocity, in the middle of the 14th century. The third and last pandemic occurred in China and India at the end of the 19th century. That marked the long-awaited end of the black plague.

Today, the plague is easily treated with antibiotics. Although it occasionally appears in various parts of the world, it has been suppressed in modern times.