The most famous epidemics

Outbreaks of swine flu, even if the death toll does not exceed 100 people, receive the widest coverage in the media. Although thousands of people die from regular flu attacks, all are concerned about the pork variety. After all, it threatens to develop into a pandemic, becoming an outbreak of an infectious disease on a large geographical area.

The most famous epidemics

History knows many cases of mass epidemics, some were so powerful that they overthrew governments or even destroyed entire civilizations. Swine flu is likely to be defeated and forgotten. We will tell you about the 10 most vivid cases of epidemics, which left a huge trail in history.

The Athenian Plague.

This epidemic erupted in Greece during the Peloponnesian War in 430 BC. Historians have not been able to come to a single opinion – whether it was plague, smallpox, typhoid or measles. All diseases are under consideration, and the common version is bubonic plague. The disease began when the people of Athens hid behind the walls of their city-state to protect themselves from the advancing Spartan army. The inevitable narrowness became the breeding ground for the plague, which, according to rumors, killed every third inhabitant of Athens and every third warrior. Among the victims of the epidemic was the city leader – Pericles. The epidemic was described by the historian Thucydides, it began in Ethiopia and passed through Egypt and Libya. As a result, Athens, which dominated at that time in Greece, has forever lost the status of the leader of the Hellenic civilization.


Today, this disease is found only in the tropics, but it has earned fame as one of the most destructive pandemics in the world. Each year about 500 million people become infected with malaria. The disease is caused by parasites found in some mosquito species and resistant to drugs. Reliable vaccines have not been developed yet. Malaria and its effects have been well documented, having played a role throughout history. So, during the Civil War in the United States, there were about a million cases of the disease. Also, many people call malaria one of the main factors in the decline and fall of the entire Roman Empire.

Antonina’s plague.

Today it is considered that this pandemic was an outbreak of measles or smallpox. Plague Antonina was the very epidemic that led to the demise of the Roman Empire from 165 to 180 AD. There are suspicions that the disease, also known as the Galena plague (it was this doctor who described it), was brought to Rome by troops returning from the war in the East. Historians believe that at its height the epidemic killed one in four of the infected people, a total of about 5 million people. Even the two Roman emperors became victims of the plague. Similar illnesses erupted in 251, there was occasion to believe that the plague Antonina returned. The new wave was called the Cyprus plague, it was so strong that up to 5 thousand people died in Rome alone in a day.


This disease is known for its ability to spread rapidly in close and unsanitary conditions. Millions of deaths are attributed to typhus fever only in the XX century. The disease also received the name of camp or prison typhus, as it flared both on the front line during the war, and in prisons and camps where prisoners were kept in confinement. It is believed that only the Germans killed a pandemic in the 30 years of the wars in the XX century about 8 million. It is well documented that it was typhoid that was one of the main causes of death in fascist concentration camps. One of the most famous acts of typhus was the death of the French army during the invasion of Russia in 1812. In the army of Napoleon, the epidemic killed about 400 thousand soldiers, this is more than killed directly in the battles.

Seven pandemics of cholera.

Cholera has become one of the most dangerous diseases in history, especially the wave of “seven pandemics”. In its course from 1816 to 1960, tens of millions of people were killed. The disease is transmitted through contaminated food or water.The first victims appeared in India, it is believed that there from 1817 to 1860 cholera claimed the lives of up to 40 million people. Then the epidemic spread to Europe and America, where in the middle of the XIX century more than one hundred thousand people died. Although recurrent outbreaks of cholera still showed up, but medical progress markedly weakened its deadly effect. Once the death rate from the disease was at least 50 percent, today it threatens life only in the rarest of cases.

Third pandemic.

The third pandemic was the third and largest outbreak of the bubonic plague, after the plague of Justinian and the Black Death. Everything started in China in the 1850s, eventually spreading across all six inhabited continents of the planet. The pandemic practically vanished only in the middle of the 20th century. Despite the current level of medicine, the pandemic killed about 12 million people in China and India. Today the disease is considered inactive, although more recently, in 1995 in the western part of the United States were recorded single cases of bubonic plague.


Although today it has been successfully defeated, smallpox was able to devastate America when European settlers arrived there for the first time in the 15th century. Of all the diseases brought to the New World, it was smallpox that became the most dangerous. This disease is attributed to the deaths of millions of indigenous people in North and Central America. It was smallpox that destroyed the civilizations of the Incas and Aztecs. This disease is considered to be the main factor under the influence of which these ancient civilizations gave themselves to the Spaniards. And in Europe the epidemics were also terrible. Historians believe that only in the XVIII century smallpox killed 60 million people.

Justinian Plague.

This pandemic is considered one of the first, reflected in historical notes. Plague of Justinian was a particularly dangerous wave of disease that erupted in the Byzantine Empire about 541 years. Today, it is difficult to talk about the exact number of victims, it is estimated that around 100 million people died in the world as a result. At the peak of the epidemic, up to 5,000 people died every day, every fourth death in the Eastern Mediterranean. In addition to such a staggering death rate, the pandemic also acquired a political connotation. Such a blow to Byzantium could not pass without a trace, the empire soon collapsed, irretrievably losing its luster. The plague itself embraced virtually all countries of the time – from England to China, significantly changing the course of European history.

Spanish flu.

This epidemic came on the wave of destruction of the First World War. As a result, the Spanish flu of 1918 is considered one of the most powerful pandemics in history. Experts believe that this type of influenza has infected around the world about 30% of the total population. As a result, more than 100 million people died. The virus was subsequently identified as a strain of H1N1. He appears like a wave, often disappearing in society as quickly as he appears. Governments of many countries, fearing people’s speeches, did everything to minimize the severity of the epidemic and its consequences. In the course even military censorship was launched. Only Spain, neutral during the World War, allowed the publication of comprehensive news and reports on a new epidemic. That is why the pandemic eventually became known as the “Spaniard”.

Bubonic plague (Black Death).

This pandemic is the most famous in the history of our civilization. Black death is an epidemic, a mass outbreak of which ruined Europe during most of the 14th century. This disease was characterized by bleeding ulcers all over the body and high fever. Historians believe that this outbreak of the plague killed from 75 to 200 million people. 45-50% of the total population of Europe was destroyed. The plague has been appearing here and there for another hundred years, reminding of itself and taking away thousands of lives. Its last major outbreak was noted in London in the 1600s.

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