That year then is admitted to have been
otherwise unprecedentedly free from sickness; and such few cases as occurred, all determined in this.
As a rule, however, there was no ostensible cause; but people in good health were all of a sudden attacked by violent heats in
the head, and redness and inflammation in the eyes, the inward parts, such
as the throat or tongue, becoming bloody and emitting an unnatural and fetid
These symptoms were followed by sneezing and hoarseness, after which the
pain soon reached the chest, and produced a hard cough.When it fixed in the stomach, it upset it; and discharges of bile of every kind named by physicians ensued,
accompanied by very great distress.
In most cases also an ineffectual retching followed, producing violent
spasms, which in some cases ceased soon after, in others much later.
Externally the body was not very hot to the touch, nor pale in its
appearance, but reddish, livid, and breaking out into small pustules and
ulcers.But internally it burned so that the patient could not bear to have on him
clothing or linen even of the very lightest description; or indeed to be otherwise than stark naked.What they would have liked best would have been to throw themselves into
cold water; as indeed was done by some of the neglected sick, who plunged into the
rain-tanks in their agonies of unquenchable thirst; though it made no difference whether they drank little or much.
Besides this, the miserable feeling of not being able to rest or sleep
never ceased to torment them.The body meanwhile did not waste away so long as the distemper was at its
height, but held out to a marvel against its ravages; so that when they succumbed, as in most cases, on the seventh or eighth day
to the internal inflammation, they had still some strength in them.But if they passed this stage, and the disease descended further into the
bowels, inducing a violent ulceration there accompanied by severe diarrhea,
this brought on a weakness which was generally fatal.
For the disorder first settled in the head, ran its course from thence
through the whole of the body, and even where it did not prove mortal, it
still left its mark on the extremities;
for it settled in the privy parts, the fingers and the toes, and many
escaped with the loss of these, some too with that of their eyes.Others again were seized with an entire loss of memory on their first
recovery, and did not know either themselves or their friends.
Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War. London, J. M. Dent; New York, E. P. Dutton. 1910.
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