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When Euthynes was archon in Athens, the Romans elected in place of consuls three military tribunes, Marcus Fabius, Marcus Falinius, and Lucius Servilius. In this year the Athenians, who had enjoyed a period of relief from the plague,2 became involved again in the same misfortunes; [2] for they were so seriously attacked by the disease that of their soldiers they lost more than four thousand infantry and four hundred cavalry, and of the rest of the population, both free and slave, more than ten thousand. And since history seeks to ascertain the cause of the malignancy of this disease, it is our duty to explain these matters. [3]

As a result of heavy rains in the previous winter the ground had become soaked with water, and many low-lying regions, having received a vast amount of water, turned into shallow pools and held stagnant water, very much as marshy regions do; and when these waters became warm in the summer and grew putrid, thick foul vapours were formed, which, rising up in fumes, corrupted the surrounding air, the very thing which may be seen taking place in marshy grounds which are by nature pestilential. [4] Contributing also to the disease was the bad character of the food available; for the crops which were raised that year were altogether watery and their natural quality was corrupted. And a third cause of the disease proved to be the failure of the etesian3 winds to blow, by which normally most of the heat in summer is cooled; and when the heat intensified and the air grew fiery, the bodies of the inhabitants, being without anything to cool them, wasted away. [5] Consequently all the illnesses which prevailed at that time were found to be accompanied by fever, the cause of which was the excessive heat. And this was the reason why most of the sick threw themselves into the cisterns and springs in their craving to cool their bodies. [6] The Athenians, however, because the disease was so severe, ascribed the causes of their misfortune to the deity. Consequently, acting upon the command of a certain oracle, they purified the island of Delos, which was sacred to Apollo and had been defiled, as men thought, by the burial there of the dead. [7] Digging up, therefore, all the graves on Delos, they transferred the remains to the island of Rheneia, as it is called, which lies near Delos. They also passed a law that neither birth nor burial should be allowed on Delos. And they also celebrated the festival assembly,4 the Delia, which had been held in former days but had not been observed for a long time.

1 426 B.C.

2 Cp. chap. 45.

3 That is, the "annual" winds, blowing from the northwest in summer.

4 An ancient festival of the Ionian Amphictyony, held in honour of Apollo and Artemis. Cp. Thuc. 3.104.

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