Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

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" I buried with my own hands five of my children in a single grave.No bells.No tears.
This is the end of the world." (Deaux, 1969)These are the words of Italian author Agniol di
Tura, but they reflect the emotions of an entire nation in the 1300's.It was at that time that
Europe was struck by the hardest blow that a plague would ever swing.The Bubonic Plague hit
Europe with a ferocity that could never have been predicted.
The spread of the Bubonic Plague in the fourteenth century happened quickly as a result
of poor living conditions, trade routes and ignorance of the disease.Thefirst reported case of the
plague was in 543 when it hit Constantinople. (Hecker, 1992) This was a minor outbreak and
there were others similar to it, but since no one knew where it came from and so few were dying
from it, no one took the time to find out.But then in 1334, an epidemic struck the northeastern
Chinese province of Hopei that people couldn't ignore.It killed up to 90% of the population-
around 5,000,000 people. (Armstrong, 1981)This caught people's attention, but by then it was
Sadly, some of the events that aided the rapid spread of the Plague could have been
avoided.In 1347, in the southern Ukraine near the Black Sea, the native people began dying of a
mysterious disease. They suffered from headaches, weakness, and many staggered when they
tried to walk.But most obviously, each carried a common trademark of the plague- they all
began to develop large swellings of the lymph nodes in the groin and underarm areas.Fear and
anger at the disease gave way to accusation.The natives of the area pointed the blame for their
curse at the Italian traders who traveled in and out of their ports.Convinced that they were the
reason for their suffering, the natives attacked the ports.After a week of fighting, the natives
found their soldiers dying of the diseas…


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