PSA: An Epidemic’s First Acts

Rationalizing: Aristotle, Problems 1.7

“Why does the virus alone of diseases infect those especially who come near anyone under treatment for it? Is it because it is the only disease common to all and that this is why it brings the plague to all those who are previously weakened? It must be that because of the inflammation coming from people treated for the disease that others are taken quickly by the same thing.”

Διὰ τί ποτε ὁ λοιμὸς μόνη τῶν νόσων μάλιστα τοὺς πλησιάζοντας τοῖς θεραπευομένοις προσαναπίμπλησιν; ἢ ὅτι μόνη τῶν νόσων κοινή ἐστιν ἅπασιν, ὥστε διὰ τοῦτο πᾶσιν ἐπιφέρει τὸν λοιμόν, ὅσοι φαύλως ἔχοντες προϋπάρχουσιν. καὶ γὰρ διὰ τὸ ὑπέκκαυμα τῆς νόσου τῆς παρὰ τῶν θεραπευομένων | γινομένης ταχέως ὑπὸ τοῦ πράγματος ἁλίσκονται.

Blaming: Hesiod Works and Days 240-243

“The whole state often perishes because of a wicked man
Who commits outrages and plans reckless things.
Zeus drops great suffering on them from heaven,
Plague and famine together. And the people waste away.”

πολλάκι δὴ ξύμπασα πόλις κακοῦ ἀνδρὸς ἀπηύρα,
ὅς κεν ἀλιτραίνῃ καὶ ἀτάσθαλα μητιάαται.
τοῖσιν δ᾿ οὐρανόθεν μέγ᾿ ἐπήγαγε πῆμα Κρονίων,
λιμὸν ὁμοῦ καὶ λοιμόν, ἀποφθινύθουσι δὲ λαοί·

Escaping: Thucydides 2.53

“In addition to the rest, the plague first brought the state to greater lawlessness. For now each person easily was daring what was previously hidden so it might not seem like the pursuit of pleasure once they saw that sudden change was near—how those who were wealthy died as suddenly as those who had nothing before but now took other’s things. So everyone thought it right to quickly fill their desires and lust, recognizing that bodies and things are similarly fleeting”

Πρῶτόν τε ἦρξε καὶ ἐς τἆλλα τῇ πόλει ἐπὶ πλέον ἀνομίας τὸ νόσημα. ῥᾷον γὰρ ἐτόλμα τις ἃ πρότερον ἀπεκρύπτετο μὴ καθ᾿ ἡδονὴν ποιεῖν, ἀγχίστροφον τὴν μεταβολὴν ὁρῶντες τῶν τε εὐδαιμόνων καὶ αἰφνιδίως θνῃσκόντων καὶ τῶν οὐδὲν πρότερον κεκτημένων, εὐθὺς δὲ τἀκείνων ἐχόντων. ὥστε ταχείας τὰς ἐπαυρέσεις καὶ πρὸς τὸ τερπνὸν ἠξίουν ποιεῖσθαι, ἐφήμερα τά τε σώματα καὶ τὰ χρήματα ὁμοίως ἡγούμενοι.

Peste nera in una miniatura del XV secolo

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