|The Hope Hygieia, goddess of health, feeding milk|
to a serpent 130-161 CE Roman copy of a 360 BCE Greek
original unearthed in Ostia. Photographed at the Los
Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, CA
by Mary Harrsch ©2009
I am much more convinced by the careful examination of the pathological symptoms by clinical pathologists attending the Historical Clinico-Pathologic Conference at the University of Maryland's School of Medicine in October 2000 who concluded it was most likely lice-borne typhus not water-borne typhoid that constituted the great plague of Athens.
These forensic physicians specifically discounted typhoid fairly early on in their analysis because of the description of an accompanying rash by Thucydides, a survivor of the pathogen. Thucydides describes a vivid red rash with pustules and ulcers (although there is some disagreement on the exact translation from the ancient Greek.) The pathologists point out that this symptom is "difficult to reconcile" with a diagnosis of Typhoid Fever. Likewise the rash is not consistent with a diagnosis of cholera, another disease related to contaminated water, either.
|Bust of Thucydides from the Pushkin Museum|
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
If you wish to read the original article that appeared in Volume 109 of the American Journal of Medicine (October 1, 2000), I digitized a copy of if here: