Health & Medical Mental Health

A Sound Mind In A Sound Body

~Continued From Part 1~ Before long Athenian morale had fallen sharply.
In an attempt to boost his peoples’ sagging spirits and restore the confidence they had lost, Pericles spoke about the City’s greatness during the annual “public funeral” that was held to honor her war dead.
“Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others.
We do not copy our neighbors, but are an example to them.
…we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not the few,” the Athenian leader declared.
“There is no exclusiveness in our public life…we are lovers of the beautiful, yet simple in our tastes, and we cultivate the mind without loss of manliness.
Wealth we employ, not for talk and ostentation, but when there is a real use for it.
To avow poverty with us is no disgrace; the true disgrace is in doing nothing to avoid it.
An Athenian citizen does not neglect the state because he takes care of his own household; and even those of us who are engaged in business have a very fair idea of politics,” he added before addressing the courage of the City’s defenders who had fallen in battle.
“Methinks that a death such as theirs… gives the true measure of a man’s worth; it may be the first revelation of his virtues… And when the moment came they were minded to resist and suffer, rather than to fly and save their lives;…on the battle-field their feet stood fast, and in an instant, at the height of their fortune, they passed away from the scene, not of their fear, but of their glory.
Such was the end of these men; they were worthy of Athens.
[1] Yet the epidemic was too great for Athenians to bear, which was made even worse by the hot summer as described by Diodorus Siculus – “the etesian winds… by which normally most of the heat in the summer is cooled failed to blow; and when the heat intensified and the air grew fiery, the bodies of the inhabitants, being without anything to cool them, wasted away.
[2] Social order collapsed as many abandoned the dead along with their sick friends and family since “strong and weak constitutions proved equally incapable of resistance...
[3] To Thucydides, this was the worst part of the epidemic – “By far the most terrible feature in the malady was the dejection which ensured when any one felt himself sickening, for the despair into which they instantly fell took away their power of resistance, and left them a much easier prey to the disorder; besides which, there was the awful spectacle of men dying like sheep, though having caught the infection in nursing each other.
…On the other hand, if they were afraid to visit each other, they perished from neglect; indeed many houses were emptied… for want of a nurse:on the other, if they ventured to do so, death was the consequence.
[4] At the same time, as mentioned earlier, many suffering from the affects of the plague threw themselves into cisterns and water tanks – “…all the illnesses which prevailed at the 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,”[5] Diodorus Siculus added.
Some even amputated extremities such as fingers and toes in a desperate attempt to survive.
“[N]umerous unburied bodies were left lying here and there.
[6] Per Thucydides, “The bodies of dying men lay one upon another, and half-dead creatures reeled about the streets and gathered round all the fountains in their longing for water.
The sacred places also in which they had quartered themselves were full of corpses… for as the disaster passed all bounds, men, not knowing what was to become of them, became utterly careless of everything… All burial rites before in use were entirely upset, and they buried the bodies as best they could… [Wood used for pyres, became scarce.
]Sometimes getting the start of those who raised a pile, they threw their own dead body upon the stranger’s pyre and ignited it… Fear of the gods or law there was none to restrain them… No one expected to be brought to trial for his offenses, but each felt that a far severer sentence had been already passed upon all.
[7]Even beasts and birds of prey avoided the dead – “All the birds and beasts that prey upon human bodies, either abstained from touching them, or died after tasting them.
In proof of this, it was noticed that birds of this kind actually disappeared; they were not about the bodies, or indeed to be seen at all,” Thucydides wrote.
[8] With no one certain that they would survive since it seemed like everyone regardless of the precautions they took, fell ill – “Athenians avoided each other but perished anyway,”[9] most ignoring the “moans of the dying”[10] as they “hastened to gratify their tastes, and abandoned themselves to the greatest moral depravity.
[11] Per Thucydides, “Men now coolly ventured on what they had formerly done in a corner, and not just as they pleased, seeing the rapid transitions produced by persons in prosperity suddenly dying and those who before had nothing succeeding to their property.
So they resolved to spend quickly and enjoy themselves, regarding their lives and riches as alike things of a day.
Perseverance in what men called honor was popular with none, it was so uncertain whether they would be spared to attain the object; but it was settled that present enjoyment, and all that contributed to it, was both honorable and useful.
Fear of gods or law of man there was none to restrain them.
As for the first, they judged it to be just the same whether they worshipped them or not, as they saw all alike perishing; and for the last, no one expected to live to be brought to trial for his offenses, but each felt that a far severer sentence had been already passed upon them all and hung ever over their heads, and before this fell it was only reasonable to enjoy life a little.
[12] At the same time, with 25% of the City’s population dead, the people turned on their leader.
They blamed Pericles, whom they viewed as “the author of the war”[13] for the outbreak (because of his strategy of bringing everyone within the City’s walls even though he “had had no [viable] alternative… since it would have been suicidal to engage the larger and better-trained [Lacedæmonian] infantry”[14] in the Attica countryside) and even urged capitulating to Lacedæmonia’s demands.
According to Diodorus Siculus, “Athenians, now that the trees of their countryside had been cut down (by the Lacedæmonians who ravaged their lands) and the plague was carrying off great numbers, were plunged into despondency and became angry with Pericles…”[15] This emboldened Pericles’ political opponents, Kleon, Simmias, and Lakratidas, to bring suit against him on frivolous grounds of “mismanagement of public funds.
[16] When addressing the charges, Pericles spoke with determination, offering no apologies – “I was expecting this outburst of indignation; the causes of it are not unknown to me… I allow that for men who are in prosperity and free to choose it is great folly to make war.
But when they must either submit and at once surrender independence, or strike and be free, then he who shuns and not he who meets the danger is deserving of blame.
For my own part, I am the same man and stand where I did.
But you are changed; for you have been driven by misfortune to recall the consent which you gave when you were yet unhurt, and to think that my advice was wrong because your own characters are weak…Anything which is sudden and unexpected and utterly beyond calculation, such a disaster for instance as this plague coming upon other misfortunes, enthralls the spirit of a man.
”As he spoke to the Athenian Ecclesia, Pericles still urged courage and strength while appealing for understanding – “…being the citizens of a great city and educated in a temper of greatness, you should not succumb to calamities however overwhelming, or darken the luster of your fame… You must not be led away by the advice of such citizens as these [Pericles’ accusers], nor be angry with me; for the resolution in favor of war was your own as much as mine.
What if the enemy has come and done what he was certain to do when you refused to yield?What too if the plague followed?That was an unexpected blow… I am well aware that your hatred of me is aggravated by it.
But how unjustly…”[17] By then the anger was so strong that Pericles’ defense fell on deaf ears.
He was fined between 15 to 80 talents and removed from power.
Afterwards per Telemachus Timayenis, Pericles “calmly submitted to this terrible trial, his physical nature now succumbed to the most frightful sufferings.
The pestilence, which spared no one, carried away many of his best friends and many of his relatives, including [his first wife], his sister and his sons Xanthippus and Paralus.
He who had so many times insisted upon courage and fortitude in his fellow citizens, and had shown himself worthy of his words, when he saw his dear son Paralus dead, and had drawn near in order to place a wreath on that beloved head, could not restrain himself, and, for the first time in his life, wept bitterly.
[18]He also held the same warm regard for his close circle of friends, whom he also mourned as they fell victim to the plague, demonstrating that “behind his almost icy reserve there was a warm and affectionate heart.
[19] However, by September 430 B.
C.
, Athenians had had a change of heart “overcome with remorse,”[20] especially when they “saw how much inferior were his successors.
[21] They elected Pericles, who had also begun to suffer from the affects of the plague back to his former office of “Strategos.
”However, only the persuasion of his closest friends convinced Pericles to again “take the helm of affairs,” which he then used to gain the permission of Athenians to bypass the citizenship law he had enacted in 451 B.
C.
to grant his “illegitimate” son, whom he loved to his last breath, Athenian citizenship.
[22]Pericles had requested an exception because this surviving son had been born to his mistress, a beautiful educated Milesian woman, Aspasia (470 B.
C.
-410 B.
C.
), who had defied the stereotype of the day by taking advantage of her non-Athenian status to become “a great writer… and philosopher.
[23] Afterwards with Pericles back in charge, the war appeared to go well.
The siege of Potidæa, triggered by a popular revolt against Athens came to an end in January 429 B.
C.
when the Athenian military allowed its inhabitants to depart for neighboring states.
Athens laid siege to Platæa two months later (which ultimately surrendered in 427 B.
C.
) while Admiral Phormio brought the City a “remarkable victory” in the Corinthian Gulf, after engaging with only 20 ships against a Peloponnesian force that had almost three times that number as they attempted to “wrest Acarnania from the Athenian alliance.
[24]It also helped that in 429 B.
C.
, Lacedæmonian forces, unlike in 430 B.
C.
and every year afterwards, refused to enter and ravage Attica because “the condition of the plague-stricken city made approach [too] dangerous.
[25] By this time, Pericles’ devoted “service [to] his country was approaching its end”[26] as his life slowly wasted away from the affects of the fever he was suffering from the plague.
“He was dying” in sorrow because his “house had been left desolate by the plague”[27] with the deaths of the aforementioned family members and many relatives.
Then as he lay dying, slipping in and out of consciousness, Pericles, according to an account by Mestrius Plutarchus known as “Plutarch” (c.
A.
D.
46-127), a Greek historian and biographer, “roused himself from the slumber… he had fallen” to scold his friends who spoke “of the victories that he had gained, the power that he had held, and his nobleness of character,” stating that “these were not his chief titles to fame.
”He was proudest of Athens’ democratic system of government and a man who disliked all but necessary wars, held humanity in the highest esteem, and harbored a “complete absence of vindictiveness.
[28] When he passed away at 64 in the autumn of 429 B.
C.
, Pericles was the essence of Athens – a great statesman and general, “a man of action, a philosopher, [and] a lover of art” who had “lived an austere life” never “adopting the tactics of a demogogue,” so much so that in the words of Arthur Grant, “it may be doubted indeed whether any great popular leader ever had so little recourse to flattery.
[29] Pericles’ death, though, did not bring an end to the plague.
It lingered for another three years resulting in an incalculable loss of life, leaving tens of thousands dead.
By the time the plague finally lifted in 426 B.
C.
, a third of the Athenian population had perished and the Delian confederacy headed by Athens was crumbling, sparked by the Lacedæmonian capture of Lesbos in 428 B.
C.
that left Chios the last independent member of the Athenian alliance.
Amidst the great loss of life and chaos, Athenian “women were temporarily liberated from the strict bounds of [the City’s] custom” so that they could perform vital functions previously carried out by men.
A magistrate called “gynaikonomos” was appointed to supervise their activities.
[30] However, by this time, the very City that Pericles loved, was also nearing its end as “normal expectations were upset as distant relatives of the wealthy suddenly found themselves the possessors of unexpected fortunes, and the normal pool of aristocratic candidates for political office was swept away.
[31]Accordingly, despite the replenishment of Athens’ military by 415 B.
C.
, the City lacked vision and competent leadership to bring victory.
In August 405 B.
C.
, Athens suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Lacedæmonian admiral Lysandros, who “captured most of [her] fleet’s triremes.
”With the City’s fate sealed by this devastating loss, “Athens was forced to capitulate.
Lysandros immediately tore down the Long Wall and the walls around Piræus”[32] before handing power over to a proxy government.
Yet, Pericles proved prophetic when he declared that the memory of Athens’ “glory will always survive.
[33]“So long as the literature of Greece calls forth admiration, and so long as the pillars of the Parthenon remain upon the Acropolis”[34] the spirit of Pericles and Athens lives as symbols of democracy and the Hellenic golden age.
While the history and devastating affects of the Athenian plague have been known for more than 2000 years, it was not until 1994 that the disease that consisted of headaches, conjunctivitis, a rash which covered the body, and fever” with victims suffering from extremely painful stomach cramps, coughing up blood “followed by vomiting and ‘ineffectual retching’”[35] could be retrospectively and thoroughly investigated.
It was proven to be Typhoid based on DNA collected from the teeth of “at least 150 bodies, including those of infants” that had been piled hastily and haphazardly one on top of the other in a mass grave that also consisted of “a small number of [funery] vases” dating back to 430 to 429 B.
C.
“deep beneath Kerameikos cemetery.
[36] When the mass grave consisting of close to 1000 tombs that may have held 240 bodies including those of ten children, that had been “randomly placed with no layers of soil between them,” was discovered during excavation work for a subway station, Efi Baziotopoulou-Valavani immediately knew that there was something different about it since it “did not have a monumental character.
The offerings we found consisted of common, even cheap, burial vessels; black-finished ones, some small red-figured, as well as white lekythoi (oil flasks) of the second half of the fifth century B.
C.
,” she stated in describing the grave.
“The bodies were placed in the pit within a day or two.
These [factors] point to a mass burial in a state of panic, quite possibly due to a plague.
[37] When conducting their tests, “Manolis Papagrigorakis and her colleagues at the University of Athens” selected “three random teeth samples… and extracted the pulp,” which “can store pathogens and other information about the body for centuries” and tested them for a range of bacteria – “bubonic plague, typhus, anthrax, tuberculosis, cowpox and catscratch disease before finding a match in Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi – the bacteria responsible for typhoid fever.
” To guard against possible “false results,” the team also tested “two modern teeth” for the same pathogens.
[38] Based on the test results made possible by recent advances in technology, namely “molecular biology tools (DNA PCR and sequencing techniques) which can provide retrospective diagnoses”[39] and through historical accounts, especially by Thucydides and Diodorus Siculus, the mystery has been solved.
“Typhoid fever – transmitted by contaminated food or water – [caused the] fever, rash and diarrhea” while the “quick onset” was due to the “possible evolution of typhoid fever over time.
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