Καρχηδονίοις δὲ μετὰ τὴν κατάληψιν τοῦ προαστείου καὶ τὴν σύλησιν τοῦ τε τῆς Δήμητρος καὶ Κόρης ἱεροῦ ἐνέπεσεν εἰς τὸ στράτευμα νόσος· συνεπελάβετο δὲ καὶ τῇ τοῦ δαιμονίου συμφορᾷ τὸ μυριάδας εἰς ταὐτὸ συναθροισθῆναι καὶ τὸ τῆς ὥρας εἶναι πρὸς τὰς νόσους ἐνεργότατον, ἔτι δὲ τὸ ἔχειν ἐκεῖνο τὸ θέρος καύματα παρηλλαγμένα. ἔοικε δὲ καὶ ὁ τόπος αἴτιος γεγονέναι πρὸς τὴν ὑπερβολὴν τῆς συμφορᾶς· καὶ γὰρ Ἀθηναῖοι πρότερον τὴν αὐτὴν ἔχοντες παρεμβολὴν πολλοὶ διεφθάρησαν ὑπὸ τῆς νόσου, ἑλώδους ὄντος τοῦ τόπου καὶ κοίλου. πρῶτον μὲν πρὶν ἥλιον ἀνατεῖλαι διὰ τὴν ψυχρότητα τὴν ἐκ τῆς αὔρας τῶν ὑδάτων φρίκη κατεῖχε τὰ σώματα: κατὰ δὲ τὴν μεσημβρίαν ἡ θερμότης ἔπνιγεν, ὡς ἂν τοσούτου πλήθους ἐν στενῷ τόπῳ συνηθροισμένου. ἥψατο μὲν οὖν ἡ νόσος πρῶτον τῶν Λιβύων, ἐξ ὧν πολλῶν ἀποθνησκόντων τὸ μὲν πρῶτον ἔθαπτον τοὺς τετελευτηκότας, μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα διά τε τὸ πλῆθος τῶν νεκρῶν καὶ διὰ τὸ τοὺς νοσοκομοῦντας ὑπὸ τῆς νόσου διαρπάζεσθαι, οὐδεὶς ἐτόλμα προσιέναι τοῖς κάμνουσιν. παραιρεθείσης οὖν καὶ τῆς θεραπείας ἀβοήθητος ἦν ἡ συμφορά. διὰ γὰρ τὴν τῶν ἀθάπτων δυσωδίαν καὶ τὴν ἀπὸ τῶν ἑλῶν σηπεδόνα πρῶτον μὲν ἤρχετο τῆς νόσου κατάρρους, μετὰ δὲ ταῦτ᾽ ἐγίνετο περὶ τὸν τράχηλον οἰδήματα· ἐκ δὲ τοῦ κατ᾽ ὀλίγον ἠκολούθουν πυρετοὶ καὶ περὶ τὴν ῥάχιν νεύρων πόνοι καὶ τῶν σκελῶν βαρύτητες· εἶτ’ ἐπεγίνοντο δυσεντερία καὶ φλύκταιναι περὶ τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν ὅλην τοῦ σώματος. τοῖς μὲν οὖν πλείστοις τοιοῦτον ἦν τὸ πάθος, τινὲς δ’ εἰς μανίαν καὶ λήθην τῶν ἁπάντων ἔπιπτον, οἳ περιπορευόμενοι τὴν παρεμβολὴν ἐξεστῶτες τοῦ φρονεῖν ἔτυπτον τοὺς ἀπαντῶντας. καθόλου δὲ συνέβη καὶ τὴν ἀπὸ τῶν ἰατρῶν βοήθειαν ἄπρακτον εἶναι καὶ διὰ τὸ μέγεθος τοῦ πάθους καὶ τὴν ὀξύτητα τοῦ θανάτου· πεμπταῖοι γὰρ ἢ τὸ πλεῖστον ἑκταῖοι μετήλλαττον, δεινὰς ὑπομένοντες τιμωρίας, ὥσθ’ ὑπὸ πάντων μακαρίζεσθαι τοὺς ἐν τῷ πολέμῳ τετελευτηκότας. καὶ γὰρ οἱ τοῖς κάμνουσι παρεδρεύοντες ἐνέπιπτον εἰς τὴν νόσον ἅπαντες, ὥστε δεινὴν εἶναι τὴν συμφορὰν τῶν ἀρρωστούντων, μηδενὸς θέλοντος ὑπηρετεῖν τοῖς ἀτυχοῦσιν. οὐ γὰρ μόνον οἱ μηδὲν προσήκοντες ἀλλήλους ἐγκατέλειπον, ἀλλ’ ἀδελφοὶ μὲν ἀδελφούς, φίλοι δὲ τοὺς συνήθεις ἠναγκάζοντο προΐεσθαι διὰ τὸν ὑπὲρ αὑτῶν φόβον.
(Diodorus Siculus, Hist. 14.70.4-71.4)
After the Carthaginians had seized the suburb and pillaged the temple of Demeter and Corê, a plague struck the army. Over and above the disaster sent by influence of the city, there were contributing causes: that myriads of people were gathered together, that it was the time of year which is most productive of plagues, and that the particular summer had brought unusually hot weather. It also seems likely that the place itself was responsible for the excessive extent of the disaster; for on a former occasion the Athenians too, who occupied the same camp, had perished in great numbers from the plague, since the terrain was marshy and in a hollow. First, before sunrise, because of the cold from the breeze over the waters, their bodies were struck with chills, but in the middle of the day the heat was stifling, as must be the case when so great a multitude is gathered together in a narrow place. Now the plague first attacked the Libyans, and, as many of them perished, at first they buried the dead, but later, both because of the multitude of corpses and because those who tended the sick were seized by the plague, no one dared approach the suffering. When even nursing was thus omitted, there was no remedy for the disaster. For by reason of the stench of the unburied and the miasma from the marshes, the plague began with a catarrh; then came a swelling in the throat; gradually burning sensations ensued, pains in the sinews of the back, and a heavy feeling in the limbs; then dysentery supervened and pustules upon the whole surface of the body. In most cases this was the course of the disease; but some became mad and totally lost their memory; they circulated through the camp, out of their mind, and struck at anyone they met. In general, as it turned out, even help by physicians was of no avail both because of the severity of the disease and the swiftness of the death; for death came on the fifth day or on the sixth at the latest, amidst such terrible tortures that all looked upon those who had fallen in the war as blessed. In fact all who watched beside the sick were struck by the plague, and thus the lot of the ill was miserable, since no one was willing to minister to the unfortunate. For not only did any not akin abandon one another, but even brothers were forced to desert brothers, friends to sacrifice friends out of fear for their own lives. (tr. Charles Henry Oldfather)