Pestilentia

Italy-coronavirus-380

Huius temporibus in provincia praecipue Liguriae maxima pestilentia exorta est. subito enim apparebant quaedam signacula per domos, ostia, vasa vel vestimenta, quae si quis voluisset abluere, magis magisque apparebant. post annum vero expletum coeperunt nasci in inguinibus hominum vel in aliis delicatioribus locis glandulae in modum nucis seu dactuli, quas mox subsequebatur febrium intolerabilis aestus, ita ut in triduo homo extingueretur. sin vero aliquis triduum transegisset, habebat spem vivendi. erant autem ubique luctus, ubique lacrimae. nam, ut vulgi rumor habebat, fugientes cladem vitare, relinquebantur domus desertae habitatoribus, solis catulis domum servantibus. peculia sola remanebant in pascuis, nullo adstante pastore. cerneres pridem villas seu castra repleta agminibus hominum, postero vero die universis fugientibus cuncta esse in summo silentio. fugiebant filii, cadavera insepulta parentum relinquentes, parentes obliti pietatis viscera natos relinquebant aestuantes. si quem forte antiqua pietas perstringebat, ut vellet sepelire proximum, restabat ipse insepultus; et dum obsequebatur, perimebatur, dum funeri obsequium praebebat, ipsius funus sine obsequio manebat. videres saeculum in antiquum redactum silentium: nulla vox in rure, nullus pastorum sibilus, nullae insidiae bestiarum in pecudibus, nulla damna in domesticis volucribus. sata transgressa metendi tempus intacta expectabant messorem; vinea amissis foliis radiantibus uvis inlaesa manebat hieme propinquante. nocturnis seu diurnis horis personabat tuba bellantium, audiebatur a pluribus quasi murmur exercitus. nulla erant vestigia commeantium, nullus cernebatur percussor, et tamen visus oculorum superabant cadavera mortuorum. pastoralia loca versa fuerant in sepulturam hominum, et habitacula humana facta fuerant confugia bestiarum. et haec quidem mala intra Italiam tantum usque ad fines gentium Alamannorum et Baioariorum solis Romanis acciderunt.
(Paulus Diaconus, De Gestis Langobardorum 2.4)

In the times of this man a very great pestilence broke out, particularly in the province of Liguria*. For suddenly there appeared certain marks among the dwellings, doors, utensils, and clothes, which, if any one wished to wash away, became more and more apparent. After the lapse of a year indeed there began to appear in the groins of men and in other rather delicate places, a swelling of the glands, after the manner of a nut or a date, presently followed by an unbearable fever, so that upon the third day the man died. But if any one should pass over the third day he had a hope of living. Everywhere there was grief and everywhere tears. For as common report had it that those who fled would avoid the plague, the dwellings were left deserted by their inhabitants, and the dogs only kept house. The flocks remained alone in the pastures with no shepherd at hand. You might see villas or fortified places lately filled with crowds of men, and on the next day, all had departed and everything was in utter silence. Sons fled, leaving the corpses of their parents unburied; parents forgetful of their duty abandoned their children in raging fever. If by chance long-standing affection constrained any one to bury his near relative, he remained himself unburied, and while he was performing the funeral rites he perished; while he offered obsequies to the dead, his own corpse remained without obsequies. You might see the world brought back to its ancient silence: no voice in the field; no whistling of shepherds; no lying in wait of wild beasts among the cattle; no harm to domestic fowls. The crops, outliving the time of the harvest, awaited the reaper untouched; the vineyard with its fallen leaves and its shining grapes remained undisturbed while winter came on; a trumpet as of warriors resounded through the hours of the night and day; something like the murmur of an army was heard by many; there were no footsteps of passers by, no murderer was seen, yet the corpses of the dead were more than the eyes could discern; pastoral places had been turned into a sepulchre for men, and human habitations had become places of refuge for wild beasts.

* Probably A.D. 566.

(tr. William Dudley Foulke, with his note)

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