Plague of Athens

Full Name
Plague of Athens
Event Type

In 430 BCE, an outbreak of plague erupted in Athens. The illness would persist throughout scattered parts of Greece and the eastern Mediterranean until finally dying out in 426 BCE. The origin of the epidemic occurred in sub-Saharan Africa just south of Ethiopia. It entered Athens through the city’s port of Piraeus. By its end, the epidemic killed upwards of 1/3 of the population; a population that numbered 250,000-300,000 in the 5th century BCE.

  • arrived from Persia & North Africa
  • spread widely among refugees in the city (who were living in unhygienic conditions)
  • scholars don't know the actual cause - have 30 guesses including typhoid
  • killed many within a week

Moral Impact:

  • had the impact of destroying relations between people:  they didn't trust each other for fear of catching the disaster
  • they lost their morals: given the high chance they could contract the disease and die, they desired to live life to the fullest (and often without morals)
  • destroyed religion:  lost faith in the gods because no sacrifices helped them
  • resulted in xenophobia:  peopled turned against outsiders who used to be welcome in the city