Friday, November 15, 2002

Barbarians at the gate

"For the inhabitants of Europe nearly 700 years ago, the threat of bioterrorism--in those days from Mongol hordes storming across Russia--was all too real. In 1346 the Mongol army hurled plague-infected cadavers into the besieged Crimean city of Caffa, thereby transmitting the disease to the inhabitants." (via dublog)

"In his contemporary account of the Black Death, the Italian Gabriele de' Mussi tells of a mysterious illness sweeping across Russia and decimating the advancing Mongols led by Janibeg, Khan of the Golden Horde. As the death toll from the plague mounted, so did tensions between the warlike Mongols and Italians plying their trade on the Black Sea. Those tensions exploded in 1343, with the Tartars laying siege to Caffa, an Italian trading outpost. Three years into the siege, however, the plague began to spread among the Mongol troops surrounding Caffa. The dying Tartars, stunned and stupified by the immensity of the disaster brought about by the disease, and realizing they had no hope of escape, lost interest in the siege, de' Mussi wrote. But they ordered corpses to be placed in catapults and lobbed into the city in the hope that the intolerable stench would kill everyone inside."

And while it wasn't the stench that killed them, they died nonetheless. One more reason to believe the Mongol hordes were pretty damn scary...

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