We need names for Ella’s and Pip’s two male chicks at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Winnipeg and we need your help!
For those who follow our FalconCam from year to year you will know that we like themes for names when we can find ones that are worthy. This year it was going to be Manitoba’s 150th Birthday but I’m afraid that the COVID-19 Pandemic has pretty much overshadowed every other story and we have mined Manitoba’s historical figures a number of times in the last few years so this year we are going back in time to ancient pandemics. Means we get some interesting names to choose from – or at least you think they are interesting too! The names are listed in chronological order of the event.
Plague of Athens (circa 429/430 BC)
Around 430 B.C., not long after a war between Athens and Sparta began, an epidemic ravaged the people of Athens and lasted for five years. Some estimates put the death toll as high as 100,000 people. The Greek historian Thucydides (460-400 B.C.) wrote that “people in good health were all of a sudden attacked by violent heats in the head, and redness and inflammation in the eyes, the inward parts, such as the throat or tongue, becoming bloody and emitting an unnatural and fetid breath” (translation by Richard Crawley from the book “The History of the Peloponnesian War“, London Dent, 1914). What exactly this epidemic was has long been a source of debate among scientists; a number of diseases have been put forward as possibilities, including typhoid fever and Ebola. Many scholars believe that overcrowding caused by the war exacerbated the epidemic. Sparta’s army was stronger, forcing the Athenians to take refuge behind a series of fortifications called the “long walls” that protected their city. Despite the epidemic, the war continued on, not ending until 404 B.C., when Athens was forced to capitulate to Sparta.
Antonine Plague (165-180 AD)
When soldiers returned to the Roman Empire from campaigning, they brought back more than the spoils of victory. The Antonine Plague, which may have been smallpox, laid waste to the army and may have killed over 5 million people in the Roman empire, wrote April Pudsey, a senior lecturer in Roman History at Manchester Metropolitan University, in a paper published in the book “Disability in Antiquity“, Routledge, 2017). Many historians believe that the epidemic was first brought into the Roman Empire by soldiers returning home after a war against Parthia. The epidemic contributed to the end of the Pax Romana (the Roman Peace), a period from 27 B.C. to A.D. 180, when Rome was at the height of its power. After A.D. 180, instability grew throughout the Roman Empire, as it experienced more civil wars and invasions by “barbarian” groups. Christianity became increasingly popular in the time after the plague occurred.
Plague of Cyprian (250-271 AD)
Named after St. Cyprian, a bishop of Carthage (a city in Tunisia) who described the epidemic as signalling the end of the world, the Plague of Cyprian is estimated to have killed 5,000 people a day in Rome alone. In 2014, archaeologists in Luxor found what appears to be a mass burial site of plague victims. Their bodies were covered with a thick layer of lime (historically used as a disinfectant). Archaeologists found three kilns used to manufacture lime and the remains of plague victims burned in a giant bonfire. Experts aren’t sure what disease caused the epidemic.
Plague of Justinian (541-542 AD)
The Byzantine Empire was ravaged by the bubonic plague, which marked the start of its decline. The plague reoccurred periodically afterwards. Some estimates suggest that up to 10% of the world’s population died. The plague is named after the Byzantine Emperor Justinian (reigned A.D. 527-565). Under his reign, the Byzantine Empire reached its greatest extent, controlling territory that stretched from the Middle East to Western Europe. Justinian constructed a great cathedral known as Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom”) in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), the empire’s capital. Justinian also got sick with the plague and survived; however, his empire gradually lost territory in the time after the plague struck.
The Plague of 664 (664-684/690 AD) British Isles
The plague of 664 was an epidemic that affected the British Isles in 664 AD. It was the first recorded epidemic in English history, and coincided with a solar eclipse. It was said to have lasted for twenty or twenty-five years, causing widespread mortality, social disruption and abandonment of religious faith. The disease responsible was probably Plague – part of the First Plague Pandemic – or else smallpox. According to Adomnan of Iona (also known as Eunan), a contemporary Irish abbot and saint, the plague affected everywhere in the British Isles except for a large area in modern Scotland. Adomnan/Eunan considered the plague a divine punishment for sins, and he believed that the Picts and Irish who lived in northern Great Britain were spared from the plague due to the intercession of Saint Columba who had founded monasteries among them. Adomnan/Eunan personally walked among victims of the plague and claimed that neither he nor his companions became sick.