Ancient Greece

The Athenian Plague | Stephen Basdeo

By Stephen Basdeo, a writer and historian based in Leeds, UK.


The annals of history are littered with accounts of epidemics and pandemics. One of the earliest large-scale pandemics, which affected Ancient Greece and the Middle East ,was the so-called Athenian Plague. What we in the modern age call Ancient Greece was not actually a single, unified country but a collection of independent city states; the five most important city states—in terms of political influence, military power, and wealth—were Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, and Delphi.

As well as facing threats from hostile neighbouring powers such as Persia, relationship between the Ancient Greek city states (poleis) was by no means peaceful and at various points conflicts would break out as one state vied for supremacy over the others.

The Peloponnesian War (431–04 BC) was one such conflict which occurred between city states. It was a conflict between the Delian League, led by Athens—a significant naval power—and the Spartan-led Peloponnesian League—which had a powerful land army.

Bust of Thucydides

Thucydides: The First Historian

The Athenian historian Thucydides (460 – c.  400 BC), a member of the Athenian aristocracy, wrote a history of this war, The History of the Peloponnesian War which, as the title implies, gave a chronological account of the events of the war. Thucydides’s history of that war has some claim to being the first ‘scientific’ history book written—the Ancient Greek gods have no active role in the events recounted, which is in stark contrast to the histories written by the earlier Herodotus who was writing a generation earlier.

Indeed, as Thucydides said, his work was a romance but a serious scholarly inquiry which would serve as a resource for future ages:

The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest; but if it be judged useful by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content. In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.[1]

Thucydides also strove to be impartial in his writing—a practice followed as much as possible by modern historians—despite being an Athenian himself. For this reason the Classical scholar John B. Bury, writing in the late-Victorian and Edwardian period, described Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War in the following manner:

‘severe in its detachment, written from a purely intellectual point of view, unencumbered with platitudes and moral judgments, cold and critical’.[2]

The Plague of Athens

For our purposes Thucydides’s history is most notable because it contains an account of the Athenian Plague, to which event he was an eyewitness. Athens was a port city and one of the main trading hubs in the Mediterranean; even in the Ancient world news travelled fast, and in the first year of the war reports filtered through to Athens of a deadly plague which had first raised its head in Ethopia, and had then appeared in Egypt and Libya, before the disease itself finally reached Athens.

Thucydides Records the Plague’s Symptoms

There is no way of definitively knowing what the plague was, and there are some historians who argue that it really is pointless to attempt to identify the disease, for whatever it was originally has likely evolved over the course of twenty five centuries.[3]

Not all historians share this view, however, and some of them in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, realising that ‘plague’ was often a catch-all term for any deadly disease, have argued for the sickness being a variety of maladies including bubonic plague, typhus, smallpox, and measles. The most probable cause among those listed, however, was typhus.[4]

Thucydides himself remarked upon the plague’s ‘difference to ordinary disorders’ and described the symptoms in the following manner:

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. These symptoms were followed by sneezing and hoarseness, after which the pain soon reached the chest, and produced a hard cough. When it fixed in the stomach, it upset it; and discharges of bile of every kind named by physicians ensued, accompanied by very great distress. In most cases also an ineffectual retching followed, producing violent spasms, which in some cases ceased soon after, in others much later. Externally the body was not very hot to the touch, nor pale in its appearance, but reddish, livid, and breaking out into small pustules and ulcers. But internally it burned so that the patient could not bear to have on him clothing or linen even of the very lightest description; or indeed to be otherwise than stark naked. What they would have liked best would have been to throw themselves into cold water; as indeed was done by some of the neglected sick, who plunged into the rain-tanks in their agonies of unquenchable thirst; though it made no difference whether they drank little or much. Besides this, the miserable feeling of not being able to rest or sleep never ceased to torment them. The body meanwhile did not waste away so long as the distemper was at its height, but held out to a marvel against its ravages; so that when they succumbed, as in most cases, on the seventh or eighth day to the internal inflammation, they had still some strength in them. But if they passed this stage, and the disease descended further into the bowels, inducing a violent ulceration there accompanied by severe diarrhoea, this brought on a weakness which was generally fatal. For the disorder first settled in the head, ran its course from thence through the whole of the body, and, even where it did not prove mortal, it still left its mark on the extremities; for it settled in the privy parts, the fingers and the toes, and many escaped with the loss of these, some too with that of their eyes. Others again were seized with an entire loss of memory on their first recovery, and did not know either themselves or their friends.[5]

Thucydides suggested, in contrast to the leading medical authorities of the day such as Hippocrates. Hippocrates, however, subscribed to the theory of miasma—according to this theory the disease spread because people inhaled poisonous air. In contrast, Thucydides, who was ahead of his time, posited the concept of contagion.[6] He believed that infected people directly passed the disease on to others—just how it was spread, however, Thucydides was not quite sure.

Nevertheless, as Thucydides showed, this was clearly a virulent and deadly disease. If a person caught it then it usually killed them within a week and those who survived it suffered blindness, memory loss, and even the loss of their limbs. Any treatment that relied on the theory of the Four Humours—in which, to be healthy, the body had to maintain an equilibrium of blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm—was sure to be largely ineffective, and as Thucydides remarked,

‘No remedy was found that could be used as a specific; for what did good in one case, did harm in another’.[7]

There is even evidence to suggest that some animals caught the disease as well.[8]

Living Conditions in Athens during the Time of the Plague

While people in our modern era often admire the Ancient Greeks, and especially the Athenians, for their ‘civilised’ manner of living—with Athens often standing as a symbol of democracy, the rule of law, and architectural splendour—the reality is that for most of the poorer Athenians living conditions were less than ideal.

With its hinterland covering almost 2,500 km2, and home to between 250,000 and 350,000 people—comprising the elites, the lower classes, and slaves—just prior to the Peloponnesian War, Athens was one of the largest city states in the ancient world.[9]

Thucydides was a member of the Athenian elite; small in number but influential in terms of social prestige and political power. Under the elite were the non-elites or ‘the many’, otherwise known as the hoi polloi (οι πολλοί).[10]

The rich may have hand grand, fine, spacious and well-ventilated houses but the urban poor lived in unsanitary, poorly ventilated mudbrick houses in districts of the polis that have much in common with modern shanty towns or favelas. Matters were made worse when more people arrived inside the city—seeking protection from the Spartan army who were laying siege—had to be accommodated in sub-standard ‘cabins’:

An aggravation of the existing calamity was the influx from the country into the city, and this was especially felt by the new arrivals. As there were no houses to receive them, they had to be lodged at the hot season of the year in stifling cabins, where the mortality raged without restraint. The bodies of dying men lay one upon another, and half-dead creatures reeled about the streets and gathered round all the fountains in their longing for water.[11]

Thucydides was not exaggerating. The population of the city of Athens before the war is estimated to have numbered 150,000 at most, comprising 60,000 citizens, 20,000 foreigners, and approximately 70,000 slaves.

It is estimated that 250,000 refugees made their way to the city when the war began—all of them, as Thucydides states, were housed inside the city walls.[12] Such conditions made Athens a perfect breeding ground for disease while the Spartans who subsequently laid siege to Athens were largely spared.[13]

The Acropolis of Athens by Leo von Klenze (1846) (Neue Pinakothek, Munich)

The Plague and Social Breakdown

What is interesting about Thucydides’s account is the fact that he describes in detail the breakdown of social cohesion and law and order as the disease ravaged Athenian society.

Some Athenians believed that the gods were punishing them but as Thucydides stated:

‘Fear of gods or law of man there was none to restrain them’.[14]

The Ancient Greeks believed that the gods played active parts in all areas of daily life, which is why there was a god or semi-god presiding over a wide range of human activities and natural phenomena.[15]

The Twelve Olympians were believed to be the ones who took the most interest in human affairs, and evidence of this, for the Ancient Greek people, was found in their myths and legends.[16] If the gods were displeased they might cause an unfortunate event to happen; for example, it was within Poseidon’s power to cause an earthquake or a tsunami. One could appease the gods by offering up sacrifices and thereby ‘pleasing’ them.

Yet during the time of the Athenian Plague, people’s fear of the gods waned and they no longer lived their lives with a view to pleasing them. It seemed that some Athenians came to a realization that, with the plague raging, pleasing the gods seemed all rather pointless—this is certainly what Thucydides thought when he wrote that

‘they judged it to be just the same whether they worshipped them or not, as they saw all alike perishing’.

The Athenians’ disregard for religion also extended into their treatment of the sick and dying; there are reports that dying people and dead bodies were left unattended in the streets, in clear violation of Greek burial rites. As for the Athenians disregard for law and order, the reasoning ran along the same lines: what did an earthly punishment matter when they might die of plague tomorrow?

‘No one expected to live to be brought to trial for his offences’, remarked Thucydides, ‘and before [death] fell it was only reasonable to enjoy life a little’.[17]

When times get tough and disease is rife, furthermore, people often have, historically, looked for someone to blame. Some people, not unwisely, blame the government. But foreigners or ‘aliens’ have often faced discrimination in times of epidemics and pandemics.[18]

Although some Athenians, as we have seen, blamed the gods for their woes, others blamed those from outside the city. Foreigners or metics were a prominent sight in Athens in the days before the plague as the city was a major trading hub. In fact, it was relatively easy for merchants to establish themselves in the city.

Citizenship had in fact been extended to metics earlier in the century and Pericles considered it a point of pride, in a famous speech given to the Athenians, that

‘we never expel a foreigner and prevent him from seeing or learning anything of which the secret if revealed to an enemy might profit him’.[19]

The descendants of some metics were even allowed to claim Athenian citizenship. However, the liberal and welcoming attitude of Pericles would be abandoned by the Athenian government after the plague began to bite when they withdrew the right to Athenian naturalisation from metics.

If a metic was caught claiming Athenian citizenship with no just grounds then, due to a decree passed two decades before the beginning of the war, the metic could be sold into slavery.

Bust of Sophocles at the Pushkin Museum (Public Domain)

Enter Sophocles

It was not only in people’s behaviour but also in Greek drama that the presence of the plague could be felt. For an example of this we turn to Sophocles (c.497–06 BC), one of the most famous Greek dramatists.

Plays were part of a programme of events featured at festivals held in honour of Dionysius, or in some cases, in honour of other gods. Competitions would be held prior to the festival and judges (archon) would award the honour of festival performance rights to the best works. The plays would then be performed in open air theatres to audiences comprised mainly of men—whether women were allowed to attend theatrical events is unclear.[20]

It is Sophocles’s tragedy titled Oedipus Rex (also known as Oedipus Tyrannus) first performed in 429 BC—two years after the first outbreak in Athens—which concerns us here (although the word tyrannus, or ‘tyrant’, has negative connotations for people in the twenty-first century, this was not the case in the fifth century BC; the word merely denoted someone who ruled without a constitutional right but was not necessarily a ‘bad’ ruler).[21]

The Tragedy of Oedipus Rex

Tragedy emerged in the sixth century BC but reached its zenith in the next century when Sophocles as well as other playwrights such as Aeschylus and Euripides flourished. Taking their subject matter from the Greek myths, tragedy usually featured a good yet flawed hero whose actions lead to some private or public catastrophe. It was the perfect genre for a play featuring a plague.

P. Oxy. 1369, a fragmentary papyrus copy of Oedipus Rex, 4th century BC. (Bridwell Library)

The play written by Sophocles—who was apparently connected with the cult of Asclepius—tells the story of King Oedipus of Thebes.

Thebes has been visited by an illness which no doctor is able to treat. The people of Thebes therefore attribute the plague’s appearance to the machinations of the gods, as the Theban priest of Zeus declares:

Armed with his blazing torch the God of Plague

Hath swooped upon our city emptying

The house of Cadmus, and the murky realm

Of Pluto is full fed with groans and tears.[22]

The idea that one of the gods might send a plague upon the people was nothing new when Sophocles was writing and the idea co-existed with that of the miasma. In Aeschylus’s Eumenides (458 BC) the goddess Athena knows that the Erinyes, or the Furies, have the power to smite humanity with a plague.[23]

In depicting the plague as divine punishment in Oedipus Rex, Sophocles clearly subscribed to the mainstream view of the causes of disease, whereas in Thucydides’s account the gods played no role at all in the spread of the plague. Sophocles’s insertion of this religious element into the play was perhaps a reaction to the growing irreligiosity of the Athenian people who, as Thucydides declared, neglected their worship of the gods during the plague.[24]

The Oracle Speaks

The people of Thebes in Sophocles’s play are aware that they are being punished as a result of someone’s impious word or deed. To this end Oedipus sends his brother-in-law Creon to consult with the Oracle at Delphi. It is then revealed to Creon that the plague has visited Thebes because the murderer of the former ruler, King Laius, dwells within its walls.

The news is conveyed to Oedipus who immediately summons the city’s seer to explain the matter to him. Initially hesitant to speak, the seer eventually reveals that it is Oedipus himself who is the guilty party.

The former ruler Laius, and his wife Jocasta, was informed that they would be killed by their own child. To avoid this, when Jocasta gave birth to a son—Oedipus—they left him exposed in the mountains. But Corinthian peasants took pity on the babe and rescued him. The peasant then took the foundling Oedipus to King Polybus, the ruler of Corinth, who raised him as his own.

Painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres depicting Oedipus after he solves the riddle of the Sphinx. The Walters Art Museum.

Later in life, Oedipus learnt of a prophecy in which he was predestined to kill his own parents. Under the impression that Polybus and Queen Merope were his true parents, Oedipus fled from Corinth.

During his time away from Corinth Oedipus got into a fight with, and eventually killed, an argumentative old man who attacked him on the road. Later on, Oedipus was then welcomed as the King of Thebes due to having solved the riddle of a sphinx who had cursed the city. As King of Thebes, Oedipus then accidentally married his mother Jocasta, with neither of them having a clue as to the other’s real identity.

The Parricide

Although Thebes prospered for a while under Oedipus’s rule, the plague struck. The seer then informs Oedipus that the old man he killed on the road was actually Laius, his father.

It would be hard to overestimate the revulsion which knowledge of Oedipus’s parricide would have inspired in the hearts and minds of those who attended Sophocles’s play. For such a ‘polluted’ act there could be no purification.

‘[For] the man who in rage slays father or mother the penalty is death’

was Plato’s recommendation for the treatment of parricides in his Laws, and for added measure, Plato stated that after the parricide’s death, his body should be placed at a crossroads, then a stone be placed upon it and the corpse cursed by an officer of state.[25]

Modern readers might think that Oedipus is morally innocent of parricide because he never intended to kill his father, certainly an Ancient Greek law court would have declared him innocent—had Oedipus not made a special effort to avoid killing Polybus, the man whom he thought was his father?

Whether he intended to or not, however, Oedipus still committed parricide. As E.R. Dodds remarked, ‘no human court [in Ancient Greece] could acquit him of pollution; for pollution inhered in the act itself, irrespective of motive’.[26]

Dodds, in fact, presented us with a modern analogy to understand why Oedipus still had to atone in some way for an act that he committed unknowingly:

‘Suppose a motorist runs down a man and kills him, I think he ought to feel that he has done a terrible thing, even if the accident is no fault of his: he has destroyed a human life, which nothing can restore’.[27]

Oedipus’s Punishment

Upon learning of his crimes, Oedipus is mortified—he blinds himself to atone for his wrongdoing and relinquishes the throne of Thebes to his brother-in-law Creon.

Jocasta hangs herself—the knowledge that she has married her son proving too much to bear. Oedipus then begs Creon to exile him.

The chorus then cry out

Look ye, countrymen and Thebans, this is Oedipus the great,

He who knew the Sphinx’s riddle and was mightiest in our state.

Who of all our townsmen gazed not on his fame with envious eyes?

Now, in what a sea of troubles sunk and overwhelmed he lies!

Therefore wait to see life’s ending ere thou count one mortal blest;

Wait till free from pain and sorrow he has gained his final rest.[28]

The punishment for Oedipus’s sins are visited on the whole population of Thebes. Oedipus is king and therefore his sins affect the whole of the body politic.

Louis Bouwmeester as Oedipus in a Dutch production of Oedipus Rex, c. 1896

One Person’s Actions

The idea that the actions of one person, or a few, can affect the lives of millions recurs in some of the more recent pandemic stories. As in G.W.M. Reynolds’s Faust (1845–46), it is Faust who asks Mephistopheles to bring a plague upon the city of Vienna.

First issue of G.W.M. Reynolds’s Faust (1846)

To take another example, it is the actions of only a few medical researchers in 28 Days Later that lead to the United Kingdom being overrun by rage-infected humans.

Mephistopheles sends a plague to Vienna in G.W.M. Reynolds’s Faust.

Of course, Oedipus is not a ‘bad’ king but committed two fatal acts—parricide and, later, incest—which bring about his downfall and afflict his city. Indeed, a bad king might have simply stayed on the throne and have allowed the disease to take its course among the populace.[29]

28 Days Later poster

In the same way, the researchers in 28 Days Later are not bad people; they are conducting medical research for, presumably, the advancement of medical science and the amelioration of certain human illnesses—yet it is their actions, in tinkering with the natural order, which cause a dreadful pestilence to spread among the populace with bloody results.

Of course, there are significant differences between Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex and modern viral pandemic movies such as 28 Days Later, so it is important not to stretch the comparisons too far. It is unusual, in fact rare, to have the presence of divine actors in modern pandemic movies and television shows, for instance. Likewise 28 Days Later, and its sequel 28 Weeks Later, are what Robert K. Weininger terms ‘semi-terminal narratives’;[30] these stories depict only a handful of survivors after the apocalyptic ending of human society whereas nothing of the sort occurs in Oedipus Rex for there is no sense that the world is ending.

Whether Sophocles caught the plague is unknown. Thucydides had the misfortune to catch the disease but amazingly he survived and lived to write his History of the Peloponnesian War. Thucydides also realised that, unpleasant as catching the plague surely was, a person gained immunity from the disease thereafter.

None of Thucydides’s contemporaries took note of his observations, however; as we have seen, Sophocles attributed a visitation of the plague to the machinations of the gods and, furthermore, the miasma theory would hold its sway over physicians’ thinking until the late-nineteenth century.

The Fall of Athens

The war, and the ravages of the plague, however, left the city state of Athens in a weak state. It is estimated that over 30,000 people died in the city alone. The plague severely weakened the Athenians’ ability to fight the war.

Interestingly, prior to the plague Athens was the primary naval power in the Aegean Sea and during the Peloponnesian War Athenian ships blockaded Corinth and Megara, who were Spartan allies. It may have been the case that the Athenian blockade of these cities inadvertently helped the Peloponnesian League because travel into and out of the Corinth and Megara became exceedingly difficult.[31]

To add to Athenians’ woes, the Athenian general Pericles made a reckless decision in the early years of the war,[32] although the plague probably made him commit to ill-advised undertakings. Sensing the growing discontent inside the city, and thinking it wise to ease the population burden inside the city, Pericles decided to lead a large naval expedition to plunder the Peloponnesian coasts in retaliation for the Peloponnesians’ raids in Attica, an Athenian territory.[33]

The plague spread like wildfire throughout the fleet. Pericles returned home in disgrace to an angry populace and was even placed on trial for the crime of misusing public money. The result was that Pericles was stripped of his office.

Within a year, however, Pericles was returned to power. Yet misfortune was to strike his own family. In 429 BC Pericles’s wife, along with his two sons, Paralus and Xanthippus, died of the plague. A few months later the plague claimed another victim: Pericles himself.

Although Thucydides remarked that the plague often killed people quickly, Plutarch (46–119), who lived much later than the Thucydides, stated in his Life of Pericles, reveals that the plague killed Pericles much more slowly than others:

At this time, it would seem, the plague laid hold of Pericles, not with a violent attack, as in the case of others, nor acute, but one which, with a kind of sluggish distemper that prolonged itself through varying changes, used up his body slowly and undermined the loftiness of his spirit.[34]

Athens had lost one of its best generals and a charismatic leader around which the Athenians could rally.

Of course, Athens was not the only place in the Mediterranean afflicted by the plague; other parts of the Mediterranean world also suffered. The plague struck Rome—which was only a fledgling city state at this point—as well as some of the Aegean islands such as Lemnos.[35]

After the initial outbreak in Athens in 429 BC there was a second wave of the disease in 426–27 BC. The Peloponnesian forces, although they did not suffer from the plague to the extent that the Athenians did, did not get away Scot-free. Before the formal declaration of war, in 429 BC, Peloponnesian forces besieged the city of Plataea, which was an ally of Athens.

The strict de facto quarantine placed around the city as a result of the siege meant that the citizens there did not contract the plague. Ultimately this did not do the Plataeans much good, however, for the city did eventually surrender to the Peloponnesian forces and the city was thereafter razed to the ground.

The war did not go well for Athenians. Even before the war and the plague started, the city of Mytilene, on the island of Lesbos, which was under the control of the Athenian Empire, had sought to break away from Athens.

Seeing that the Athenians were busy fighting a war and a plague, in 428 BC the Mytilenaeans decided it was finally time to revolt against Athens and unify the island of Lesbos under their rule. Athens did put an end to the revolt and initially wanted to impose harsh reprisal measures in the form of executions for the males and enslavement for the women. The Athenians thought better of this and opted instead to simply exact further tribute payments and also expropriated land from the Mytilenaeans.

Their charismatic general Pericles having died of the plague, the Athenians would go on to face several military reversals. They suffered a major military defeat against the Boetians at the Battle of Delium in 424 BC and another reversal at the Battle of Amphipolis in 422 BC.

Boeotian flame thrower (model), Thessaloniki Science Center and Technology Museum (CC BY-SA 4.0)

By 421 BC they were suing the Spartans for peace and a truce—the Peace of Nicias—was signed. Yet this was not an end to the war, for Corinth began building a coalition of states to challenge the Athenians which Sparta soon joined.

Athens was still suffering badly from plague in 421 BC, and Thucydides remarked that it was not until 415 BC that the Athenians felt they had sufficiently recovered from the plague and previous military losses.[36] It may have been the fact that the Athenians needed a morale boost which caused them to undertake an expedition to Sicily in 415 BC. The Athenians’ intention was to challenge the might of the Peloponnesians’ ally Syracuse.

Yet the Athenians were not to enjoy success—the expedition was a disaster and the Athenians’ expeditionary force was obliterated. By 405 BC Athens was severely weakened. Once the strongest naval power in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, at the Battle of Aegospotami the Athenian fleet was completely destroyed. The Athenians surrendered. The Spartans demanded the dismantling of Athens’ city walls and its democratic government was abolished and an oligarchy put in its place.

The end of the war did not spell the end of the plague, however, for there was another outbreak in Syracuse in 396 BC. The plague did spell the end of the Athenians’ naval supremacy, however, for the Athenians were forced to hand over their ships to the Spartans. The plague and the war had effectively ended Athenian supremacy.


[1] Richard Crawley, Trans [online], Thucydides: The History of the Peloponnesian War (London: Spottiswood, 1874), accessed 28 November 2020. Available at:

[2] J.B. Bury and Russell Meiggs, The History of Greece, 4th edn (London: Palgrave, 1975), p. 252

[3] Rachel Finnegan, ‘Plagues in Classical Literature’, Classics Ireland, 6 (1999), 23–42 (p. 27).

[4] Manolis J. Papagrigorakis, Christos Yapijakis, and Philippos N.Synodinos, ‘Typhoid Fever Epidemic in Ancient Athens’, in Paleomicrobiology: Past Human Infections, ed. by Didier Raoult and Michel Drancourt (New York: Springer Science & Business Media, 2008), pp. 161–73.

[5] Crawley, op. cit.

[6] A.J. Holloday and J.C.F. Poole, ‘Thucydides and the Plague of Athens’, The Classical Quarterly, 29: 2 (1979), 282–300 (p. 296).

[7] Crawley, op. cit.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Anna Lagia, ‘Diet and the Polis: An Isotopic Study of Diet in Athens and Laurion during the Classical, Hellenistic, and Imperial Roman Periods’, Hesperia Supplements, 49 (2015), 119–45 (p. 210).

[10] Elodie Paillard, ‘The Structural Evolution of Fifth-Century Athenian Society: Archaeological Evidence and Literary Sources’, Mediterranean Archaeology, 27 (2014), 77–84 (p. 78).

[11] Crawley, op. cit.

[12] A.W. Gomme, The Population of Athens in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries B.C. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1933), p. 22, 44.

[13] Christine A. Smith [online], ‘Plague in the Ancient World’, The Student Journal, 28 (1997–98), accessed 29 November 2020. Available at:

[14] Crawley, op. cit.

[15]  Martin P. Nilsson, The Minoan-Mycenaean Religion and its Survival in Greek Religion (New York: Biblo and Tannen, 1971), pp. 1–11.

[16] Charles Seltman, The Twelve Olympians (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1962), pp. 13–30.

[17] Crawley, op cit.

[18] Howard Markel and Alexandra Minna Stern, ‘The Foreignness of Germs: The Persistent Association of Immigrants and Disease in American Society’, The Millbank Quarterly, 80: 4 (2002), 757–88 (p. 758): For example,

[19] Thucydides [online], ‘The Peloponnesian War (Excerpt)’, in World Civilizations, Trans. Benjamin Jowett (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1997), ch. 7, accessed 10 December 2020. Available at:

[20] Mark Cartwright [online], ‘Ancient Greek Tragedy’, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 16 March 2013, accessed 7 December 2020. Available at:

[21] Donald Kagan, Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998), p. 250.

[22] Sophocles [online], ‘Oedipus the King’, The Internet Classics Archive, Trans. F. Storr, accessed 7 December 2020. Available at:

[23] Magdalini Dasteridou, ‘Fear and Healing Through the Serpent Imagery in Greek Tragedy’ (Unpublished MA dissertation, 2015), p. 92.

[24] Finnegan, p. 30.

[25] R.G. Bury, Trans. Plato in Twelve Volumes, 12 vols (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967–68), XI, pp. 870–72.

[26] E.R. Dodds, ‘On Misunderstanding the “Oedipus Rex” ’, Greece & Rome, 13: 1 (1966), 37–49 (p. 43)

[27] Ibid., p. 43.

[28] Sophocles, op. cit.

[29] Dodds, p. 43.

[30] Robert K. Weininger, Sublime Conclusions: Last Man Narratives from Apocalypse to the Death of God, Studies in Comparative Literature, 43 (Cambridge: Modern Humanities Research Association, 2017), p. 2.

[31] Herbert Newell Couch, ‘Some Political Implications of the Athenian Plague’, Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, 66 (1935), 92–103 (p. 94).

[32] B. W. Henderson, The Great War between Athens and Sparta (London, Macmillan, 1927), 51-68, especially 54.

[33] Newell Couch, p. 99.

[34] Plutarch [online], Life of Pericles, Trans. Bernadotte Perrin (Boston, MA: Loeb Classical Library, 1911), accessed 12 December 2020. Available at:

[35] Javier Martínez, ‘Political Consequences of the Plague of Athens’, Graeco-Latina Brunensia, 22: 1 (2017), 135–46 (p. 136).

[36] Newell Couch, p. 102.

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