Some stories, like that of the Plague of Athens, are timeless, and we can learn from them even today. Many spent most of their money, fearing that they wouldn’t live long enough to enjoy their wealth. left a detailed description of the catastrophe. The Great Plague of Athens The year is 430 BC. But don’t forget to run to the British Museum as soon as it re-opens to check out Pericles’ beautiful portrait, a piece of our treasure hunt there. Athens is currently at its “Golden Age” with the great Pericles at the wheel. The Plague probably killed over one third of the Athenian population and Pericles himself, one of the most important Greek statesmen, died of it too. People, scared to die soon, didn’t think that it made sense to obey the law. left a detailed description of the catastrophe. At the time the plague struck, Athens was the strongest city-state in Greece, but was engaged in the early stages of a major military conflict, the Peloponnesian War (431–404 B.C.E.). We are not entirely sure what kind of disease it was, and scholars continue to fight over it. Well… during the Plague of Athens, temples became sites of great misery, filled with the infected and the dead. Doctors and nurses are working around the clock, and there is a communal effort to protect those around us. As Thucydides wrote, ‘men became indifferent to every rule of religion or law’. But it is important to go back in time, and discover how the Greeks handled a similar crisis. The Athenian general and historian Thucydides left an eye-witness account of this plague and a detailed description to allow … Historians and art-historians like us love to say that the past always teaches us something. In the next 3 years, most of the population was infected, and perhaps as many as 75,000 to 100,000 people, 25% of the city's population, died. The Plague of Athens also resulted in religious doubt: Athenians felt abandoned by their gods. How to Live the Parisian Lifestyle When You’re Stuck at Home, The Best Travel Movies on Netflix to Soothe Those Itchy Feet. As for Seurat, you can plan your visit to the Musée d’Orsay, to see some of his works and for some museum fun with us! And is coronavirus comparable to the many illnesses that have hit the world so far? Titian, a 16th-century Venetian painter, died during a terrible plague as well. Anna. It’s important to say that the spread of coronavirus is a sad and tragic event. Especially interesting is how society reacted to the plague of Athens and to see how ours will digest all of this in the year to come. And how could we forget about Titian, whose beautiful paintings can be seen at the Uffizi, in Florence. Before you go, if you enjoyed the topic of this blog post and want to learn more about it, we’ve provided below our kid-friendly art-history class on the Plague of Athens. D, An interesting read – can’t wait to visit museums gain x, Hi Claire, I’m really happy you liked it! Sadly, those who contracted the disease died alone (people were too scared of contracting the disease to take care of the infected), and bodies were all buried together in mass graves with few or no offerings. Many artists died too young and of terrible diseases… the Louvre is home to Alexandre Hesse’s painting representing the death of Titian, which is also part of two of our Treasure Hunts there. During the second year of the Peloponnesian War, in 430 BC, a terrible epidemic devastated the city of Athens. But Thucydides, who contracted it himself (and got over it!) Perhaps not a surprise, but the Plague of Athens was only one of the many health crises that have hit the population of the world through history. Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window), Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window), The Plague of Athens: Lessons from Ancient Greece. How did the Greeks handle theirs? Alexandre Hesse represented the horrible event in a 19th-century painting. We are not entirely sure what kind of disease it was, and scholars continue to fight over it. Ever heard of the terrible 5th century Plague of Athens? The best ancient account of the Great Plague, as for all of the Peloponnesian War, can be found in Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War. And hey… this time’s lesson is clear: while some stories are timeless and all humans are defenceless to infectious diseases, society’s reactions can be different – and ours is better! Now that museums are closed, you can google their names and see what they and their works look like. But Thucydides, who contracted it himself (and got over it!) The Plague of Athens 431/30 BCE You will be aware that the world is currently freaking out because of a pathogen that has done the global rounds. Since the outbreak of coronavirus, the priority has been to ‘shield’ the most vulnerable. Sparta and her allies, with the exception of Corinth, were almost exclusively land based powers, able to summon large land armies, which were very nea… Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to watch more art talks with your kids and friends! Thanks for sharing! This is great (well dark and macabre, fitting to our times – but hey, as you say, we’re better than the Greeks) post! Over 2400 years later we’re living though another dreadful health crisis. The plague of Athens took place between the years 430-426 BC, at the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War. Category: Art History 101, Art History for Kids, British Museum, Italy, London, Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, Paris, Tags: Ancient Greece, British Museum Collection, Greek Sculpture, Louvre Collection, Musée d'Orsay collection, THATMuse on Lockdown, Anna, Social panicking and extreme, irrational behaviour were a clear result of the fear of the threat. The democratic state has known an era of splendor and a standard of living higher than any previously experienced. Seurat, a French post-impressionist artist, also died of a terrible infectious disease in Paris, at the end of the 19th century, followed by his son who was killed by the same illness two weeks later. The plague killed an estimated 300,000 people, among which was the Greek statesman Pericles . Ever heard of the beauty and perfection of Greek temples? We named several historians, statesmen, artists and painters. Believe it or not, the Athenians were much more selfish and irrational than us! It is said to have caused the death of one in every three people in Athens, and it is widely believed to have contributed to the decline and fall of classical Greece. And there’s more… an even more tragic story is that of Modigliani, an Italian portraitist, who died of tubercular meningitis at the age of 35. The day after his death, his lover and muse, Jeanne Hébuterne, killed herself and their unborn child by jumping from a window. In 430 BC, a plague struck the city of Athens, which was then under siege by Sparta during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC). The epidemic had its social consequences. Fascinating and timely blog. At time of writing some nations have mobilised an aggressive response to the contagion (China), some an almost completely passive one (Britain), and some a bizarrely racist one. Athens and its empire was waging this war against the Peloponnesian League, led by Sparta. And as always, I’m a huge fan of your Art during Covid video Art History chats, thank you! The Plague probably killed over one third of the Athenian population and Pericles himself, one of the most important Greek statesmen, died of it too. Thucydides, in the History of the Peloponnesian War, paused in his narrative of the war to provide an extremely detailed description of the symptoms of those he observed to be afflicted; symptoms he shared as he too was struck by the illness. During the second year of the Peloponnesian War, in 430 BC, a terrible epidemic devastated the city of Athens. Sign up for email updates from the THATMuse blog. What was the point of worshipping them if the disease infected everyone regardless of one’s piety towards the gods?