In 1347 a Genoese ship from Caffa, on the Black Sea, came ashore at
Messina, Sicily. The crew of the ship, what few were left alive, carried
with them a deadly cargo, a disease so virulent that it could kill in a
matter of hours.
It is thought that the disease originated in the Far East, and was spread
along major trade routes to Caffa, where Genoa had an established trading
post. When it became clear that ships from the East carried the plague,
Messina closed its port. The ships were forced to seek safe harbour
elsewhere around the Mediterranean, and the disease was able to spread
During the Medieval period the plague went by several names, the most common
being "the Pestilence" and "The Great Mortality ". Theories about the cause
of the disease were numerous, ranging from a punishment from God to
planetary alignment to evil stares. Not surprisingly, many people believed
that the horrors of the Black Death signaled the Apocalypse, or end of time.
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