A DNA study conducted at the burial pits of ancient Athens has revealed that a typhoid epidemic may have caused large-scale devastation to the city. The Golden Age of Athens is also reported to have declined as a result of this epidemic, which is said to have wiped out a third of the city-state's population. The origins of the epidemic was in Ethiopia, between 430-426 BC, which later spread to Athens.
Thucydides, the Greek historian, who also suffered from the disease and recovered from it reported about the outbreak. This report was the only source of information to historians until recently. There were however still varying accounts of the plague, as to whether it was a bubonic plague, anthrax, smallpox, or measles. Manolis Papagrigorakis belonging to the University of Athens made use of samples of dental pulp for retrieving the bacteria.
AdvertisementThe resemblance between bacteria retrieved and the strain of today's salmonella, which gives rise to typhoid appear to be very close. Sparta is reported to have taken advantage of the epidemic to subdue Athens, which was later taken over by Rome.
Typhoid is still quite common in today's developing nations, as a result of contaminated water and food. The typhoid fever today is caused by the Salmonella enterica serovar typhi organism.