the year has run 1346 when the Tatars-Mongolsin full seat of the Genoese city of Caffawere affected by a deadly epidemic of black death. get rid of corpses Preventing the spread of the disease became as urgent as fighting the enemy, so they decided to kill two birds with one stone and load their bodies onto catapults to launch them towards Caffa. It would therefore be one of the first cases of biological weapons documented in history.
This military operation was told by the Italian notary Gabriel de Mussiswho also assured that all this gave rise to the establishment of a black plague epidemic in other parts of Europe.
Over time, some analyzes of its history have been conducted in which it is concluded that it is consistent that the disease as a biological weapon. This matches the recordings about him that were made later. However, they disagree that this contributed to the spread of the Black Death beyond the city of Caffa. Anyway, it seems that biological weapons are much older than we think. As much as the evil of human beings.
History of biological weapons
Although the use of disease as biological weapons may be even older, the earliest historical records of it date back to around the year 90 AD. It was then that the Roman senator Sixth Julius Frontinus he published writings describing the launching of containers filled with poisonous snakes or rotting animal meat towards enemy cities. He also recounted placing swarms of bees in the tunnels to attack the soldiers in unexpected ways.
These are the first cases described and there are few others that were recorded before the caffa seat. This town, now known as feudosis then belonging to the Genoese, it is located on the shores of the Black Sea, in the current Crimean Peninsula.
Archives from the 14th century report that indeed in 1346 an epidemic of black death. And that it coincided with the Siege of the Tatar-Mongols. What’s not so clear is that the pathogen actually arrived within its walls through the corpses thrown into catapults. But the truth is that it makes a lot of sense. Let’s see how things went.
The most brutal arrival of the Black Death
The Black Death is known as a great plague pandemic that occurred in Europe and Asia. between the years 1347 and 1353.
It is unclear what the real disease that caused the pandemic was. The most accepted hypothesis is that it was bubonic plague, although some also believe it could be due to anthrax. Both are pathologies caused by bacteria, the first by Yersinia pestis and the second for Bacillus anthracis. Curiously, the latter was used as a biological weapon long after Caffa. It was in 2001, when letters were sent to the United States whose envelopes contained spores of said bacterium.
Whatever bacteria caused the Black Death, what seems clear is that after several days of siege of Caffa, the Tatar-Mongol army began to getting sick at breakneck speed. Soon, thousands of dead piled up in their ranks. If they didn’t get rid of the corpses, the disease would continue to progress until they were all killed. For this reason, as Mussis describes in his account of what happened, they chose to launch them towards Caffa using catapults.
His goal was make them sick by the smell. But that wasn’t the worst. Bubonic plague and anthrax are transmitted, among other things, through contact with patient secretions. If the dead piled up in its streets, it would be impossible not to succumb to the epidemic. In addition, anthrax is transmitted through the air, through spores. Yes Yersinia pestis can be transmitted by flea bites. At that time, and in full siege, it is more than possible that the streets were infested, so the epidemic was served.
Mussis related that “an infected man could transmit the poison to others and infect people and places with the disease just by looking at him”. Logically it wasn’t like that, but there were still many years to go before we knew it. How do these diseases actually spread?. The only obvious thing was that the people of Caffa had succumbed and the Black Death, in the form of a biological weapon, had fallen upon them.
Does all this make sense?
In 2002, the microbiologist Marc Wheelisfrom the University of California, published an article analyzing the situation of Black Death outbreak in Caffa.
He discusses two possible forms of entry of the disease. On the one hand, it is possible that rats they would have carried bacteria from the attacking army to them. And, on the other hand, what Mussis described might be true. But the truth is that in the event of a siege, with the city increasingly closed, it would have been difficult for the rats to come out of their burrows and overcome all the obstacles necessary to reach the city. The catapult thing, while sounding much weirder, makes more sense to Wheelis, who describes it as one of the first recorded uses of bioweapons in history.
What he doesn’t quite agree with is that this attack was responsible for the spread of the black plague beyond Caffe. We will never really know for sure. We can only imagine how tragic this must have been for those who lived through the attack. The saddest thing is that the mixture of pandemics and wars continues to be on the agenda after almost 700 years during which human beings should have had time to reflect on the consequences of acts of violence. Perhaps there will never be enough years for this reflection.
I am Bhumi Shah, a highly skilled digital marketer with over 11 years of experience in digital marketing and content writing in the tech industry.