venerdì 20 gennaio 2017

The crisis in Italy

«I shall now tell of the appearance which they came to have and in what manner they died, for I was an eye-witness. All of them first became lean and pale; for the flesh, being ill supplied with nourishment, according to the old saying “laid hold upon itself”, and the bile, having now the mastery of their bodies by reason of its excess, lent them almost its own appearance. And as the malady developed, all moisture left them, and the skin became very dry so that it resembled leather more than anything else, giving the appearance of having been fastened upon the bones. And as they changed from a livid to a black colour, they came to resemble torches thoroughly burned. And their faces always wore an expression of amazement, while they always had a dreadful sort of insane stare. And they died, some because of the lack of food, and others too by sating themselves too much with it. For since all the warmth which nature kindled within them had died away, whenever anyone fed them to satiety, and not little by little, just like infants newly born, the result was that, since they were as yet unable to digest the food, they died much more quickly. Some too, overcome by hunger, fed upon their comrades. And it is said that two women in a certain place in the country above the city of Ariminum ate seventeen men; for these women, as it happened, were the only inhabitants of the place who survived, and consequently it came about that strangers travelling that way lodged in the little house where these women lived; so they would kill these strangers while they slept and eat them. Now the story goes that the eighteenth stranger was roused from sleep, just when these women were about to lay hands upon him, and leaping up and learning from them the whole story, killed both of them. Such, then, is the story which they tell. And the most of the people were so overcome by their hunger that if they happened upon a bit of grass anywhere, they would rush to it with great eagerness, and kneeling down, would try to pull it from the ground. Then, finding themselves unable to do so because all strength had left them, they would fall upon the grass and their outstretched hand and die. And no one ever laid them in the earth, for there was in fact not a man to concern himself about burying them; and yet they remained untouched by any of those numerous birds which have the habit of feeding upon dead bodies, for
they offered nothing which the birds craved. For all the flesh, as I have previously stated, had already been consumed by starvation. Such was the manner in which famine visited the land».
(Procopius [ca. 500–ca. 554], History of the wars, VI, 20, 27-30; English translation from here; tr. it. Opere di Procopio da Cesarea, cur. G. Rossi, coi tipi di Paolo Andrea Molina, contrada dell’Agnello, Milano, 1838, III, pp. 223-224)

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