4 real zombie apocalypses that have actually happened

Not The Walking Dead new promo, not a new movie by George Romero. It’s something out of history books.

Imagine your run-of-the-mill zombie apocalypse. People are dying everywhere. The dead are pushed aside by the living with little concern so they die in the streets; maybe they are heaped on top of each other in special places or shoved into mass graves. But they have a pesky little habit: they come back. And they want you to join them.

For the not yet infected there’s only one rule: to get as far away from the infected as possible. Do not let them touch you. Do not die.

The Walking Dead new promo? A new movie by George A. Romero? No. Something out of history books. These scenes have been lived by someone, witnessed by someone and written by someone. They are real.


1. The most ancient zombie apocalypse (that we know of)

Here the zombies are dressed in tunics and speak ancient greek. It’s the year 430 BC and the disease spreads throughout Athens, killing everyone in its path. It’s the Plague of Athens, also known as the Peloponnesian War Pestilence. Underneath the city the living are burying those who die, but it’s not hard to imagine some of them -some who were buried before they were really dead- coming back to life when the guards are not watching. The symptoms include delusion, confusion and pain, so if you add it to the mix, you’ve completed your zombie doomsday: infected people wandering erratically down the streets, gurgling and screaming in pain.


2. The ancestors of Umbrella Corporation

It seems that biological warfare wreaking zombie havoc is a modern concept, right?

Wrong. The invention must be credited to Jani Beg, a mongol khan, in 1346. When he was besieging the Crimean city of Kaffa, many of his soldiers contracted the plague and died. Most generals would have abandoned their mission, but Jani Beg came up with a nifty trick: he catapulted the corpses over the city walls to infect its inhabitants. He succeeded. By the way, some people think he began the infamous Black Death with this little stunt.

O human ingenuity, you never cease to amaze me.


3. The Black Death

We could not forget the most devastating pandemic in history. According to some estimations, the Black Death killed 200 million people, more than half of the population. Can you imagine it? One out of two people were killed by it. If you had lived in that age, you could have tossed a coin to find out whether you would have survived. In some villages, everyone, absolutely everyone, died.

Talk about apocalypse.

Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book is an extraordinary research about this topic.


4. The apocalypse with the biggest death toll

Well, the answer to this question is tricky. If we look for absolute numbers, the winner is probably the Black Death with 100 to 200 million people killed, but if we look for the biggest percentage of killed people, Black Death, with 30% to 60% of deaths is no longer the most insidious.

Imagine this scenario: three alien spaceships land on Earth after a difficult voyage. A few aliens emerge from them; they are similar to us but with some remarkable differences: their skin color, the language they speak, their really advanced technology that looks like magic. Some of us think they’re angels or even gods, some think they are demons. But with them they carry a lot of diseases that kill up to 95% of the population.

Science fiction? No, reality. It happened in 1492 in America. Spaniards carried with them diseases that had never occurred in the continent, such as measles and smallpox, diseases that killed almost everyone.

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