Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/453

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NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE. 437

through, plague-stricken towns, and innumerable fetiches. Very- noted in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were the proces- sions of the flagellants, trooping through various parts of Europe, scourging their naked bodies, and shrieking the penitential psalms, often running from wild excesses of devotion to the mad- dest orgies.

Sometimes, too, plagues were attributed to the wrath of lesser heavenly powers : just as, in former times, the fury of far-darting Apollo was felt when his name was not respectfully treated by mortals, so in 1680 the church authorities at Rome discovered that the plague then raging resulted from the anger of St. Sebastian, because no monument had been erected to him; such a monu- ment was therefore placed in the church of St. Peter ad Vincula, and the plague ceased.

So much for the endeavor to avert the wrath of the heavenly powers. On the other hand, theological reasoning no less subtle was used in thwarting the malice of Satan. This idea, too, came from far. In the sacred books of India and Persia, as well as in our own, we find the same theory of disease, leading to similar means of cure. Perhaps the most astounding among Christian survivals of this theory and its resultant practices was seen dur- ing the plague at Rome in 1522. In that year, at that center of di- vine illumination, certain people, having reasoned upon the matter, came to the conclusion that this great scourge was the result of satanic malice ; and in view of St. Paul's declaration that the an- cient gods were devils, and of the theory that the ancient gods of Rome were the devils who had the most reason to punish that city for their dethronement, and that the great amphitheatre was the chosen haunt of these demon gods, an ox decorated with garlands, after the ancient heathen manner, was taken in procession to the Colosseum and solemnly sacrificed. Even this proved vain, and the church authorities then ordered expiatory processions and cere- monies to propitate the Almighty, the Virgin, and the s saints, who had been offended by this temporary effort to bribe their enemies.

But this sort of theological reasoning developed an idea far more disastrous, and this was that Satan, in causing pestilences, used as his emissaries especially Jews and witches. The proof of this belief in the case of the Jews was seen in the fact that they escaped with a less percentage of disease than did the Christians in the great plague periods. This was doubtless due in some measure to their remarkable sanitary system, which had proba- bly originated thousands of years before in Egypt, and had been handed down through Jewish lawgivers and statesmen. Cer- tainly they observed more careful sanitary rules and more con- stant abstinence from dangerous foods than was usual among Christians ; but the public at large could not understand so simple

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