Costas Tsiamis, Effie Poulakou-Rebelakou and Eleni Petridou
Gesnerus: 66/2 (2009) 209–217
The aim of this study is to present the sea and land commercial routes of the Byzantine Egypt and their role in the dissemination of the plague bacteria Yersinia pestis from the Red Sea to Mediterranean ports. The Mediterranean port of Pelusium was considered as the starting point of the first plague pan- demic, according to the historical and archaeological data; the port of Clysma in the Red Sea, however, can also be assumed as possible entrance gate of the Yersinia pestis. Indeed, it is proposed that the port of Clysma is most likely to have been the gateway of Yersinia pestis in the Byzantine Egypt when the epidemic broke out, given its geographic position and close trade relation- ship at the time of the epidemic in Pelusium.
Introduction The plague is an acute infectious disease caused by the organism Yersinia pestis. It is a zoonosis, mainly transmitted by the bite of infected fleas. In man the most common clinical presentation is bubonic plague. Other forms include septicaemic plague without bubo, pneumonic plague, meningitis and pharyngitis. Plague is best known as a medieval pestilence, although it remains endemic in many parts of the world today.