Caragea’s Plague – 1813-1814

In the centuries following the Black Death, bubonic plague reappeared spasmodically in Europe, gradually receding eastwards where it continued to ravage the Ottoman Empire. The last major European outbreak was in 1813 in Bucharest, capital of the Ottoman principality of Wallachia, in what is now Romania.

In 1812 loan Caragea was appointed governor of Bucharest. He travelled from Constantinople to take up his post and on the way one of his retainers died of plague. Whether this single case was responsible for introducing the disease to Bucharest is uncertain; but, together with-persistent reports of cases in Constantinople and the surrounding provinces during the following months, it alerted Caragea to prepare for the worst. He established two quarantine hospitals in January 1813, and the city waited…

On Jane 11 the first case was officially notified and Caragea immediately implemented emergency measures, putting Bucharest into lock-down: the city gates were guarded to prevent reauthorized people roaming to and fro; all markets, schools, bars and cafes were closed; and coins were soaked in vinegar to disinfect them. But of course none of these precautions was in the least use against the fleas that spread the disease; the quarantine hospitals were soon filled to overflowing and effectively became charnel houses.

The stench of death hung in the city air as public morgue officials wheeled their carts from house to house collecting corpses for disposal, indiscriminately piling up the sick together with the dead.

If the former tried to resist they were simply cudgeled to death, though occasionally the odd sturdy specimen managed to fight back and escape. By autumn there were far too many corpses to bury, so bodies were simply slung into open pits and left to rot. Before the epidemic was over, Caragea’s plague had wiped out half the population of Bucharest.

When was Caragea’s Plague: 1813-1814

Where was Caragea’s Plague: Bucharest, Romania

What was Caragea’s Plague death toll: An estimated 60,000—70,000 deaths in two years, of which 20,000-30,000 were in Bucharest itself and the remainder in the surrounding countryside.

You should know: Plague is fatal in approximately 50 per cent of cases unless treated with antibiotics.

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1 Comment

  1. Christine Reply

    I’m interested in learning more, but bibliographies on Wikipedia all seem to be Romanian. Do you know of any sources written in English?

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