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Korean J Med Hist > Volume 30(3); 2021 > Article
Korean Journal of Medical History 2021;30(3): 465-498.
doi: https://doi.org/10.13081/kjmh.2021.30.465
흑사병의 서유럽 전파에 관한 오해와 왜곡: 무시스의 기록을 중심으로
이화여자대학교 사학과 교수, 서양 중세사 전공
Misunderstandings of the transmission of the Black Death to Western Europe : a critical review of De Mussis’s account
Jongkuk NAM
Professor, Department of History, Ewha Womans University
Correspondence  Jongkuk NAM ,Email: namjk0513@ewha.ac.kr
Received: October 13, 2021;  Accepted: November 23, 2021.  Published online: December 31, 2021.
This article aims to critically review de Mussis’s report of the events at Caffa. De Mussi says in his account that Tartars catapulted their dead compatriots infected by the plague into the besieged city of Caffa in order to contaminate the Genoese defending the city and that some Genoese galleys fleeing from the city transported the disease to Western Europe. Some historians interpret his report of Tartars catapulting plague-infected bodies as an act of biological warfare, and others do not trust his account as a reliable historical record, while some works rely on his account, even though they do not interpret it as evidence of biological warfare. This article tries to determine whether his account is true or not, and explain historical contexts in which it was made.
De Mussi was not an eye-witness of the war between the Tartars and the Genoese in the years of 1343 to 1437 in Caffa, contrary to some historians’ arguments that he was present there during the war. In addition, he understands and explains the disease from a religious perspective as does most of his contemporary Christians, believing that the disease was God's punishment for the sins of human beings.
His account of the Tartars catapulting their compatriot’s bodies may derive from his fear and hostility against the Tartars, thinking that they were devils from hell and pagans to be annihilated. For de Mussi, the Genoese may have been greedy merchants who were providing Muslims with slaves and enforcing their military forces. Therefore, he thought that the Tartars and the Genoese were sinners that spread the disease, and that God punished their arrogance. His pathological knowledge of the disease was not accurate and very limited. His medical explanation was based on humoral theory and Miasma theory that Christians and Muslims in the Mediterranean World shared. De Mussi's account that Caffa was a principal starting point for the disease to spread to Western Europe is not sufficiently supported by other contemporary documents. Byzantine chronicles and Villani's chronicle consider not Caffa but Tana as a starting point.
In conclusion, most of his account of the disease are not true. However, we can not say that he did not intentionally lie, and we may draw a conclusion that his explanation was made under scientific limits and religious prejudice or intolerance of the medieval Christian world.
Key Words: the Black Death, Mussis, Caffa, Genoa, the Mongols, Black Sea, humoral theory
주요어: 흑사병, 무시스, 카파, 제노바, 몽골, 흑해, 체액 이론
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