Smallpox, the Spotted Plague
In 1521, the subjects of the Aztec empire numbered in the millions.
Incredibly, Hernan Cortes, with fewer than 600 troops, was able to topple
On 21 August, the Spaniards stomed the city, only to find that a greater
force had ensured their victorySMALLPOX!
In 1520, an expedition led by Panfilo de Narvaez arrived from Spanish
Cuba. Among the crew was a smallpox-infected slave. From this initial
infection, smallpox spread from village to village throughout the Yucatan.
Only the Aztecs died; the Spaniards were left unharmed. It was this
perceived superior power of the god the Spaniards worship that led the
Aztecs and other Amerindians to accept Christianity.
Twelve years later, another Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, led a
group of 168 soldiers and captured Atahualpa.
Smallpox had arrived in Peru by land in 1526, killing much of the Inca
population. When Pizarro landed on the coast of Peru in 1531, the stage
for the Inca conquest had already been set; the smallpox epidemic that
had preceded the conquistadors had weakened the Inca Empire, there was
civil war, and Atahualpa’s army was vulnerable and disarray.
Smallpox was an Old World disease to which the New world Amerindians
had never been exposed, and against which they had no immunity.
Over the centuries, smallpox had killed hundreds of millions of people.
*Smallpox is indiscriminate.
It has been suggested that in Europe the use of makeup began among
wealthy survivors in order to hide smallpox-induced scars on their faces.
A look back
It is suspected that humans acquired the infectious agent from one of the
pox-liked diseases of domesticated animals, in the earliest concentrated
agricultural settlements of Asia or Africa when humans began to
maintain herds of livestock, some time after 10,000 BC.