When I think of modern-day epidemics – HIV/AIDS, meningitis, threats of H7N9 – I find it easy to feel like we are helpless, sitting vulnerable to the whims of nature and viral mutation.
But it’s easy to forget that we are not without defense. Disease has always plagued mankind. While we fear novel coronaviruses and polio raising its head, we should remember that far greater epidemics and pandemics have ravaged the Earth in the past two thousand years. Epidemics that have crippled the strongest armies, had a sizeable impact on the world’s population, and made their way onto the thrones of the most powerful nations. Click next to read the top 5 most terrible epidemics to have dismantled society – and which, thanks to vaccines, humans have overthrown from the seat of power