More than 2,000 years ago, a plague gripped the Greek city of Athens. Ultimately, as much as a third of the population succumbed and the devastation, which helped Sparta gain the upper hand in the nearly 30-year-long war between the city-states. That much Thucydides--an ancient historian, general in the war and plague victim who recovered--conveys in his History of the Peloponnesian War. But he did not leave a precise enough description to decide definitively whether the disease was bubonic plague, smallpox or a host of other ailments. Now DNA collected from teeth in an ancient burial pit points to typhoid fever.
Typhus has been identified in the past as a top contender, as it has been on Indiana's Asclepion page, dedicated to the study of ancient medicine. Be on the look out for new articles supporting or refuting the findings in your favorite journals. And who knows ... maybe today we'll even see it in blogs.