Reading about the Plague of Athens in The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, I was struck by this question.

The plague killed an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 people in a city full of famous people, but I can only cite Pericles as a loss, along his wife and their two sons, Paralus and Xanthippus, and according to Plutarch, his sister too.

Did any other known people die during that plague?

By famous or known I mean someone whose name has been recorded with at least some deeds or profession. It may be a philosopher, an artist, a politician or a general, or someone related. This means that Myrtis is discarded.

I already checked Wikipedia category 430 BC deaths onwards until 426 BC, with no results.

  • 1
    It is, in fact, a bit odd that Thucydides, while giving an extensive description of the plague and saying that many died, including medical personnel, does not mention that Pericles was among the victims. Plutarch says so in his biography of Pericles, but he lived 500 years later.
    – 0range
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 14:32
  • @0range You're right. Thucydides adresses Pericles' death in 2.65.6, but doesn't mention the cause. I was this close to quote the 1st paragraph of his description of the plague, but it didn't add anything to the question and it was just too eerie.
    – Brasidas
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 15:54

1 Answer 1


I think the answer is that, failing the discovery of a new primary source, we will never know.

Considering the sheer human cost of the Plague of Athens, its footprint in ancient literature does seem somewhat shallow (although who knows which texts have been lost over the centuries). For instance, one might consider the Plague and its effects on the people and society of ancient Athens and Attica to have been an example worthy of politico-philosophical discussion, but Plato mentions plague just once and even there not the Plague of Athens specifically: '... once she even put off the plague for ten years by telling the Athenians what sacrifices to make.' (Symposium, 201d) He also mentions the recent death of Pericles (Gorgias 503e), but not its cause. One should note though that Plato doesn't mention other momentous contemporary events, e.g. the Sicilian Expedition.

You may wish to take a look at 'The Plague of Thebes, a Historical Epidemic in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex'.

However, we can of course speculate. For instance, it is conceivable that Herodotus died of the Plague (Wikipedia). The following people also died around the time of Plague (Wikipedia):

  • Ion of Chios
  • Protagoras
  • Stesimbrotos of Thasos

(Anaxagoras, who spent much of his life in Athens, died c. 428 but in Lampsacus in the Troad and thus could not have died of the Plague of Athens.)

My methodology for searching through the works of Plato: I used the index of Plato: Complete Works edited by John M. Cooper (Hackett, 1997) to look for references to plague, Pericles and Sicily. I didn't check the works of other philosophers or ancient writers, although some (quick) online searches didn't turn up anything.


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