Quote: The victims ate lunch with their friends and dinner with their ancestors in paradise.

–Giovanni Boccaccio

In the 14th century an unusually virulent strain of plague spread across Asia and China. It had elements of both the bubonic plague (carried by fleas, particularly those which live on rats) and of the pneumonic variety, in which the plague bacilli are spread on the breath of infected victims. This lethal blend of infection made its way westwards through Asia around 1347 and by the autumn of that year affected Turkish tribes in the Crimea who were besieging Genoese (Italian) merchants in a fortified trading post at Caffa (a port now known as Feodisiya). As part of their siege strategy, the Turks engaged in one of history's most devastating acts of bombardment. Instead of using their heavy catapults to lob massive stones over the walls into Caffa, they loaded the siege engines with the corpses of plague victims. The terrified Genoese took to their ships, fleeing south through the Black Sea and home to Europe. Inevitably they took with them the plague. It would have continued its relentless spread westwards without the gruesome event but the infected cannonball corpses sped the disease in - and quickly turned into an incident which has been retold in history as the "Black Death". Sicily was the first to get hit, then Genoa and Venice. The black death spread through most of Europe the rest of the year. Even including the horrors of the 20th century, the Black Death is Europe's greatest disaster with one-third of its population dead.