During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, in 165 A.D., a dreadful epidemic swept through the Roman Empire. An estimated one-quarter to one-third of the population died during the 15-year ordeal. Nearly a century later, a second great plague came to Rome. Bishop Dionysius described the events in Alexandria:
At the first onset of the disease, they [pagans] pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape.
The early church made its mark during this period, caring for and nursing the sick. According to one historian, through this “miracle working” of basic nursing, Christians may have reduced the mortality in Rome by as much as two-thirds.
So, it is no surprise that as ...