Today in the Middle Ages: December 21, 1494

The city of Naples reported an outbreak of a new disease on December 21, 1494 C.E. Its modern name: syphilis.

Current opinion is divided over whether syphilis was brought back from the New World or mutated from a disease known to ancient Europe. However, Naples became a proverbial center of infection, so much so that a Shakespeare character mocks another by asking him if he has just arrived from there.