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Probably, one of the darkest hours of humanity was the period between 1333 and 1352, when the Black Death did its best to exterminate all of humankind in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Only Australia and the American continent, from what is now Canada to Argentina, were spared of the great disaster that the human race has ever seen and survived.
Nearly fifty percent of all humans perished in these years and in some regions, like Europe, its damage was so profound that the same levels of population that were common there were not attained again until the nineteenth century. The Black Death was a combination of three forms of bubonic plague, capable of killing a person in a period ranging from a couple of hours to a week.
For the medieval, average person, the cause of the terrible predicament was totally unexplainable: nobody knew why the plague appeared or when it would stop. Thus, people began looking for mystical answers and alleged cures which, of course, only worked long enough to keep their spirits high for a while, especially in cities that saw more than half their people die in just a couple of weeks.
One of the things that was believed to be the cause of the Black Death was sin in all its forms; and one of the sins was of course, gambling, especially dice games of various forms, which were commonplace in crowded streets and dark corners of every kind. In cities like Tournai, in France, gambling was strictly forbidden and dice manufacturers had indeed a low season, for a while.
Gambling was as it is now, an excellent way for authorities to collect taxes: for every dollar or euro won or lost, a significant portion goes to the state: back then it was the same. Therefore, as gambling was outlawed in one city after the other, and as citizens who paid taxes died, industries disappeared and crops were left uncared for, the vaults of the tax collectors got empty. There was no money for raising again the depleted armies required to keep some degree of law and order, or to pay physicians to stay put as the plague raged on.
As things went from bad to worse, supporters of moral and religious measures such as enforcing chastity, no gambling and so on attempted once more to gain the favour of God by tightening their control over the whole matter. So in some cities, such activities as dancing and playing dice were forbidden by decree for all eternity, and until the end of days. Surely enough, when Kings and Cardinals, the Pope and Nobles found out that, they tried to stop the economic suicide of their societies; thus, curiously enough, they decreed after the end of one year that the time until eternity had elapsed and so, everyone that lived after that date is or was in fact, alive after the official end of the world.
And so the dice just kept rolling... and will do so until the next day of reckoning, perhaps?
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