Great Job, Internet!: This map of nicknames for syphilis is why world wars happen
There’s a core debate among historians as to the origins of syphilis, coming down to whether Columbian imperialists contracted it in the Americas and brought it back to Europe, or if it existed, undiagnosed, in various forms throughout the world before that. However, it first spread upon their return in the late 1490s and early 1500s, starting in Naples, Italy, and then spreading swiftly throughout Europe. It was also a sort of hyper-syphilis, much more dangerous than it is currently. As Jared Diamond describes it in the Pulitzer-winning ethnography Guns, Germs, And Steel:
[W]hen syphilis was first definitely recorded in Europe in 1495, its pustules often covered the body from the head to the knees, caused flesh to fall from people’s faces, and led to death within a few months.
It wasn’t called “syphilis” until the poet Girolamo Fracastoro penned “Syphilis Or The French Disease.” As …