Where it originated, is anyone's guess. Some believe it is a 21,000 year old zoonosis, meaning it was transferred from animal to human. Then there are others that believe the spirochete, (the bacteria that look like a corkscrew), came from the New World with Christopher Columbus, stowed away deep in the bowels of the Mayflower, as it returned to Europe crossing the Atlantic.
The new infection was so terrifying in the middle ages people shunned it, not wanting to even look at the victim, who would probably be dying in agony in the middle of the street, with their gaping, oozing open sores and rotting flesh. They were usually left alone in their own delirium, locked away in some sanitarium, mental institution or prison.
In contrast to the disease's slow and well mannered progress today, fifteenth century syphilis turned a healthy person into a leprous-looking mess in a couple of weeks and buried him or her within a year. — Canadian Science Writer, Andrew Nikiforunk
It was in 1495, when the first recorded outbreak occurred in Europe after King Charles VIII of France invaded the city of Naples. Prostitutes were known to follow his troupes, infecting the men. Since his men were a paid army, after the war they returned to their hometowns, carrying with them the disease. It didn't take long to make the connection between sex and syphilis and a major outbreak to begin.
From then on, it was considered the sin disease and was God's punishment for promiscuity, even finding a cure was considered a sin by early Christians. Religion taught the only cure from catching the disease was abstaining from immoral sexual activity.
Wasn't it much like how HIV/AIDS was treated in the early 80's. Let's hope it doesn't happen with Ebola, but then again, Ebola is air borne, not a sexually transmitted disease.
Funny how life has a way of repeating itself.