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God of medicine, healing, rejuvenation and physicians
""Asklepios - Epidauros.jpg
Symbol "Serpent-entwined staff
Personal information
Consort "Epione
Children "Hygeia, "Iaso, "Aceso, "Aglaea, "Panacea, "Machaon, "Podalirius, "Telesphoros, Aratus
Parents "Apollo and "Coronis
Siblings "half-siblings of Asclepius
Roman equivalent "Vejovis

Asclepius ("/æsˈklpiəs/; "Greek: Ἀσκληπιός, Asklēpiós "[asklɛːpiós]; "Latin: Aesculapius) was a hero and god of "medicine in ancient "Greek religion and "mythology. Asclepius represents the healing aspect of the medical arts; his daughters are "Hygieia ("Hygiene", the goddess/personification of health, cleanliness, and sanitation), "Iaso (the goddess of recuperation from illness), "Aceso (the goddess of the healing process), "Aglæa/Ægle (the goddess of the glow of good health), and "Panacea (the goddess of universal remedy). He was associated with the Roman/Etruscan god "Vediovis and the Egyptian "Imhotep.[1] He was one of "Apollo's sons, sharing with Apollo the epithet Paean ("the Healer").[2] The "rod of Asclepius, a snake-entwined staff, remains a symbol of medicine today. Those physicians and attendants who served this god were known as the "Therapeutae of Asclepius.



The etymology of the name is unknown. In his revised version of "Frisk's Griechisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (Greek Etymological Dictionary), "R. S. P. Beekes gives this summary of the different attempts:

"H. Grégoire (with R. Goossens and M. Mathieu) in Asklépios, Apollon Smintheus et Rudra 1949 (Mém. Acad. Roy. de Belgique. Cl. d. lettres. 2. sér. 45), explains the name as 'the mole-hero', connecting σκάλοψ, ἀσπάλαξ '"mole' and refers to the resemblance of the Tholos in "Epidauros and the "building of a mole. (Thus "Puhvel, Comp. Mythol. 1987, 135.) But the variants of Asklepios and those of the word for 'mole' do not agree.
The name is typical for Pre-Greek words; apart from minor variations (β for π, αλ(α) for λα) we find α/αι (a well known variation; Fur. 335–339) followed by -γλαπ- or -σκλαπ-/-σχλαπ/β-, i.e. a "voiced velar (without -σ-) or a "voiceless velar (or an "aspirated one: we know that there was no distinction between the three in the "substr. language) with a -σ-. I think that the -σ- renders an original "affricate, which (prob. as δ) was lost before the -γ- (in Greek the group -σγ- is rare, and certainly before another consonant).
"Szemerényi's etymology ("JHS 94, 1974, 155) from "Hitt. assula(a)- 'well-being' and piya- 'give' cannot be correct, as it does not explain the "velar."[3]

Beekes suggested a "Pre-Greek proto-form *Atyklap-.[4]


Asclepius was the son of Apollo, either by "Coronis, daughter of "Phlegyas or by "Arsinoe,[5] daughter of "Leucippus of "Messenia. He was the brother of "Eriopis.[6][7]

Asclepius was married to "Epione, with whom he had five daughters: "Hygieia, "Panacea, "Aceso, "Iaso, and "Aglaea,[8][9] and three sons: "Machaon, "Podaleirios and "Telesphoros. He also sired a son, Aratus, with Aristodama.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15]

Roman coin from Odessos showing Asclepius with Hygieia on one side and Gordian III’s portrait on the other side (35mm, 28g)



He was the son of Apollo and, according to the earliest accounts, a mortal woman named Coronis.[16] His mother was killed for being unfaithful to Apollo and was laid out on a funeral pyre to be consumed, but the unborn child was rescued from her womb. Or, alternatively, his mother died in labor and was laid out on the pyre to be consumed, but Apollo rescued the child, cutting him from Coronis's womb.[17]

Education and adventures[edit]

Apollo carried the baby to the "centaur "Chiron who raised Asclepius and instructed him in the art of medicine.[18] It is said that in return for some kindness rendered by Asclepius, a snake licked Asclepius's ears clean and taught him secret knowledge (to the Greeks snakes were sacred beings of wisdom, healing, and resurrection). Asclepius bore a rod wreathed with a snake, which became associated with healing. A species of non-venomous pan-Mediterranean serpent, the "Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) is named for the god.

Asclepius (center) arrives in "Kos and is greeted by "Hippocrates (left) and a citizen (right), "mosaic, 2nd–3rd century AD

Asclepius became so proficient as a healer that he surpassed both Chiron and his father, Apollo. Asclepius was therefore able to evade death and to bring others back to life from the brink of death and beyond. This caused an influx of human beings and Zeus resorted to killing him to maintain balance in the numbers of the human population.

At some point, Asclepius was among those who took part in the "Calydonian Boar hunt.


Asclepios with his daughter Hygieia

"Zeus killed Asclepius with a thunderbolt because he brought "Hippolytus back from the dead and accepted gold for it.[19]

Other stories say that Asclepius was killed because, after bringing people back from the dead, Hades thought that no more dead spirits would come to the underworld. Because of this, he asked his brother Zeus to stop him. This angered Apollo who in turn killed the "Cyclopes who made the thunderbolts for Zeus.[20] For this act, Zeus suspended Apollo from the night sky[21] and commanded Apollo to serve "Admetus, King of "Thessaly for a year. Once the year had passed, Zeus brought Apollo back to Mount Olympus and revived the Cyclopes that made his thunderbolts.[15][22] After Asclepius's death, Zeus placed his body among the stars as the constellation "Ophiuchus ("the Serpent Holder").[23]

Some sources["citation needed] also stated that Asclepius was later resurrected as a god by Zeus to prevent any further feuds with Apollo. It was also claimed that Asclepius was instructed by Zeus to never revive the dead without his approval again.

Sacred places and practices[edit]

Majestic Zeus-like facial features of Asclepius (Melos)

The most ancient and the most prominent asclepieion according to the geographer of the 1st century. B.C. Strabo, was situated in "Trikala.[24] One of the most famous temples of Asclepius was at "Epidaurus in north-eastern "Peloponnese, dated to the fourth century BC.[25] Another famous healing temple (or "asclepieion) was built approximately a century later on the island of "Kos,[25] where "Hippocrates, the legendary "father of medicine", may have begun his career. Other asclepieia were situated in "Gortys (in Arcadia), and "Pergamum in "Asia.

From the fifth century BC onwards,[26] the cult of Asclepius grew very popular and pilgrims flocked to his healing temples ("Asclepieia) to be cured of their ills. Ritual purification would be followed by offerings or sacrifices to the god (according to means), and the supplicant would then spend the night in the holiest part of the sanctuary – the abaton (or adyton). Any dreams or visions would be reported to a priest who would prescribe the appropriate therapy by a process of interpretation.[27] Some healing temples also used sacred dogs to lick the wounds of sick petitioners.[28] In honor of Asclepius, a particular type of non-venomous snake was often used in healing rituals, and these snakes — the "Aesculapian Snakes — slithered around freely on the floor in dormitories where the sick and injured slept. These snakes were introduced at the founding of each new temple of Asclepius throughout the classical world.

The original "Hippocratic Oath began with the invocation "I swear by Apollo the Physician and by Asclepius and by Hygieia and Panacea and by all the gods …".[28]

Asclepius – a fragment of mosaic bathroom in "Kyustendil ("Bulgaria), author Nikolai Zikov

Some later religious movements claimed links to Asclepius. In the 2nd century AD "the controversial miracle-worker Alexander claimed that his god "Glycon, a snake with a "head of linen"[29] was an incarnation of Asclepius. The Greek language "rhetorician and "satirist "Lucian produced the work "Alexander the False Prophet to denounce the swindler for future generations. He described Alexander as having a character "made up of lying, trickery, perjury, and malice; [it was] facile, audacious, venturesome, diligent in the execution of its schemes, plausible, convincing, masking as good, and wearing an appearance absolutely opposite to its purpose."[29] In Rome, the "College of Aesculapius and Hygia was an association ("collegium) that served as a "burial society and "dining club that also participated in "Imperial cult.

The botanical genus "Asclepias (commonly known as milkweed) is named after him and includes the medicinal plant A. tuberosa or "Pleurisy root".

Asclepius was depicted on the "reverse of the Greek 10,000 "drachmas banknote of 1995–2001.[30]


  1. ^ Pinch, Geraldine (2002-01-01). Handbook of Egyptian Mythology. ABC-CLIO. "ISBN "9781576072424. 
  2. ^ Mitchell-Boyask, p. 141
  3. ^ Greek etymology database (online source requires login and is located at iedo.brillonline.nl). Originally: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 2009-04-11.  Also in: "R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 151.
  4. ^ "R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. xxv.
  5. ^ "Pausanias. Description of Greece 2.26.6 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the "public domain.
  6. ^ "Scholia on "Pindar, Pythian Ode, 3. 14
  7. ^ "Hesiod. Catalogue of Women, 63
  8. ^ Greek Lyric V Anonymous, Fragments 939 (Inscription from Erythrai) (trans. Campbell) (BC)
  9. ^ a b Suidas s.v. Epione (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon 10th century AD)
  10. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.29.1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue 2nd century AD)
  11. ^ Homer, Iliad 4.193 and 217ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic 8th century BC)
  12. ^ Homer, Iliad 11.518ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic 8th century BC)
  13. ^ Homer, Iliad 2.730ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic 8th century BC)
  14. ^ Lycophron, Alexandra 1047ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet 3rd century BC)
  15. ^ a b Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4.71.3 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian 1st century BC)
  16. ^ Edelstein, Ludwig and Emma Edelstein. Asclepius: a Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies. Vol. II. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1998. pg. 68
  17. ^ NIH U.S. National Library of Medicine
  18. ^ Pindar, Pythian Ode 3.5ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric 5th century BC)
  19. ^ Philodemus, On Piety (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV Stesichorus Frag. 147 and Cinesias Frag. 774) (7th to 6th centuries BC)
  20. ^ Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3.121 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer 2nd century AD)
  21. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4.610ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic 3rd century BC)
  22. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae, 49 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer 2nd century AD)
  23. ^ Hyginus, Astronomica 2.14 (Latin Mythography 2nd century AD)
  24. ^ "Asclepeion of ancient Trikki | Municipality of Trikala". Municipality of Trikala. 
  25. ^ a b Edelstein, Ludwig and Emma Edelstein. Asclepius: a Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies. Vol. 2. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1998. pg. 243
  26. ^ Wickkiser, Bronwen. Asklepios, Medicine, and the Politics of Healing in Fifth-century Greece: Between Craft and Cult. Johns Hopkins Press, 2008. pg. 106
  27. ^ Sigerist 1987, pp. 63ff
  28. ^ a b Farnell, Chapter 10, "The Cult of Asklepios" (pp.234–279)
  29. ^ a b Lucian, Alexander the False Prophet (trans A.M. Harmon) (Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library, 1936), Lucian, vol IV. Accessible online at http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/lucian/lucian_alexander.htm
  30. ^ Bank of Greece. Drachma Banknotes Archived 11 July 2010 at the "Wayback Machine.. 10,000 drachma note (pdf) Archived 11 June 2011 at the "Wayback Machine. – Retrieved on 26 July 2010.


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