Description In the peaceful hinterland of Epidaurus, with its mild climate and abundant mineral springs, is the sanctuary of the god-physician Asklepios, the most famous healing centre of the Greek and Roman world. The sanctuary belonged to the small coastal town of Epidaurus, but its fame and recognition quickly spread beyond the limits of the Argolid. It is considered the birthplace of medicine and is thought to have had more than two hundred dependent spas in the eastern Mediterranean. Its monuments, true masterpieces of ancient Greek art, are a precious testimony to the practice of medicine in antiquity. Indeed they illustrate the development of medicine from the time when healing depended solely on the god until systematic description of cases and the gradual accumulation of knowledge and experience turned it into a science. The area was devoted to the cult of healing deities since Prehistory. A Mycenaean sanctuary dedicated to a healing goddess stands on the Kynortion hill, northeast of the theatre. It was founded in the sixteenth century BC over the remains of a settlement of the Early and Middle Bronze Age (2800-1800 BC), and functioned until the eleventh century BC. Unlike other sanctuaries of this period, it is unusually large. This early sanctuary was replaced c. 800 BC by another, dedicated to Apollo, a god with healing abilities, worshipped here as Apollo Maleatas. The worship of Asklepios, the sanctuary's main healing god, traditionally considered as the indigenous son of Apollo and Koronis, granddaughter of Malos, king of Epidaurus, was established in the sixth century BC. Asklepios, protector of human health and personal happiness, was a very popular deity with an ever-increasing number of worshippers. The sanctuary at Kynortion was quickly overwhelmed by a great number of visitors, so a new sanctuary was founded in the plain, approximately one kilometre northwest of Kynortion Hill, on the site where, according to the myth, Asklepios was born. The two sanctuaries, one dedicated to Apollo Maleatas and the other to Asklepios, were subsequently known under the common name of 'Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas and Asklepios'. The new sanctuary developed around the Sacred Well, which was later incorporated into the portico of the Abaton, and in the area of Building E, where the first ash altar and the site of ritual feasting were located. The well played an important role in the healing process, which included cleansing and enkoimesis, or hypnosis, of the patients near its waters. The enkoimesis emulated the periodical death and rebirth of divine powers after they returned inside the earth - the source of life. The god appeared to a patient during his enkoimesis, which corresponded to periodic death, advising him on the treatment he should follow.
Published on Feb 12, 2014