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Aesculapius

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Aesculapius

For other uses, see Asclepius (disambiguation).

Asclepius
Template:Larger
Symbol A serpent-entwined staff
Consort Epione
Parents Apollo and Coronis
Children Hygieia (daughter)
Iaso (daughter)
Aceso (daughter)
Aglaea (daughter)
Panacea (daughter)
Meditrina (daughter)
Machaon (son)
Podalirius (son)
Telesphoros (son)
Aratus (son)
Roman equivalent Aesculapius

Asclepius (/æsˈklpiəs/; Greek: Ἀσκληπιός Asklēpiós [asklɛːpiós]; Latin Aesculapius) is the god of medicine and healing in ancient Greek religion. 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 beauty, splendor, glory, magnificence, and adornment), and Panacea (the goddess of universal remedy). He was associated with the Roman/Etruscan god Vediovis. 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.

Etymology

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 Beekes Pre-Greek.
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]

One might add that even though Szemerényi's etymology (Hitt. asula- + piya-) does not account for the velar, it is perhaps inserted spontaneously in Greek due to the fact that the cluster -sl- was uncommon in Greek: So, *Aslāpios would become Asklāpios automatically.

Mythology

Birth

He was the son of Apollo and Coronis. 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 his father rescued the child, cutting him from her womb. From this he received the name Asklepios, "to cut open."[4] Apollo carried the baby to the centaur Chiron who raised Asclepius and instructed him in the art of medicine.[5]

Wives and offspring

Asclepius was married to Epione, with whom he had six daughters: Hygieia, Meditrina (the serpent-bearer), Panacea, Aceso, Iaso, and Aglaea,[6][7] and three sons: Machaon, Podaleirios and Telesphoros. He also sired a son, Aratus, with Aristodama. The names of his daughters each rather transparently reflect a certain subset of the overall theme of "good health".[7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

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

Death

Zeus killed Asclepius with a thunderbolt because he raised Hippolytus from the dead and accepted gold for it.[14] 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, so he asked his brother Zeus to remove him. This angered Apollo who in turn murdered the Cyclopes who had made the thunderbolts for Zeus.[15] For this act, Zeus suspended Apollo from the night sky[16] 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.[13][17] After Asclepius' death, Zeus placed his body among the stars as the constellation Ophiuchus ("the Serpent Holder").[18]

Some sources also stated that Asclepius was later resurrected as a god by Zeus to prevent any further feuds with Apollo.

Sacred places and practices

Greek deities
series
Primordial deities
Titans and Olympians
Aquatic deities
Chthonic deities
Personified concepts
Other deities

The most famous temple of Asclepius was at Epidaurus in north-eastern Peloponnese. Another famous healing temple (or asclepieion) was located on the island of Kos, where Hippocrates, the legendary "father of medicine", may have begun his career. Other asclepieia were situated in Trikala, Gortys (in Arcadia), and Pergamum in Asia.

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. From about 300 BC onwards, 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.[19] Some healing temples also used sacred dogs to lick the wounds of sick petitioners.[20]

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 ..."[20]


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"[21] 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."[21] Justin Martyr, a philosophical defender of Christianity who wrote around 160 AD claimed that the myth of Asclepius foreshadowed rather than served as a source for claims of Jesus's healing powers.[22] 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.[23]

Popular culture

  • In the short story "The Two Temples" by Herman Melville, the narrator, hired by a lady as a personal physician, describes his job as "the post of private Æsculapius and knightly companion."

Notes

References

  • Farnell, Lewis Richard. Greek Hero Cults and Ideas of Immortality, (Oxford Clarendon Press,1921).
  • Grimal, Pierre, "Asclepius" pp. 62–63
  • Hart, Gerald D. MD. Asclepius: The God of Medicine (Royal Society of Medicine Press, 2000)
  • Mitchell-Boyask, Robin, Plague and the Athenian Imagination: Drama, History and the Cult of Asclepius, Cambridge University Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-521-87345-1.
  • Riethmüller, Jürgen W. Asklepios : Heiligtümer und Kulte, Heidelberg, Verlag Archäologie und Geschichte, 2005, ISBN 3-935289-30-8

External links

  • Template:Sister-inline
  • Warburg Institute Iconographic Database (ca 100 images of Asclepius)

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