ASCLÊPIUS - ASKLÎPIÓS - ΑΣΚΛΗΠΙΟΣ
Pencil sketch of the marble sculpture of Asclepius in the Chiaramonti Museum in the Vatican, sketch released to the Public Domain.
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ORPHIC HYMN TO ASKLÎPIÓS (trans. by the author)

67. Asklipiós, incense, mánna.

Asklipiós healer of all, master physician,   1

You charm the many pains, misery, and disease of man,
Soothing, doughty one, come bring back health,
And end my maladies and the strident certainty of death.
Oh life-giving Boy, averter of ills, blessed one!   

You charm the many pains, misery, and disease of man,

Soothing, doughty one, come bring back health,

And end my maladies and the strident certainty of death.

Oh life-giving Boy, averter of ills, blessed one!   5
Mighty honored son of Phívos Apóllôn,
Foe of disease, perfect ally of Yyíeia,

Mighty honored son of Phívos Apóllôn,

Foe of disease, perfect ally of Yyíeia,

Come, happy one, savior, lead my life to a fortunate end.

 

Asklîpiós - (Asclepius; Gr. Ἀσκληπιός, ΑΣΚΛΗΠΙΟΣ. Pronounced: ahs-klee-pee-OHS.)

Asklîpiós is an important deity of Ællînismόs (Hellenismos, Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion. He was one of the Argonáftai (Argonauts, Ἀργοναῦται) and a great God of medicine and healing. Asklîpiós is listed in the Hippocratic Oath second only to Apóllôn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων):

"I SWEAR by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius, and Health (Ὑγεία), and All-heal (Πανάκεια), and all the Gods and Goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath..." (trans. Francis Adams).

According to the mythology, Asklîpiós is the son of Apóllôn and the Trikkaian princess Korônís (Coronis, Κορωνίς), but there are conflicting stories:

"This oracle most clearly proves that Asclepius was not the son of Arsinoë but that Hesiod or one of Hesiod's interpolators composed the verses to please the Messenians.

“Some say (Asclepius) was the son of Arsinoë, others of Coronis. But Asclepiades says that Arsinoë was the daughter of Leucippus, Perieres' son, and that to her and Apollo, Asclepius and a daughter, Eriopis, were born:

'And she bare in the palace Asclepius, leader of men, and Eriopis with the lovely hair, being subject in love to Phoebus (Ἀπόλλων).'

“And of Arsinoë likewise:

'And Arsinoë was joined with the son of Zeus (Ζεύς) and Leto (Λητώ) and bare a son Asclepius, blameless and strong.' " [1]

 

The deification of Asklîpiós

The mother of Asklîpiós, Korônís, died in childbirth. Apóllôn saved the child by cutting him from the womb, hence his name Asklîpiós, "to cut open."  He was raised by Kheirôn (Chiron, Χείρων), the wise Kǽndavros (Centaur, Κένταυρος), who taught him the art of medicine. According to a familiar version of his mythology, Asklîpiós became such a skilled physician that he brought a dead man back to life, causing Aidônéfs (Aidôneus = Pluto = Hades, Ἀϊδωνεύς) to complain to Zefs (Ζεύς). In response to this objection, Zefs then killed Asklîpiós with a thunderbolt, resulting in his deification.  

 

The daughters and sons of Asklîpiós

Asklipiós is the husband of Ipiónî (Epionê, Ἠπιόνη) by whom he has six daughters:

Agläía (Aglaea or Aegle, Ἀγλαΐα) "Radiance of Health"
Akæsóh (Akesô, Ἀκεσώ) "Healing"
Yyeia (Hygeia, Ὑγεία) "Good Health"
Iasóh (Iasô, Ἰασώ) "Remedy"
Panákeia (Panacea, Πανάκεια) "All-Healing"

Asklîpiós also has sons:

Makháôn (Makhaon, Μαχάων) and Podaleirios (Podalirius, Ποδαλείριος), Greek surgeons during the siege of Troy. 

According to Pafsanías (Pausanias, Παυσανίας), Asklîpiós had a son named Áratos (Aratus, Ἄρατος) by Aristodáma (Aristodama, Ἀριστοδάμα).

There is a God mentioned as a son of Asklîpiós, Tælæsphóros (Telesphorus, Τελεσφόρος) [Ἑλλάδος Περιήγησις Παυσανίου, Book 2 Ἀργολίς 11.7]. The name Tælæsphóros means "he who brings completion" because he is the recovery from illness. Tælæsphóros is represented in iconography as a dwarf wearing a hood or cap.  

 

The cult of Asklîpiós

Although Asklîpiós enjoyed cultus throughout the ancient world, his principal shrine was at Æpídavros (Epidaurus, Επίδαυρος). Temples of Asklîpiós were great centers of healing and were known as Asklîpieion (Asklêpion, Ἀσκληπιεῖον. Pronounced: ahs-klee-pee-EE-ohn).

At these hospices, patients would be treated by priests known as Asklipiádæ (Asklepiadae, Ἀσκληπιάδαι. plural) [2]. The title Asklîpiádis (Asklêpiades, Ἀσκληπιάδης. singular) means "son of Asklîpiós," hence it is the name for a physician/priest of Asklîpiós. The method of healing at these temples involved dreams the patient had while visiting; these dreams were interpreted by the priests, and usually the cure was suggested in the dream. The practice of dream interpretation is known as oneirokrisía (oneirocrisia, ὀνειροκρισία), but such techniques would have been specialized for medicine and for the cult of the God.

The sanctuaries kept a species of harmless snakes, Asklîpian snakes (Elaphe longissima). So greatly loved was Asklîpiós and his healing temples that this snake can be found all over Europe, far beyond its native region in the south.

 

Asklîpiós in iconography

In iconography, Asklîpiós is depicted as a benevolent, noble, mature, and usually bearded man, wearing a long robe, his chest exposed either entirely or half-way. He holds the Asklîpian at his side, a staff with a serpent entwined. The sketch at the top of this page is based on the sculpture, a Roman copy of a Greek original, from the hall of the Braccio Nuovo in the Vatican. Beyond the beauty of this statue, it is notable for two reasons: the sculpture portrays Asklîpiós as a young and beardless man; the second point of interest is the Orphic egg at his foot.

There is a story in Sparta of a sick boy who had a dream of Asklîpiós. The God appeared to the boy dressed in arms, riding a horse and bearing a sword. Asklîpiós exclaimed to the boy, "I am in a great hurry as I go to fight for the Spartans! I shall heal you when I return." The boy was later healed of his malady. The Spartans then worshiped Asklîpiós as a warrior. Hence, this unusual representation of the God.

Philóstratos (Φλάβιος Φιλόστρατος) about Asklîpiós in his book about Apollóhnios of Týana: 

"And he (Ἀπολλώνιος) replied: 'I can advise you of what, under the circumstances, will be most valuable to you; for I suppose you want to get well.'  'Yes, by Zeus,' answered the other (ed. a drunkard suffering from dropsy), 'I want the health which Asclepius promises, but never gives.'  'Hush,' said the other, 'for he gives to those who desire it, but you do things that irritate and aggravate your disease..." (Τὰ ἐς τὸν Τυανέα Ἀπολλώνιον Φιλόστρατου 1.9, trans. F. C. Conybeare, 1912.)

 

HOMERIC HYMN TO ASKLÎPIÓS [3]

     I BEGIN to sing of Asclepius, son of Apollo and healer of sicknesses. In the Dotian plain fair Coronis, daughter of King Phlegyas, bare him, a great joy to men, a soother of cruel pangs.

     And so hail to you, lord: in my song I make my prayer to thee!

 

NOTES:

[1] Γυναικῶν Κατάλογος Ἡσιόδου 63, trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White, 1914.

[2] Ἀσκληπιάδης, singular; Ἀσκληπιάδαι, plural.

[3] trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-white, 1914.


The story of the birth of the GodsOrphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.
How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.


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The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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