The Cult of Asclepius

Asclepius may have been a real person who lived sometime before 1200 BCE. Due to his great deeds, he was elevated to the rank of the deity. He was born in Epidaurus in Peloponnese (the southern tip of Greece). He and his followers, including Hippocrates and Galen, exerted great influence in the practice of medicine that was to dominate the Western world for nearly 3,000 years.

 As Asclepius became famous and his influence spread, he attracted a great number of followers which formed the Cult of Asclepius The Asclepiadae were priest-healers who practiced medicine in Greece and around the Mediterranean. They were a highly respected group in the society and were given many privileges. 

They built healing temples where the sick travelled to seek treatment. As time went on, the temples increased in sophistication and glamour . At the height of their glory, there were over 200 of such temples around the then known civilized world.

The most celebrated temple of Asclepius, or Asclepieion, was situated in Epidaurus, Peloponnese.

Cult (followers) of Asclepius. A sick child brought into the temple of Asclepius. John William Waterhouse, 1877.

 As patients came for treatment at the Asclepieion at Epidaurus, they took their offerings to the temple of Asclepius. 

They would then spend the night in the dormitory, where Asclepius would appear in their dreams and cure them of their sicknesses, or give advice on how their illnesses should be treated.

Asclepius appearing in the dream of the sick. Dream with Asclepius, Sebastiano Ricci 1720, Academy Gallery, Venice.