This past week was a bit of a blur, work got in the way of my writing but hoping this coming week will be kinder and allow me do what I love. Today, I am going to continue with journey of my characters, so let’s head off to Epidauros.
Founded in the 6th Century BC, originally as a cult site for the God Apollo but by the 5th Century his son Asklepios, God of Healing and Medicine became the pre-eminent figure. Epidauros was the first ever health centre where people came seeking cures. An ‘abaton’ was built, a bit like a health retreat and hospital all in one. This was the starting point of western medicine where the healers would apply scientific knowledge of the time to help heal those who were sick. Asklepios was credited some of the more ‘miraculous’ cures. Dogs were allowed to wander in and about the abaton; it was said their saliva had curative powers. Snakes also had the freedom to roam about the site. We are all familiar with the medical symbol of the snakes entwined about a rod; ‘Caduceus’ which refers to Hermes the Messenger God. However, the ‘Rod of Asklepios’ has one snake twirled around a rod. There is contention as to which one should be considered as the icon.
Aklepios had five daughters but two have given us words which still relate today: Hygieia (Hygiene – the goddess of cleanliness, health and sanitation); Panacea (the goddess of universal remedy); he also had three sons, one of which was a healer for the Greeks in the story of the Iliad (Machaon). When patients were healed they would cast whatever part of their body that ailed them and offer it to the god. A museum on site houses these artefacts. There are moulds of legs, arms, breasts, heads, even whole babies!
Epidauros has an amazing theatre still used today. The acoustics are so impressive that if you sit at the back you can hear every word spoken or sung; even crumpling up paper can be heard. It is a magical place and if you can go it is worth the visit. One day I hope to go again.