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Asklepios

Ancient Greek mythology, religion and art

Asklepios (Ἀσκληπιός; Latin, Aesculapius or Asclepius), the Greek god of healing and son of Apollo. According to the Greek geographer Strabo, he was said to have been born in Trikka (Τρίκκα, today Trikala, Τρίκαλα), in western Thessaly. [1]

The mythical relationship between Asklepios and Apollo may have been associated with the latter's epiphet Paean (there are various Greek spellings, including Παιήων, Paion, healer, helper) and his function as the physician of the Olympian gods. Although Paean is thought by some scholars to have originally been a separate god, the name became associated with Apollo and later an epithet of Asklepios. In his epigram On a statue of Asklepios, the 3rd century BC Syracusan poet Theocritus refers to his doctor friend Nikias of Miletus as a "son of Paean". [2]

Doctors (Θεραπευταί, Therapeutai) were also referred to as "Sons of Asklepios" (Ἀσκληπιάδαι, Asklepiadai). The renowned physician Hippocrates of Kos (Ἱπποκράτης, circa 460-370 BC) practised at the asklepieion on the island of Thasos at the end of the 5th century BC (see below), and in the 2nd century AD Galen of Pergamon (Γαληνός, Galenos, circa 129-217 AD) began his distinguished career at the Pergamon Asclepieion. Nicomachos, the father of the philosopher Aristotle, was the personal physician of King Amyntas III of Macedonia, grandfather of Alexander the Great.

A sanctuary of Asklepios, known as an asklepieion (also asclepieion, asclepeion or asclepion; Greek, Ἀσκληπιεῖον, Asklepieion; Latin, aesculapium), usually included a temple and a healing centre. Many also had theatres and areas for the worship of associated deities such as his daughter Hygieia (Ὑγιεία, see photos below) and his son Telesphoros (Τελεσφόρος), who was usually depicted as a dwarf or small child (see photos below).

The largest, most famous and probably oldest asklepieion was at Epidauros (Ἐπίδαυρος, pronounced Epidavros in modern Greek) in the Argolid, northeastern Peloponnese, Greece (see photo below). The Asklepios cult appears to have spread around the Greek world from here from around the 5th century BC. Asklepieions were founded all around Greece, Macedonia, Thrace, Anatolia (East Greece, Asia Minor) and the Greek cities of Italy, including: Athens, Amphipolis, Thasos, Kos, Pergamon and Akragas (Agrigento, Sicily).

The cult of Asklepios had a mysterious and mystical association with snakes (as did those of other Greek deities such as Athena), many of which were kept at the sanctuaries. Therapy at the healing centres included the interpretation of dreams.

See the types of medical instruments used in antiquity in the photos below.

The spread of the cult of Asklepios and the establishment of such healing centres around the Greek world from the late Classical period had important practical aspects. The presence of an asklepieion in an ancient city was the equivalent of a modern hospital for its citizens. It was also a source of prestige as well as considerable income, particularly in the case of Epidauros and Pergamon, to which rich people came from far afield to be cured, and in return paid or donated as a religious offering large sums of money and other gifts.

Several locations since time immemorial had been thought of as especially beneficial for the treatment of diseases, due to particular local properties, such as their waters, and the traditional associations they had acquired with deities, nymphs and other supernatural beings. With the scientific advancements of medical theories in Classical and Hellenistic times, particularly at Alexandria in Egypt, the practice of medicine began to be systematized and standardized to a certain extent, and one could speak of a medical industry.

The profession of medicine at these centres was a male preserve, and it seems no accident that other healing deities, such as the health goddess Hygieia, came to be seen as subservient (sons and daughters) to Asklepios, who became the exemplary and primary divine master and patron of the healing arts. The new medical science of Hippocrates and the cult of Asklepios in many places replaced the more ancient local traditions.

In Greek and Roman art, Asklepios was usually represented at a mature man with uncombed beard and long hair, parted at the centre, a bare upper torso and right shoulder, with a himation (cloak) hanging from his left shoulder, wrapped around the waist and covering the lower torso and legs. Several surviving statues and fragments are similar to depictions of Zeus and Poseidon, making identification difficult in cases where the gods' other attributes (such as Zeus' thunderbolt or Poseidon's trident) have not been found. Asklepios usually leans on a staff or crutch, around which a snake is entwined. In some instances he stands next to the omphalos, a symbol of his father Apollo at Delphi.

Several ancient statues and heads of various types discovered since the Renaissance have been identified as depictions of Asklepios, although many of these identifications are uncertain. In a number of cases the so-called Asklepios statues now in museums are the result of restorations, often from parts of different ancient statues and with modern additions.

A remark by the 2nd century AD travel writer Pausanias indicates that even in antiquity there was much confusion about the identification of statues:

"At Panopeus there is by the roadside a small building of unburnt brick, in which is an image of Pentelic marble, said by some to be Asclepius, by others Prometheus. The latter produce evidence of their contention. At the ravine there lie two stones, each of which is big enough to fill a cart. They have the colour of clay, not earthy clay, but such as would be found in a ravine or sandy torrent, and they smell very like the skin of a man. They say that these are remains of the clay out of which the whole race of mankind was fashioned by Prometheus."

Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 10, chapter 4, section 4.

 
References to Asklepios
on My Favourite Planet
 

The Asclepieion archaeological site, Pergamon.
With photos and articles about Asklepios,
Hygeia, Telesphoros and Galen of Pergamon:

Pergamon gallery 1, page 35
 

The sanctuary of Asklepios and Hygieia,
on the South Slope of the Athens Acropolis:

Athens Acropolis gallery page 34

Detail of a statue of Asklepios from Epidauros, Greece at My Favourite Planet

Detail of a statue of Asklepios from the
Sanctuary of Asklepios, Epidauros, Greece.

See below.
 

Marble head of Asklepios from ancient Morrylos, Greece at My Favourite Planet

Marble head of Asklepios.

Late 4th century BC. From Ano Apostoloi,
Kilkis (Άνω Απόστολοι Κιλκίς; ancient
Morrylos, Μόρρυλος), Macedonia,
Greece. Height 39.5 cm.

The head may be from the cult statue
of the god at the sanctuary of Asklepios
in Morrylos.

Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum.
Inv. No. 1018.

See a statue of Asklepios
from Morrylos below
.
 

Bronze figurine of Asklepios, British Museum at My Favourite Planet

Bronze figurine of Asklepios.

Around 200-160 BC. Said to have
been found on a Greek island.

British Museum.
Inv. No. GR 1873.8-20.41 (Bronze 851).
 

The Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidauros from the theatre at My Favourite Planet

The Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidauros from the theatre.

The Sanctuary of Asklepios covers a large area in a broad valley, around 13 kilometres inland from the ancient port city of Epidauros (today, the seaside village Palaia Epidavros) in the Argolid, northeastern Peloponnese. Hardly one stone stands on another from the ancient buildings, apart from the large theatre, which according to Pausanias was designed by Polykleitos (perhaps the sculptor Polykleitos the Younger).

"The Epidaurians have a theatre within the sanctuary, in my opinion very well worth seeing. For while the Roman theaters are far superior to those anywhere else in their splendour, and the Arcadian theater at Megalopolis is unequalled for size, what architect could seriously rival Polycleitus in symmetry and beauty? For it was Polycleitus who built both this theater and the circular building (the tholos)."

Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 2, chapter 27, section 5. At Perseus Digital Library.

Built around 340-320 BC, it is one of the best preserved ancient Greek theatres and famous for its perfect acoustics. Its 34 rows of seating were extended to 55 during the Roman period, giving it a seating capacity of around 15,000. Ancient Greek drama is still performed here in the summer as part of the annual Athens and Epidaurus Festival.

Pausanias was also wrote that the cult statue of Asklepios in his temple in the sanctuary was chryselephantine (gold and ivory) and made by Thrasymedes of Paros (early 4th century BC). It depicted the god as enthroned, holding a staff and the head of a snake, and lying by his side was (of all creatures) a dog.

"The image of Asclepius is, in size, half as big as the Olympian Zeus at Athens, and is made of ivory and gold. An inscription tells us that the artist was Thrasymedes, a Parian, son of Arignotus. The god is sitting on a seat grasping a staff; the other hand he is holding above the head of the serpent; there is also a figure of a dog lying by his side. On the seat are wrought in relief the exploits of Argive heroes, that of Bellerophontes against the Chimaera, and Perseus, who has cut off the head of Medusa."

Description of Greece, Book 2, chapter 27, section 2.

The sanctuary is an important and atmospheric archaeological site, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has its own small museum, including inscriptions and architectural fragments, although many of the best artefacts (e.g. the statue of Asklepios and a statuette of Asklepios as young man, below) are now in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, where most are not even on display.
 
 

The sanctuary of Asklepios and Hygieia in Athens at My Favourite Planet

The sanctuary of Asklepios and Hygieia in Athens, below the walls of
the south side of the Acropolis, and directly beneath the Parthenon.

The Athenian Asklepieion, the sanctuary of Asklepios and his daughter Hygieia, was founded in 420/419 BC by Telemachos (Τηλέμαχος), an Athenian from the deme of Acharnai (Ἀχαρναί), west of the city. The sanctuary is located to the west of the Theatre of Dionysos, on the South Slope of the Acropolis, between the Peripatos circuit path around the foot of the Acropolis and the rock itself (see Athens Acropolis gallery page 34).

The sanctuary contained a small Ionic temple, an altar, a bothros (pit for sacrifices) and two halls: the abaton, a Doric stoa (see photo below) used as an incubation hall in which visitors slept and were cured by the god who appeared in their dreams; and the katagogion, an Ionic stoa which provided accommodation for the priests and visitors. The cleft in the rock behind the sanctuary contained a sacred spring.

Pausanias briefly mentioned the sanctuary when describing the way from the theatre to the Acropolis:

"The sanctuary of Asclepius is worth seeing both for its paintings and for the statues of the god and his children. In it there is a spring, by which they say that Poseidon's son Halirrhothius deflowered Alcippe the daughter of Ares, who killed the ravisher and was the first to be put on trial for the shedding of blood."

Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 1, chapter 21, section 4.
 
 

The Doric stoa of the sanctuary of Asklepios and Hygieia, Athens at My Favourite Planet

The sanctuary of Asklepios and Hygieia in Athens: reconstructed
columns and part of the entablature of the Doric stoa (abaton).
 

A votive relief dedicated by Lysimachides to Asklepios in Athens at My Favourite Planet

The votive relief of Lysimachides, a fragmentary marble relief
dedicated by Lysimachides (Λυσιμαχίδης) to Asklepios in Athens.

Late 4th century BC. Discovered in Autumn 1892 at the sanctuary
of Amynos, northwest of the Athens Acropolis and south of the
Areopagus hill. Pentelic marble. Height 73 cm, width 35 cm.

National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 3526.

Photo: © Konstanze Gundudis

The bearded male on the relief is thought to depict Lysimachides, although it has also been suggested that he may be Amynos. He is shown in profile facing left, bends forwards as if placing the colossal right leg he is holding with both hands in the sanctuary. The leg has a prominent vein, and he is either appealing to the god to heal his complaint, probably varicose veins, or the relief is an ex voto, dedicated in fulfilment of a vow to thank the deity for his cure. In a niche in the background stand two feet, perhaps previously dedicated to the god. Above the figure is part of the dedicatory inscription naming the man as Lysimachides, son of Lysimachos, from the deme of Acharnai (Ἀχαρναί), west of Athens.

— ο̣ιων τευξα — —
— ων σεμνοτάτην — —
[Λυσιμαχί]δης Λυσιμάχου Ἀχαρνε[ύς].

Inscription IG II(2) 4387.

See also the "Lysimachides relief" from Eleusis in Demeter and Persephone part 2.

Acharnai was also the deme of Telemachos, who founded the sanctuary of Asklepios and Hygieia beneath the Acropolis around a century earlier (see above).

Amynos (Ἄμυνος) was a local heroized or deified healer, who is not mentioned in the surviving works of ancient authors. His sanctuary, the Amyneion, became associated with the worship of Asklepios from at least the fourth century BC. The site included a small chapel, a well and a table for sacrifices, and the earliest finds are from the sixth century BC. Several other inscriptions and dedications found there, dating from the fourth to second centuries BC, are related to healing, including anatomical votives with depictions of various body parts. Some inscriptions show that the sanctuary was the meeting place of the sacrificing associates (orgeones) of Amynos, Asklepios and Dexion, while other dedications were to Amynos and Asklepios.

Following preliminary excavations by Wilhelm Dörpfeld in Autumn 1892, during which the relief was discovered, the sanctuary was more thoroughly excavated in early 1895 by Alfred Koerte. Among the many dedications discovered by Koerte was an inscribed stele, dated to the fourth century BC, dedicated by a woman named Mnesiptoleme on behalf of Dikaiophanes to Asklepios Amynos (see drawing, right). This led to debate over whether the cult of Amynos had been assimilated by that of Asklepios. Perhaps Amynos had gradually ceased to be worshipped as a separate deity, and his name had become an ephiphet of Asklepios.

The stele of bluish marble was found in the well of the sanctuary. It is in the form of a pillar with a cavatto capital (similar to the base of a statue by the sculptor Onatas). At the top the capital is a cutting (hole), 16.5 cm wide and 7.5 cm deep, for the attachment of the votive offering, perhaps a statue or a relief.

Total height of stele 118 cm. Shaft width bottom 25 cm, width top 23 cm, depth 17 cm. Capital width 32 cm, height 19 cm. Inscription letters 2 cm high.

The inscription on the capital:

Μνησιπτολέμη
ὑπὲρ Δικαιοφάνος
Ἀσκληπιῶι, Ἀμύνωι
ἀνέθηκε.

Mnesiptoleme on behalf of Dikaiophanes
dedicated (this) to Asklepios Amynos.

Inscription IG II(2) 4365.

See:

Jane Ellen Harrison (1850-1928), Primitive Athens as Described by Thucydides, "The Amyneion", pages 100-105. Cambridge University Press, 1906. At the Internet Archive.

Illustration right, Fig. 32, page 103. Inscription first published in Alfred Koerte, Das Heiligtum des Amynos (see below).

Alfred Koerte, Bezirk eines Heilgottes, in Mittheilungen des Kaiserlich Deutschen Archaeologischen Instituts, Athenische Abteilung, Band 18, pages 231-256, plate XI (votive relief of Lysimachides). Karl Wilberg, Athens, 1893. At the Internet Archive. The article includes extracts from Dörpfeld's report on the site.

Alfred Koerte, Das Heiligtum des Amynos, in Mittheilungen des Kaiserlich Deutschen Archaeologischen Instituts, Athenische Abteilung, Band 21, pages 287-332, Tafel XI (plan of sanctuary by Wilhelm Wilberg). Barth & von Hirst, Athens, 1896. At the Internet Archive.

So far I have found no information concerning the present location of the Mnesiptoleme pillar (the Epigraphical Museum, perhaps?). Although several recent publications have mentioned it, and particularly the inscription, none state where it is now kept or include a photo.
 

An inscribed stele dedicated to Asklepios Amynos in Athens at My Favourite Planet

A marble pillar from the
sanctuary of Amynos, with
a dedication to Asklepios
Amynos on the capital.
 

A decree honouring Phyleos, a priest of Asklepios at My Favourite Planet

A marble stele inscribed with a decree of the Athenian tribe
Hippothontis (Ἱπποθοντίς) honouring Phyleos (Φυλεος) son
of Chairias from Eleusis, who had been a priest of Asklepios
and successfully undertaken various public duties.

Around 288/287 BC.

Epigraphical Museum, Athens. Inv. No. EM 7714.
Inscription IG II² 1163.
 
 

Statue of Asklepios from the Sanctuary of Asklepios, Epidavros, Greece at My Favourite Planet

Statue of Asklepios from the
Sanctuary of Asklepios at
Epidauros, Peloponnese, Greece.

Pentelic marble. Circa 160 AD.
The statue belongs to the "Este type"
copies of a 4th century BC original.

National Archaeological Museum,
Athens. Inv. No. 263.
   

Statuette of young Asklepios from Epidauros at My Favourite Planet

Plaster cast of a marble statuette of
Asklepios as a beardless youth, from the
Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas, Epidauros.

Epidauros Archaeological Museum.

The original is in the
National Archaeological Museum,
Athens. Inv. No. NAMA 1809.
 
 

Marble statue of Asklepios in Berlin at My Favourite Planet

Restored marble statue of Asklepios.
2nd century AD. From Rome. [3]

Height 117.5 cm, with plinth 124.5 cm.
Height of head 19 cm.

Antikensammlung, Berlin State
Museums (SMB). Inv. No. Sk 71.

The room in the Pergamon Museum
in which it usually displayed is closed
until 2019 due to rebuilding work.
   

Statue of Asclepius in the Palazzo Altemps, National Museum of Rome at My Favourite Planet

Marble statue of Asklepios.

2nd century AD Roman copy of a Hellenistic Greek original. The right arm and snake-entwined staff are modern additions.

There were several places in Rome
dedicated to the cult of Asklepios,
including the Esquiline Hill and the
Tiber Island (see below).

Palazzo Altemps, National Museum
of Rome. Inv. No. 8645.
Boncampagni Ludovisi Collection.
 
 

A Giustini type statue of Asclepios in the Naples Archaeological Museum at My Favourite Planet

Marble statue of Asklepios of the "Giustini type",
named after a torso of the god now in the
Capitoline Museums, Rome [4].

Late 2nd century AD reworking of an early
4th century BC Greek original attributed to
Alkamenes. Found in the 16th century on the
Tiber Island, Rome, the location of the city's
first sanctuary of Asklepios (see below).

National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
Inv. No. 6360. Farnese Collection.
   

A Giustini type statue of Asclepios, Altes Museum, Berlin at My Favourite Planet

Restored marble statue of Asklepios
of the "Giustini type".

The Roman period head, mid 2nd century AD,
and the body are from separate statues.
Both have been extensively restored.
Purchased in Rome in 1766 by Ludovico
Bianconi for Friedrich II of Prussia. Height
with modern base (Carrara marble) 213.5 cm.

The Rotunda, Altes Museum, Berlin.
Inv. No. Sk 69.

See a 19th century copy of this statue
in Sanssouci, Potsdam below.
 
Marble statue of Asklepios, Istanbul Archaeological Museum at My Favourite Planet   Detail of the statue of Asclepius in Istanbul at My Favourite Planet

Marble statue of Asklepios of the "Giustini type", with the omphalos at his feet.

From Kabia (Καβαια) on the Sangarios river, Bythinia (Geyve, Sakarya province, Turkey).
Roman period, 1st century AD. Described on the museum label as "statue of male".

Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 4910 T.
 
Marble statuette of Asklepios of the Giustini-Neugebauer type at My Favourite Planet   Detail of the statuette of Asclepius from Achradine, Syracuse, Sicily at My Favourite Planet

Marble statuette of Asklepios of the "Giustini-Neugebauer type", with the omphalos at his feet.

From Syracuse (Greek, Συράκουσαι; Italian, Siracusa), Sicily.
Roman period, 2nd century AD, copy of an early 4th century BC
Greek original. Height 105.7 cm, with plinth 111.3 cm.

Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum, Syracuse, Sicily. Inv. No. 696.

Found on 7th December 1803 in the area of the so-called "Nymphaeum of Venus", near the hospital, in Achradine (Ἀχραδίνη, wild pear trees), a suburb of ancient Syracuse north of Ortygia, which contained the agora, a temple of Asklepios and temples of Demeter and Persephone (see Demeter and Persephone part 1). It was unearthed by the Catanian archaeologist and natural historian Saverio Landolina Nava (1743-1814), who was the Royal Custodian of Antiquities for the areas of Val Demone and Val di Noto in southeastern Sicily. His discovery of this statue and that of the "Venus Landolina" [5] just a month later, on 7th January 1804, excited local public interest in the ancient history of Syracuse and helped spur initiatives to form an archaeological museum in the city.

See: Santino Alessandro Cugno, Il collezionismo archeologico siracusano tra XVIII e XIX secolo e la nascita del primo Museo Civico, page 63. At academia.edu.
 
 

 
Marble statue of Asklepios from Kourion, Cyprus at My Favourite Planet

Marble statue of Asklepios, head
and lower right arm now missing.

2nd century AD. Excavated at Kourion
(Κούριον; Latin, Curium; modern Episkopi,
Επισκοπή) on the south coast of Cyprus.

Kourion Archaeological Museum, Episkopi.

Exhibited in the exhibition Cyprus - Eiland
in beweging
(Cyprus - a dynamic island),
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden,
11 October 2019 - 15 March 2020.
   
 

Part of a colossal statue of Asklepios from Ortygia, Syracuse at My Favourite Planet

Part of a colossal statue of Asklepios of the "Mouynchia type".

Luna marble (northern Italy). 1st - 2nd century AD, Roman period
copy of a 2nd century BC Hellenistic original. From the Isthmus
area of Ortygia, Syracuse, Sicily. Height 150 cm.

Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum, Syracuse, Sicily. Inv. No. 737.

The statue was found among other antiquities during the excavation of the Spanish Walls of Ortygia in 1560, and was kept until 1810 in the Castello Maniaca. Since the identity of the statue was unknown (Zeus, Poseidon, Hermes and Timoleon were suggested), it was named "Don Marmoreo". The Spanish inscription on the chest commemorates the dedication of the castle to Sant Iago (Saint James), and of the four angular towers to the patron saints of the city (Peter, Catherine, Philip and Lucia), as well as the granting of permission to fire cannon salvos during Sant Iago's festival.

A plaster cast is on display in the Castello Maniaca, Ortygia, Syracuse, made for the exhibition to celebrate the restoration of the castle in 2008. The construction process included cooperation between archaeologists and information technicians from Catania University to create a 3D model of the fragile sculpture using laser scanning techniques.
 
 

Unfinished bust of Asklepios or Serapis from the asclepieion, Delos at My Favourite Planet

Unfinished bust of Asklepios or Serapis from the Asklepieion of Delos.

Hellenistic period.

Delos Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. A 4023.

The Asklepios cult arrived at Delos around 100 years after it was established in Athens in 420 BC (see above). The Delian Asklepieion was built between the end of the 4th and the mid 3rd centuries BC, at the Bay of Fourni on the west coast of the island, quite a way south of the Sanctuary of Apollo and the residential areas. The area has not yet been thoroughly excavated, but ruins have been discovered of a propylon, an oikos, and a Doric tetrastyle temple.

There was also a small sanctuary for Esmun-Asklepios, one of the Syrian-Greek syncretic deities, including Baal-Poseidon and Astarte-Aphrodite, worshipped by a guild of merchants, shipowners and warehouse owners from Beirut, at their guildhouse, known as "the House of the Poseidoniastai of Beryttos" (or "Koinon of the Poseidoniasts of Beirut", first half of the 2nd century BC), north of the Sanctuary of Apollo. (See also a statue group of Aphrodite, Eros and Pan from the house, on the Pan page.)
 
 

Marble statuette of Asklepios from Ephesus at My Favourite Planet

Upper part of a marble statuette of Asklepios.

Roman period. Found in 1928 in the Vedius Gymnasium, Ephesus.
White crystalline marble. Height 36 cm, width 27 cm, depth 16 cm.

There is thought to have been an Asklepieion in Ephesus, although its
location has not yet been discovered (see Ephesus gallery page 62).
However, it is known that doctors such as Galen of Pergamon were
employed to treat gladiators (see Pergamon Gallery 1, page 35).

Izmir Museum of History and Art. Inv. No. 640.
 

 
Fragment of a marble statuette of Asklepios with a red himation at My Favourite Planet

Fragment of a marble statuette of Asklepios
with a red himation. The red colour may have
been a base for the application of gold leaf
(see the statuette from Corinth below).

2nd half of the 2nd century BC
after a model of the 4th century BC.
Height 40.5 cm, width 21 cm, depth 10.5 cm.

Found on the Dodecanese island of Kos,
one of the most important asklepieion
healing centres and the birthplace of the
most famous ancient Greek physician
Hippocrates (Ἱπποκράτης, circa 460-370 BC).

Skulpturensammlung, Albertinum, Dresden.
Inv. No. Hm 215 (formerly ZV 966). Purchased
in Munich in 1891 from a private individual.

See also a head of Asklepios from Kos below.
 

 
Marble statue of Asklepios from Thespiai, Boeotia at My Favourite Planet

Fragment of a marble statue of Asklepios
from the Asklepieion at Thespiai (Θεσπιαί),
Boeotia, central Greece.

Roman period, perhaps 2nd century BC.

Thebes Archaeological Museum.
 

A snake, a symbol of Asklepios, on an imago clipeata from Thespiai at My Favourite Planet

A snake, a symbol of Asklepios, on the reverse side of a marble imago clipeata bust
of Emperor Hadrian from Thespiai (Θεσπιαί), Boeotia, central Greece (see photo and
article on the Medusa page). The symbol may refer to the Asklepieion at Thespiai.

Mid 2nd century AD.

Thebes Archaeological Museum.
 
 

Marble statue of Asklepios from ancient Morrylos, Macedonia at My Favourite Planet

Fragmentary marble statuette of Asklepios
of the Este type, depicting the god holding
a snake-entwined rod.

1st century BC. From Ano Apostoloi,
Kilkis (ancient Morrylos), Macedonia,
Greece. Height 74 cm.

Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum.
Inv. No. 947+1165.
   

Fragment of a marble statue of Asklepios from the Athens Agora at My Favourite Planet

Fragment of a marble statue of Asklepios.

2nd century AD. From the Athens Agora.

Agora Museum, Athens. Inv. No. S 1068.
 
 

Terracotta figurine of Asklepios from the Pergamon Asclepieion at My Favourite Planet

Terracotta votive figurine of
a statue of Asklepios from
the Pergamon Asclepieion.

Bergama Archaeological Museum.
   

Asklepios and Artemis of Ephesus on a coin from Pergamon at My Favourite Planet

Reverse side of a bronze coin from Pergamon
showing Asklepios holding a snake-entwined
staff and Artemis of Ephesus.

Inscription: EΠI CEΞ KΛ - CEIΛI/ANO/
V - ΠEPΓ-AMHN-ΩN // KAI EΦECIΩN / OMON.

Minted during the reign of Emperor Gallienus,
(253-268 AD) by the Asiarch (magistrate)
Sextus Claudius Silianus. The obverse side
shows a bust of Gallenius, facing right,
wearing a laurel wreath and cuirass, and
the inscription: AVT K Π ΛIKI - ΓAΛΛIHNOC.
Diameter 37 mm, weight 27.26 grams.

Numismatic Collection, Bode Museum, Berlin.
Inv. No. 18200358.

Acquired in 1873 with the entire collection
of General Charles Richard Fox.
 
 

Head of a statue of Asklepios from Rome at My Favourite Planet

Marble head of a statue of Asklepios.

Around 400 BC. From Rome.
Height 29.8cm, width 22 cm, depth 20 cm.

Pergamon Museum, Berlin.
Inv. No. Sk 1832.

Purchased on the art market in 1829
by the Vereinigung der Freunde
der antiken Kunst as a gift to the
Antiquities Collection in Berlin.
   

A terracotta mask of Asklepios from Corinth at My Favourite Planet

A terracotta mask of Asklepios.

From the Asklepieion of Ancient Corinth,
Greece. 4th century BC. Height 20.7 cm.

Found during excavation of the Asklepieion
and the adjacent resort of Lerna, 1929-1934,
supervised by Professor F. J. De Waele of
Nijmegen University, Netherlands, attached
to the staff of the American School of Classical
Studies at Athens (ASCSA).

Corinth Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. V40.
 

 
Marble head of Asklepios from Melos at My Favourite Planet

A larger than life-size marble head of
a colossal cult statue of Asklepios.

From the Cycladic island of Melos, Greece.
Hellenistic, around 325-300 BC.
Parian marble. Height 60 cm.

Found in the mid nineteenth century at the
Asklepieion on Melos, along with two votive
inscriptions dedicated to Asklepios and
Hygieia and a votive relief of a leg. It was
acquired by the French diplomat and
collector Louis, Duke of Blacas.

British Museum. Inv. No. GR 1867.5-8.115
(Sculpture 550). Purchased with the
entire Blacas collection in 1867.
 

 
Marble head of Asklepios from Kos at My Favourite Planet

Marble head of Asklepios from a small statue.
As with a number of depictions of Asklepios,
the head appears to incline to the left.

From Kos. Circa 200-160 BC.

British Museum.
Inv. No. GR 1868.6-20.3 (Sculpture 1519).

 

Marble head of Asklepios from Syracuse at My Favourite Planet

Larger than lifesize marble head of Asklepios.

1st century AD, Augustan period copy of a 2nd century BC
Hellenistic original by Phyromachos. Found in 1804 at
the ampitheatre in Neapolis, Syracuse, Sicily.

Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum,
Syracuse, Sicily. Inv. No. 693.
 

 
Marble head of Asklepios from Crete at My Favourite Planet

Small marble head of Asklepios from Crete.

Pentelic marble. 2nd century AD.

Barracco Museum, Rome. Inv. No. MB 162.
 

 
Head of Asklepios from Allianoi, near Bergama, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

Small marble head of Asklepios from
the Yortanli Dam salvage excavation,
Allianoi, near Pergamon (see below).

Bergama Archaeological Museum.
 

 
Head of Asklepios from the Thessaloniki Agora at My Favourite Planet

Small marble head of Asklepios from the
agora of Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Greece.
2nd - 3rd century AD, Roman period.

Museum of the Ancient Agora of Thessaloniki.
 

 
Marble head, probably Asklepios, from Corfu at My Favourite Planet

Marble head of a bearded male wearing
a crown, probably Asklepios.

Smaller than life-size. Roman period. Found on
the Mon Repos estate, Corfu, in the area now
known as Palaiopolis (Παλαιόπολης, Old City),
site of the ancient city Korkyra (Κόρκυρα).

Mon Repos Museum, Corfu.
 
 

Marble figurine of enthroned Asklepios from the Pergamon Asclepieion at My Favourite Planet

Marble figurine of enthroned Asklepios
from the Pergamon Asclepieion.

Bergama Archaeological Museum.
   

A marble statuette of enthroned Asklepios from Corinth at My Favourite Planet

A marble statuette of enthroned Asklepios.
The red colour was a base for gold leaf

From Corinth. 3rd - 4th century AD.
Height with base 42.3 cm,
height of figure 34.8 cm.

One of nine statuettes of deities, perhaps
small scale replicas of chryselephantine
cult statues, found in 1999 in the room of
a late Roman house, named the Panayia
Domus by archaeologists, southeast of
the Asklepieion of Ancient Corinth. [6]

It is thought that the worship of Asklepios
may have survived at Corinth well into
the Christian era, and although the area
around the Asklepieion was used as a
cemetery in the 6th - 7th century AD,
the site of the temple was not.

Corinth Archaeological Museum.
Inv. No. S 1999 008.

See also a terracotta mask of Asklepios
from the Asklepieion of Ancient Corinth above.
 
An Anzio type statue of Zeus in Naples at My Favourite Planet   The thunderbolt of Zeus at My Favourite Planet

Zeus' thunderbolt

Marble statue labelled as "Asclepius of the Anzio Type".

Late 2nd century AD copy of a late Hellenistic creation
inspired by a Greek original of the 4th century BC.

National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
Inv. No. 6265. From the Farnese Collection.

Although the statue is described as depicting Asklepios, an old catalogue of the Naples museum (around 1897) noted that both arms of the figure have been altered by modern restorers, including the addition of a new right forearm, hand and the thunderbolt, the characteristic attribute of Zeus. The join at the right elbow where the modern forearm has been added can be seen in the photo above.

It was later described in the officially sanctioned guide as: "Statue of Zeus with the thunderbolt. The arms are restored. This frequently recurring type is derived from Phidias. Poor execution." [7] The assumed connection with Pheidias is based on the identification of the restored figure as Zeus.

According to Johann Joachim Winckelmann, four similar statues, also dated to the 2nd century AD, were found together in Anzio (ancient Antium) in 1718, during excavations funded by Cardinal Albani from 1711. Two of the works, made of dark grey bigio morato marble, were formerly in the Albani Collection and are now Capitoline Museums. After their discovery, one was restored as Asklepios with a staff and snake (photo, right), while the other (see photo below), like the statue above, was given a new right forearm and hand with the thunderbolt of Zeus, although it was described in the inventory of the Albani Collection as Aesculapius [8]. The entire straight left arm can be seen, whereas in the other two statues the left arm is bent, with the lower forearm behind the figure's back.

The three statues are almost identical, clearly depicting a god in Classical style, with the same hairstyle, beard, sandals, pose and stance, and with the himation (cloak) draped and folded around the body in the same way. The museums' labelling makes no mention of these alterations, and so far I have found no useful recent literature concerning these statues, but it appears that all three may have depicted Asklepios, but two have been restored as Zeus.

Unfortunately, at the time of my recent visit to the Capitoline Museums, the Asklepios statue (right) was on a long loan to another museum, so I have had to use a very old photo.
 

Marble statue of Asclepius from Anzio at My Favourite Planet

Bigio morato marble statue
of Asclepius, Anzio Type.

From Anzio (Antium), Italy.

The right hand, part of the staff
and snake were added during
restoration. Height 144.5 cm.

Great Hall, Palazzo Nuovo,
Capitoline Museums, Rome.
Inv. No. MC 659.
From the Albani Collection.
 
Bigio morato marble statue of Zeus holding a thunderbolt at My Favourite Planet   The thunderbolt of the Anzio Zeus at My Favourite Planet

Bigio morato marble statue of "Zeus" (see above) holding a thunderbolt.

Found in Anzio in 1718. 2nd century AD version of an early Hellenistic
original of the 4th century BC. Height 141 cm.

The statue stands on an ancient circular marble base with an
Archaistic relief depicting Hermes, Apollo and Artemis (see Hermes).

Great Hall (Salone), Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums, Rome.
Inv. No. MC 655. From the Albani Collection.
 

Marble head of Zeus, Otricoli type, from Corinth at My Favourite Planet

A marble head thought to be from a herm, found in the Asklepieion
of Ancient Corinth. Identified a head of Zeus of the Otricoli type.

Roman period.

Corinth Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. S 1433.
 

Nekrodeipno relief, Lavrion Archaeological Museum at My Favourite Planet

A small votive relief, which according to the museum label, depicts
"Asklepios holding the horn of Amaltheia, Hygeia, Podaleirios and adorants".

4th century BC. From Limani Pasha (Λιμάνι Πασσά, Pasha's Harbour),
between Lavrion and Sounion, southeast Attica, Greece. Agrilesa marble.

Lavrion Archaeological Museum.

It is not clear on what basis the figures in this relief have been identified as Asklepios, Hygieia and Podaleirios (a son of Asklepios), or why the rhyton (drinking horn) must necessarily be "the horn of Amaltheia" (the cornucopia). There appears to be no inscription or any of the usual identifying attributes. Many reliefs of this type discovered around the Greek world have been identified as nekrodeipno scenes (νεκρόδειπνο; named Totenmahlreliefs by German archaeologists), depicting a funerary banquet or symposium in honour of a deceased and possibly heroized person. Some are thought to represent Hades (Plouton) and Persephone. For further information, see the articles and photos in Demeter and Persephone part 2.

The ancient port at Limani Pasha (the modern name) belonged to the deme of Sounion and was an important commercial centre between the 4th and 1st centuries BC, trading agricultural products, metalwork and pottery. Remains of an agora and other buildings have been discovered there.
 
 

Marble relief showing Asklepios and Athena from the Acropolis, Athens at My Favourite Planet

Fragment of a marble relief showing Athena and probably Asklepios on a stele
with part of an Athenian honorary decree (a proxeny decree) granting the title
of proxenos (πρόξενος, literally "instead of a foreigner"; an honorary consul)
and benefactor to a citizen of Croton (Κρότων, Kroton), southern Italy.

[θε]οί.
[ἐπὶ - ο]υ ἄρχοντο[ς]
[προξενία καὶ εὐ]εγεσ[ία - - - -]
- - - - - Κροτ[ωνιάτου]
[- - - - - -]

Inscription IG II(2) 406

From the Athens Acropolis. Around 330 BC.

Acropolis Museum, Athens. Inv. No. NAM 2985.
(Previously in the National Archaeological Museum)
 
 

Inscribed marble stele with a votive dedication to Apollo and Asklepios at My Favourite Planet

Inscribed marble stele with a votive dedication to Apollo and Asklepios.

From Kalamoto (Καλαμωτο; ancient Kalindoia, Καλίνδοια), Thessaloniki prefecture, Macedonia, Greece.
334/333 - 304/303 BC. Height 138 cm,
maximum width 36.5 cm, depth 7 cm.

Dedicated by the priest Agathanor,
son of Agathon. 39 verses have
survived, mentioning the names
of all the priests from 334/333 BC
onwards in chronological order.

Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum.
Inv. No. ΜΘ 9220.
   

Inscription referring to the sanctuary of Asklepios at Veria, Macedonia at My Favourite Planet

Part of a marble block with an inscription in two
columns referring to the sanctuary of Asklepios
at Veria, Macedonia, Greece.

Second half of the 3rd century BC.
Height 75 cm, width 44 cm, depth 13 cm.

Veria Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. L 702.
 

The sacred law of a sanctuary of Asklepios, Amphipolis at My Favourite Planet

Fragment of a marble stele inscribed with the sacred law
of the sanctuary of Asklepios in Amphipolis, Macedonia, Greece.

Mid 4th century BC. Height 27 cm, width 17 cm, depth 10 cm.

Amphipolis Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. Λ 94.

As with many other sanctuaries of Amphipolis, the location of the city's Asklepieion has not yet been discovered. However, its existence has been proved by the discovery of numerous votive offerings, including statues of Asklepius and Hygieia (see below), figurines of Telesphoros (see below), and this fragment of its sacred law (lex sacra). The inscription states the requirements for incubation in the Asklepieion, the payment of one drachme to the priest by visitors to the sanctuary, the offering of voluntary sacrifices, the portion given to the god on the altar, and the offering of sacrifices to other gods in this sanctuary (possibly Apollo, Hygieia and Telesphoros).  
 
 

Marble head of a statue of Asklepios from Amphipolis at My Favourite Planet

Marble head of a statue of Asklepios
from Amphipolis.

1st - 2nd century AD, Roman period
copy of a 4th century BC original.
Height 22 cm, width 16 cm.

Amphipolis Archaeological Museum.
Inv. No. Λ 110.
   

A marble statue of Hygieia from Amphipolis at My Favourite Planet

A marble statue of Hygieia (Ὑγιεία),
goddess of health, daughter of
Asklepios. From Amphipolis. Part
of a snake's body can be seen on
her left shoulder.

Roman Imperial period.

Amphipolis Archaeological Museum.
Inv. No. Λ 924.
 

Marble relief of the healing god Asklepios and his daughter Hygieia at My Favourite Planet

Marble relief depicting the healing god Asklepios seated
with his daughter Hygieia (Ὑγιεία), goddess of health.
In some versions of myths Hygieia is the wife of Asklepios.

Classical period, last quarter of the 5th century BC. From Therme,
Macedonia, Greece. Therme was the ancient name of Thessalonike
(Thessaloniki) before it was renamed by King Cassander of Macedonia,
in 316/315 BC. See History of Stageira and Olympiada part 6.

Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 109 T. Cat. Mendel 51.
 

Votive relief from the Asklepieion in Piraeus at My Favourite Planet

A marble votive relief for Asklepios from the Asklepieion in Piraeus. Around 350 BC.

Asklepios places his hands on the right shoulder of a woman patient, lying on her
side on a couch. To the right, Hygieia stands behind him, and on the far left four
members of the patient's family, three adults and a child, approach as suppliants.

Piraeus Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 405.
 

Marble votive relief of Asklepios and Hygieia from Attica at My Favourite Planet

Marble votive relief depicting Asklepios, Hygieia and worshippers.

From Attica, Greece, 330-320 BC.

The relief in the form of a naiskos (small temple), with antae (side walls) or pillars on both sides
supporting an epistyle (architrave). Epistyles on such reliefs often bore a dedicatory inscription,
as on many temples and public buildings. The head of a coiled snake appears from beneath the
god's throne. To the right is a family of worshippers, the dedicators of the relief.

Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 685.
Acquired in 1827 from the Ingenheim Collection.
 

Votive relief dedicated to Asklepios in Patras at My Favourite Planet

A marble votive relief in the form of a naiskos, dedicated to Asklepios.

From Patras, northwestern Peloponnese, Greece. 4th century BC.

The scene on the relief contains eleven figures. Asklepios stands on the far left, next to
him stands a female, thought to be his wife Epione (Ἠπιόνη, Soothing), and two heroically
naked males, perhaps two of his sons, Machaon (Μαχάων) and Podaleirios (Ποδαλείριος).
The family of the hekete (suppliant) approach an altar in the centre from the right, bringing
a pig as a sacrifice. The inscription on the epistyle (architrave) has not beeen preserved.

Patras Archaeological Museum.
 

Terracotta votive relief of a family presenting offerings to Asklepios and his children at My Favourite Planet

Terracotta votive relief of a family with children (left) standing before Asklepios (centre),
two of his sons and Hygieia (far right). 4th century BC. Height 40 cm, width 58 cm.

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Inv. No. AN1984.111.
 

 
Votive relief of Asklepios and Hygieia at My Favourite Planet

Inscribed marble votive relief dedicated
to Asklepios and his daughter Hygieia.

Unknown provenance. Around 350-330 BC.
Height 47 cm, width 26 cm, depth 13 cm.

The first letters of the name Asklepios, ΑΣΚΛΗΠ
(ASKLEP) are inscribed above the figures.

Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum.
Inv. No. 10425.
   
 

A marble relief of Asklepios and Hygieia, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden at My Favourite Planet

A marble relief of Asklepios and Hygieia.

Asklepios, seated on the left, faces right. He places his left hand over the raised
head of a large snake, the body of which is coiled beneath the god's chair. Hygieia
stands on the right, facing him. With her right hand she pours a libation from a jug
into a bowl in her left hand. Is the libation for the god or the snake? The image
illustrates the perceived superiority of Asklepios over his "daughter", the worship
of whom at places like Athens predated the introduction of the Asklepios cult.

1st century AD. From Italy.

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden. Inv. No. AMM 2.
 

A statue of a child with a bird at My Favourite Planet

A small statue of a child seated on the ground, holding a bird with both hands,
as if strangling it. Possibly a symbolic representation of one of Asklepios' children.

3rd century BC. From the village of Imeros, near Lake Ismaris, Macedonia, Greece.

Kavala Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. Λ80.
 

Marble statue group of the children of Asklepios, Dion, Macedonia at My Favourite Planet

Marble statue group of six children of Asklepios (left-right):
Machaon (Μαχάων), Hygieia (Υγεία), Aigle (Αίγλη),
Panakeia (Πανάκεια), Akeso (Ακεσώ) and Podaleirios (Ποδαλείριος).

From the Great Baths, Dion, Macedonia. 2nd century AD.

Dion Archaeological Museum.
 

 
Marble head of a female member of the family of Asklepios at My Favourite Planet

Marble head of a female member of
the family of Asklepios, perhaps his
wife Epione (Ἠπιόνη, Soothing).

From a marble basin for holy water
in the Great Baths, Dion, Macedonia.
2nd century AD.

Dion Archaeological Museum.
 

 
Marble statuette of Hygieia from Dion, Macedonia at My Favourite Planet

Marble statuette of Hygieia from Dion, Macedonia. Part of a snake can be
seen on her right shoulder.

1st century AD. Height 45 cm.

Dion Archaeological Museum
Inv. No. 298.
 
Marble statue of Hygieia, Capitoline Museums, Rome at My Favourite Planet   Detail of the statue of Hygieia, Capitoline Museums at My Favourite Planet

Marble statue of Hygieia.

Roman period copy after a Greek original dated 290 BC. Pentelic marble.
From the Horti Maecenatiani. Found in 1878 in the area of the Auditorium, Rome.

Palazzo dei Conservatori, Capitoline Museums, Rome. Inv. No. 1099.
 

 
Marble statue of Hygieia, Ostia at My Favourite Planet

Marble statue of Hygieia.

1st - 2nd century AD. Thasian marble.
Found in 1936 in the Baths of the
Sette Sapienti, Ostia.

Ostia Archaeological Museum.
Inv. No. 115.
   
 
Statue of Asklepios and Telesphoros from Miletus at My Favourite Planet   Telesphoros, son of Asklepios at My Favourite Planet

Marble statue of Asklepios and his son Telesphoros. The detail
on the right shows a close-up of the diminuitive daemon.

Excavated in 1906-1907 at the Faustina Baths, Miletus (Balat,
Aydin, Turkey). Height 213 cm; height of Telesphoros 81 cm.

Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 1995.
Cat. Mendel (Volume I, 1912) 124.

The statue depicts the lofty god Asklepios carrying his symbol of a staff (sometimes shown as a crutch), around which a snake is entwined. A relatively tiny Telesphoros is shown leaning against his father's protective garment, looking up to him, and clutching implements which are probably medical instruments. The implication of this image seems to be that Telesphoros was his father's little helper.

Telesphoros (Τελεσφόρος, "the accomplisher" or "bringer of completion"; Latin, Telesphorus), a son of Asklepios, was worshipped at asklepieions as the helper in recovery from illness. In stark contrast to the powerful images of his father Asklepios and his ancient health-conscious sister Hygieia, Telesphoros is always depicted as a small, sad-looking child or dwarf wearing a hooded cape or conical cap and a short tunic.

This very un-Greek representation of a deity has led to theories that this late-comer to Hellenic religion was of foreign origin, possibly Thracian, Phrygian or Celtic, and that he was originally one of the hooded spirits (genii cuculati), daemons associated with fertility and death. Images of him are also known on the Danube. His worship may have been introduced to the Greek world by the Galatians when they invaded Anatolia in the 3rd century BC. He became associated with Asklepios by the Greeks of Pergamon and other Asklepios centres in Anatolia (Asia Minor).

The spread of his cult westwards to Greece and the Roman Empire was accelerated following his adoption by Epidauros in the 2nd century AD.

The 2nd century AD Greek travel writer Pausanias (Παυσανίας), who may himself have been a doctor, and who spent some time in Pergamon, mentioned Telesphoros in his description of the sanctuary of Asklepios at Titani (Τιτάνη Κορινθίας), in Sikyonia, near Corinth. He tells us that Asklepios' son was known at Titani as Euamerion (Ευαμεριων, Prosperous), and at Epidauros as Akesis (Ακεσις, Cure).

"Alexanor, the son of Makhaon, the son of Asklepios, came to Sikyonia and built the sanctuary of Asklepios at Titane... There are images also of Alexanor and of Euamerion; to the former they give offerings as to a hero after the setting of the sun; to Euamerion, as being a god, they give burnt sacrifices. If my conjecture is correct, the Pergamenes, in accordance with an oracle, call this Euamerion Telesphoros, while the Epidaurians call him Akesis."

Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 2, Chapter 11, Sections 5-7. At Perseus Digital Library.
 
 

Ceramic figurine of Telesphoros from Allianoi at My Favourite Planet

Ceramic figurine of Telesphoros,
wearing a long hooded cloak.

From the Yortanli Dam salvage
excavation, Allianoi (see below).

Bergama Archaeological
Museum.
 

Terracotta figurine of Telesphoros from Amphipolis, Macedonia, Greece at My Favourite Planet

Terracotta figurine of Telesphoros, wearing a long hooded cloak, from Amphipolis, Macedonia, Greece. Roman period. Height 18.1 cm.

Amphipolis Archaeological
Museum. Inv. No. E 612.

Read about the
Ampholis Asklepeion above.
 

Bronze statuette of Telesphoros from the Ancient Agora, Athens at My Favourite Planet

Bronze statuette of Telesphoros
from the Ancient Agora, Athens.
3rd century AD.

Agora Museum, Athens.
 

Priapic lamp in the form of Telesphoros at My Favourite Planet

Priapic ceramic lamp in the form of
Telesphoros, from the Ancient Agora,
Athens. 2nd century AD.

Agora Museum, Athens.
 

Terracotta figurine of Telesphoros from Hermione, Peloponnese, Greece at My Favourite Planet

Terracotta figurine of a male in a hooded cloak, probably Telesphoros.

From the Necropolis of the ancient city of Hermione (near Epidauros), Peloponnese, Greece.
1st - 2nd century AD.

Nafplion Archaeological Museum.
 

Lanternarius statue at My Favourite Planet

"Lanternarius", statue of
a boy with a lantern.

Acquired in Rome 1909.

Altes Museum, Berlin.

This small statue, of unexact provenance, was acquired in Rome in 1909, as part of a lot of 80 artefacts from rural villas in the modern municipalities of Boscoreale, Boscotrecae and Scafari, near Pompeii, which were destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.

It has been identified merely as "Lanternarius, statue of a boy with a lantern". Having seen this statue several times, I can't help thinking that this sad-looking lad may well be Telesphoros, the ancient esoteric equivalent of Florence Nightingale, "the lady with the lamp".
 
A marble base with an ex-voto dedication to Asklepios, from Thasos, Macedonia, Greece at My Favourite Planet Relief of the god Telesphoros on the base from Thasos at My Favourite Planet

A fragment of an inscribed marble base with an ex-voto dedication
to Asklepios and a relief of Telesphoros, son of Asklepios.

Found at the east of the agora of Thasos (Θάσος), Greece.
2nd - 3rd century AD. Height 29 cm, width 27 cm, depth 10 cm.

Thasos Archaeological Museum.

The crude image was roughly chiselled on the base of an ex-voto dedication to Asklepios. An ex-voto is the fulfillment of a vow; the person who had it made is keeping their promise to Asklepios for a recovery from illness. Telesphoros is depicted in thanks for his part in the healing process. The poor quality of the workmanship suggests that the donor was anything but wealthy.

Ἀσκληπιῷ
ἐπηκόῳ Θε-
ῷ Αἴλιος Παγ-
κρατίδης

Inscription IG XII, 8, 366.

Although the site of the asklepieion in the main city on the northern Aegean island of Thasos has not yet been located, votive offerings to Asklepios have been found near the Caracalla Arch, west of the agora. As in other places in the Greek world, the worship of Asklepios became very popular here from the 4th century BC. The special local interest may have been a result of the four-year residence of the renowned physician Hippocrates of Kos (Ἱπποκράτης, circa 460-370 BC) on the island at the end of the 5th century BC. The Thassians held a festival in honour of Asklepios, known as the Great Asklepeia, during which people presented offerings to the god in the hope of recovery from various illnesses.
 

Head of Hippocrates from Kos, Greece at My Favourite Planet

Copy of a marble head of Hippocrates
of Kos from an over life-size statue.

Second half of the 2nd century BC.
Found near the Odeion on his home
island of Kos, Greece.

Replica in the National Archaeological
Museum, Athens, of the original in
the Archaeological Museum of Kos.
 

 
Unfinished marble statuette of Asklepios from Thasos at My Favourite Planet

Part of an unfinished marble
statuette of Asklepios from Thasos.

Probably Roman period.

Thasos Archaeological Museum.
 

 
Statuette of a male figure, probably Asklepios at My Favourite Planet

An unfinished marble statuette of a
seated male figure, probably Asklepios.

From Thasos. 2nd century AD.

Thasos Archaeological Museum.
 

A votive plaque with a snake from the Pergamon Asclepieion at My Favourite Planet

An inscribed bronze votive plaque with a snake, from
the Pergamon Asclepieion. 3rd - 2nd century BC.

Antikensammlung, Berlin State Museums (SMB). Inv. No. AvP VII, 31394.
 

A votive plaque with ears from the Asclepieion, Pergamon at My Favourite Planet

Bronze votive with ears on a plaque with a punched inscription:

"Kallias has hereby fulfilled his vow to Asklepios."

From the Pergamon Asclepieion. Roman period, 2nd century AD.

Antikensammlung, Berlin State Museums (SMB). Inv. No. AvP VII, 31393.
 

Ancient medical instruments found at the Asklepieion in Allianoi, near Pergamon, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

Ancient bronze medical instruments [9] found at the Asklepieion in Allianoi, near Pergamon.

From the Yortanli Dam salvage excavation, Allianoi.

Bergama Archaeological Museum.

Allianoi (Ἀλλιανοί) is - or rather was - 18 kilometres northeast of Bergama (ancient Pergamon), in Izmir province, western Turkey, on the road between Bergama and Ivrindi. The thermal spring is thought to have been founded as a sanctuary of the Asklepios cult and health centre during the Hellenistic period. It was probably a rural sanctuary of the Pergamon kingdom rather than a city, and it appears not to have issued any coins of its own. It was in continuous use from the 3rd century BC until the 11th century AD, and had its heyday during the reign of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD) when it was rebuilt on a grand scale. During the Ottoman period it was known as Paşa Ilıcası (Thermal Baths of the Pasha).

No epigraphical evidence has been found at the site to confirm its identity as ancient Allianoi. However, in his book Sacred tales (Ιεροί λόγοι, Hieroi logoi) the orator Aelius Aristides of Mysia (Αἴλιος Ἀριστείδης, 117-181 AD) wrote that he received treatment at the thermal spring, 120 stadia (23-25 km) from Pergamon, and that Asklepios appeared to him there in a dream.

The site had hardly been explored by archaeologists when it was announced in 1994 that the area was to be flooded for as part of a dam project in the valley of the Yortanli stream (Yortanlı Deresi) and the Ilya river (İlya Çayı) on which Allianoi stood. Emergency salvage excavations were undertaken, directed by Dr. Ahmet Yaraş, former director of the Bergama Archaeological Museum, with the support of the Turkish Ministry of Culture, the State Water Administration, the Bergama Yortanli Rescue Society, Trakya University and the German Archaeological Institute (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut). Parts of the extensive site were uncovered from centuries of accumulated silt, although it was estimated that only around 20 per cent of the area had been explored in the time available. The finds, some of which are now exhibited in the Bergama Archaeological Museum, included mosaics, sculptures, ceramics, depictions of Asklepios  (see photo above) and Telesphoros (see photo above), coins, metal, bone and glass objects, as well as 348 surgical instruments.

Despite appeals in Turkey and worldwide to save Allianoi by the public, academics, non-government organizations, ICOMOS, UNESCO, Europa Nostra and the European Union, the construction of the Yortanli Dam (Yortanlı Barajı) continued and the site was submerged on 31 December 2010. It now lies at the bottom of the dam reservoir.
 
 

Relief of a heroized doctor at My Favourite Planet

Marble gravestone or votive relief for a heroized doctor. Around 50 BC - 50 AD.
Near the doctor's head is an open box or cabinet with surgical instuments
(see close-up below).

Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 804.
Acquired in 1841 from the Grimani Collection, Venice.
 

Surgical instuments from the relief of a heroized doctor at My Favourite Planet

The surgical instuments in the frieze of the heroized doctor above.
 

Roman travertine facade in the form of a ship, Tiber Island, Rome at My Favourite Planet

Detail of the Roman travertine facade in the form of a ship's prow (or stern) at the northeast
end of the Tiber Island, Rome. To the left is a relief of a figure, perhaps Asklepios, with a rod
entwined by a snake (see photo below). To the right is a high relief of the head of a bull or ox.

The Romans probably first learned about the cult of Asklepios (Latin, Aesculapius) from contact with the Greek cities of Magna Graecia (southern Italy).

According to legend, following the outbreak of a plague in Rome an embassy was sent to the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidauros around 293-291 BC. The representatives returned to Rome with a sacred snake which escaped from its basket and was discovered on the Insula Tiberina (Tiber Island; Italian, Isola Tiberina; also referred to by ancient Roman authors as Insula Aesculapii and Insula serpentis Epidaurii). It was decided to found a sanctuary of Asklepios there, and a temple was dedicated in 289 BC. The island, today 269 metres long and 67 metres wide, has been associated with healing ever since, and the Hospital of the Fatebenefratelli, founded in 1548, still stands on its west side. The church of San Bartolomeo all’Isola, built in the 10th century AD by the German Emperor Otto III, now stands on the site of the temple of Aesculapius on the eastern side of the island.

Other places in Rome dedicated to the cult of Asklepios included a sanctuary on the Esquiline Hill near the Baths of Trajan.
 
 

The relief of Aesculapius on the facade on the Tiber Island, Rome at My Favourite Planet

The remains of the relief on the travertine facade on the Tiber Island, Rome.

The relief shows the head and shoulders of a male figure with long hair, probably Aesculapius,
and a rod entwined by a snake. The face appears to have been cut or sawn away from the rock.
 

Inscribed statue base with a dedication to Asklepios from the Tiber Island, Rome at My Favourite Planet

Inscribed limestone base, probably for a bronze statue, with a dedication
to Asklepios ("AESCOLAPIO"), found on the bed of the River Tiber, near
the Pons Cestius (Ponte Cestio) at the south side of the Tiber Island, Rome.

Aescolapio
donom dat
lubens merito
M(arcus) Populicio(s) M(arci) f(ilius).

Late 3rd century - early 2nd century BC.

The base is one of many votive offerings for Asklepios recovered from
the Tiber, including a large number of ceramic anatomical ex-votos.

Baths of Diocletian, National Museum of Rome.
Inscription CIL 12:28 (= CIL 6:30845).
 
 
 
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Relief of Asklepios from Pola at My Favourite Planet

Drawing of a relief of Asklepios from Pola, Istria, by James "Athenian" Stuart (1713–1788).

"It is of good sculpture, and is placed in the wall of the city near the port: it has the fortune still to be held in veneration by the inhabitants of Pola, who mistake him for St. John the Baptist. The part of his sceptre, round which a serpent is twisted, the usual symbol of this divinity, is mistaken by the good people for the reed and the label, with which St. John the Baptist is usually figured; they never pass it without bowing and crossing themselves before it."

James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, The Antiquities of Athens, measured and delineated, Volume IV, Arch of the Sergii at Pola, chapter III, page 17. J. Taylor, London, 1816. At the Internet Archive.

For further information about Stuart and Revett see Athens Acropolis gallery page 12.
 

The Temple of Aesculapius, Villa Borghese, Rome at My Favourite Planet

The Neoclassical Temple of Aesculapius in the Giardino del Lago of the Villa Borghese, Rome.

The Ionic temple was commissioned by Marcantonio Borghese, designed by Antonio Asprucci (1723-1808) and built 1784-1790 on an artificial island in the renovated Lake Garden. The Greek inscription on the entablature states "ΑΣΚΛΗΠΙΟΙ ΣΩΤΗΡΙ" (Asklepioi Soteri, To Asklepios Saviour). Originally the plan had been to build simply a facade to frame a colossal statue of Asklepios found in the Mausoleum of Augustus. Ten other restored ancient statues of gods and muses, including Apollo, Artemis, Hygieia, Victoria (Nike) and Mercury (Hermes), extensively reworked and renovated in the workshop of the sculptor Vincenzo Pacetti, were placed on the pediment and attic. Statues of the Nymphs Tungria and Imera by Agostino Penna and Vincenzo Pacetti were placed either side of the temple.

Following thefts in the 1980s, the surviving seven statues were removed in 1989, restored, placed in storage, and replaced by modern copies.
 

Viale Esculapio, Villa Borghese, Rome at My Favourite Planet

Viale Esculapio, Villa Borghese, Rome.
 

 
A modern statue of Asklepios, Sanssouci, Potsdam at My Favourite Planet

A copy of the Giustini type statue of
Asklepios in the Altes Museum, Berlin
(see above). Made 1848-1859 by the
brothers Alessandro (1816-?) and
Francesco (1800/1804-1870) Sanguinetti.

Exhibited in the Half Rondel, in the gardens
of the Neues Palais, Sanssouci, Potsdam,
Germany.

For further information about the Sanguinetti
brothers, see the note in Demeter part 2.

Other replicas of ancient sculptures
at Sanssouci include:

Antinous/Agathos Daimon
and "Antinous/Omphalos Apollo"


A Cherchel type statue of Demeter
   
 
Asklepios Notes, references and links
 

1. Strabo on Trikka as the birthplace of Asklepios

"The first place after Ephesus is Magnesia, an Aeolian city, and called Magnesia on the Maeander, for it is situated near it; but it is still nearer the Lethaeus, which discharges itself into the Maeander. It has its source in Pactyes, a mountain in the Ephesian district. There is another Lethaeus in Gortyne, a third near Tricca, where Asclepius is said to have been born, and the fourth among the Hesperitae Libyans."

Strabo, Geography, Book 14, Chapter 1. Translated by H.C. Hamilton and W. Falconer. George Bell & Sons, London, 1903. At Perseus Digital Library.

In Greek text the river Lethaeus is λήθαιος and Trikka is Τρίκκην. In some translations it is spelled Trikke (Τρίκκη), Tricce or Tricca.

The city was mentioned by Homer in The Iliad, Book 2, line 729, and its Asklepieion, the temple of Triccaean Asclepius, was reputed to be the oldest in Greece (Strabo, Geography, Book 8, chapter 4, section 4, and chapter 6, section 15). It issued coinage in the 5th and 4th century BC, but almost nothing is known of its history.
 

2. On a statue of Asklepios by Theocritus

The epigram concerns a cedar wood statue of Asklepios by the sculptor Aetion, commissioned by the doctor Nikias of Miletus. See Aetion for further details.
 

3. Asklepios statue in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin

Around half of the Pergamon Museum, including rooms containing Greek and Roman sculptures and artefacts and the hall of the Pergamon Great Altar, are closed for rebuilding work until around 2019. Some of the exhibits have been moved to the Altes Museum.

Since the reunifiaction of Germany the collections of the Berlin museums have been in a constant process of reorganization, and many objects have been moved more than once from one museum to another. Several objects have only been displayed during special temporary exhibitions.

The smaller than lifesize statue statue, 117.5 cm high (124.5 cm with base), was one of three statues of Asklepios brought to Berlin from Italy in the 18th-19th centuries. This was one acquired by the art dealer Giovanni Ludovico Bianconi in 1766 from the Natali Collection in Rome. It arrived in Potsdam in 1767, where it stood in the Marble Gallery of the Neue Palais from around 1769. On 26 March 1830 it was moved to the Rotunda of the Königliche Museum (Royal Museum, today known as the Altes Museum) in Berlin.

It had been extensively restored in in 1767 the workshop of Bartolomeo Cavaceppi in Rome, with many parts added, including the head which is from another ancient statue, perhaps of Zeus. The head is thought to be a Roman copy of a Hellenistic orginal. The body of Parian marble (from the island of Paros), is thought to be a 2nd century AD Antonine copy of a 4th century BC Greek original.

See: Alexander Conze, Beschreibung der antiken Skulpturen mit Ausschluss der pergamenischen Fundstücke, page 36. Generalverwaltung, Königliche Museen zu Berlin. Verlag von W. Spemann, Berlin, 1891. At Heidelberg University Digital Library.

The "Giustini type" Asklepios statue in the Altes Museum, Berlin (Inv. No. Sk 69, see above) was also purchased by Bianconi in Rome in 1766 and restored by the Cavaceppi workshop in the same year. Frederick the Great set it up in the Half Rondel in the gardens of his Neues Palais, Sanssouci, Potsdam, before 1772. In 1825-1826 it was again restored in the Berlin workshop of Christian Daniel Rauch (see Demeter part 2), and on 3 May 1828 it was placed in the Rotunda of the Altes Museum (where Inv. No. Sk 71 also stood). Its place in the Sanssouci gardens was later taken by the Sanguinetti copy (see above).
 

4. "Giustini type" Asklepios statue

The Giustini type is named after a statue in the Palazzo Nuovo of the Capitoline Museums, Rome. Inv. No. 1846. Probably made during the reign of Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD), thought to be a replica of a Greek work of the late 5th century BC. The original work was at first attributed to Alkamenes, on the basis of a brief mention by Pausanias (Description of Greece, Book 8, chapter 9, section 1) of a statue of Asklepios at Mantineia. It was also associated with a statue group of Asklepios and his family at the sanctuary of Asklepios on the south slope of the Athenian Acropolis, also mentioned by Pausanias (Description of Greece, Book 1, chapter 21, section 4). According to a more recent theory it may have been made by a Peloponnesian artist between 420 and 380 BC.

A description of the "Giustini type" statue of Asklepios in the National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 6360:

"The god, clad in a himation, lays his right arm (a restoration) on his club, round which a snake is curled. At his left side is a low Omphalos, this being his attribute as Apollo's son. A picture of perfect health, he stands calmly in an attitude that recalls the school of Phidias.

Alkamenes is generally named as the inventor of this type. In 420 B.C. he made a statue of Aesculapius for Mantineia and perhaps a replica of it for Athens where the cult of the god had been introduced from Epidaurus."

Giulio De Petra (and others, as editors), Illustrated guide to the National Museum in Naples, sanctioned by the Ministry of education. page 27. Richter & Co., Naples, 1897 (?). At the Internet Archive.
 

5. The "Venus Landolina" in Syracuse

"La Venere Landolina" was named after its discoverer, Saverio Landolina Nava. The Asklepios statue has also been referred to as "l'Esculapio Landolina". The now headless statue of the Aphrodite Anadyomene type (Greek, Ἀφροδίτη Ἀναδυομένη, Aphrodite rising from the sea; Italian, Venere Anadiomene), was found in the Bonavia area of Syracuse, south of Ortygia. It has enchanted visitors to the city for over two hundred years, and remains a major attraction in the modern Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 694.
 

6. Statuettes from the Panayia Domus, Corinth

The domus was destroyed by fire around the late 360s AD. The nine statuettes range in date from the late 1st to the mid 3rd or early 4th century AD. Two are of Asklepios, two of Artemis and the others depict Pan, Herakles (Resting Herakles, Farnese type, with Telephos and deer), Dionysus (with a panther), Europa/Sosandra and Roma.

The other statuette of Asklepios shows him wearing a himation, standing with a snake-entwined staff in his right hand, and a small figure of Telesphoros to his left. Inv. No. S-1999-012A, not on display in the museum. Height with base 20.7 cm, height of figure 18.9 cm.

See: Lea M. Stirling, Pagan statuettes in Late Antique Corinth: Sculpture from the Panayia Domus. Hesperia 77 (2008), pages 89-161. American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA).

The article includes good illustrations and detailed descriptions of the statuettes and their archaeological, historical, social and iconographic contexts. Stirling examines the question of whether the room containing the statuettes may have been a domestic shrine, and concludes that the enthroned Asklepios dates to the late 2nd century.
 

7. The Anzio type Zeus/Asclepius statue in the Naples museum

Giulio De Petra (and others, as editors), Illustrated guide to the National Museum in Naples, sanctioned by the Ministry of education, page 52, No. 499 (6265), "Statue of Zeus with the thunderbolt". Richter & Co., Naples, 1897 (?). At the Internet Archive.
 

8. The Anzio type Zeus/Asclepius statues in the Capitoline Museums

H. Stuart Jones (editor), A catalogue of the ancient sculptures preserved in the municipal collections of Rome: The sculptures of the Museo Capitolino, pages 272-273, Salone, No. 1, "Zeus standing", and page 278, Salone, No. 5, "Asclepius standing". At the Internet Archive.
 

9. Ancient medical instruments

See: Lawrence J. Bliquez, The tools of Asclepius: Surgical instruments in Greek and Roman times. Brill, Leiden, 2014.
 
Photos on this page were taken during
visits to the following museums and sites:

Germany
Berlin, Altes Museum
Berlin, Bode Museum
Berlin, Pergamon Museum
Dresden, Skulpturensammlung, Albertinum
Potsdam, Neues Palais, Sanssouci

Greece
Amphipolis Archaeological Museum, Macedonia
Athens, Acropolis archaeological site (South Slope)
Athens, Acropolis Museum
Athens, Agora Museum
Athens, Epigraphical Museum
Athens, National Archaeological Museum
Corfu, Museum of Mon Repos
Corinth Archaeological Museum
Delos Archaeological Museum
Dion Archaeological Museum, Macedonia
Epidauros Archaeological Museum and site
Kavala Archaeological Museum, Macedonia
Lavrion Archaeological Museum, Attica
Nafplion Archaeological Museum, Argolid
Patras Archaeological Museum
Piraeus Archaeological Museum, Attica
Thasos Archaeological Museum, Macedonia
Thebes Archaeological Museum, Boeotia
Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum, Macedonia
Thessaloniki, Museum of the Ancient Agora
Veria Archaeological Museum, Macedonia

Italy
Naples, National Archaeological Museum
Ostia Archaeological Museum
Rome, Barracco Museum
Rome, Capitoline Museums, Palazzo dei Conservatori
Rome, Capitoline Museums, Palazzo Nuovo
Rome, National Museum of Rome, Baths of Diocletian
Rome, National Museum of Rome, Palazzo Altemps
Rome, Isola Tiberina
Rome, Villa Borghese

Italy - Sicily
Syracuse, Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum
Syracuse, Castel Maniaca, Ortygia

Netherlands
Leiden, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden

Turkey
Bergama Archaeological Museum
Istanbul Archaeological Museums
Izmir Museum of History and Art

United Kingdom
London, British Museum
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum

Many thanks to the staff of these museums.

A statuette of Asklepios in Bergama, Turkey at My Favourite Planet

A modern plaster statuette of Asklepios
in the window of a pharmacy in Bergama
(Pergamon), Turkey.
 

A statuette of Asklepios in a dentist's surgery, Athens, Greece at My Favourite Planet

A modern plaster statuette of Asklepios
in its own niche in a dentist's surgery
in Athens, Greece.
Photos and articles © David John, except where otherwise specified.
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