15 interesting things you need to know about Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine

Asclepius' myth

Asclepius myth and facts

  1. The Father of Modern Medicine, Hippocrates, was believed to be a descendant of Asclepius.
  2. According to some accounts, the famous midwife Lachesis helped deliver the baby Asclepius at the temple of Apollo. However, Phoenician mythology claims that Apollo alone (without any woman) gave birth to Asclepius.
  3. His son, Machaon, is believed to have come to the aid of the Greek hero Menelaos during the Trojan War.
  4. The potion that he used to raise the dead came from the blood of the gorgon Medusa. The blood was a gift from Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare.
  5. After his death, his worship skyrocketed. The Greeks believed that he rose up into the sky to become the constellation Ophiuchus. After the passage of time, Zeus brought Asclepius back to life and let him live among the Olympians on Mount Olympus.
  6. The ancient Egyptian sage, architect and god Imhotep was usually associated with Asclepius. Imhotep was the chief priest of Ptah (the god of creation) who famously designed and constructed the Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara.
  7. The sanctuary of Epidaurus was home to a 6000-seat arts theatre. The Epidaurus Theatre remains standing to this day.

    The Epidaurus Theatre

    Asclepius myths and facts | Theatre of Epidaurus

  8. The various physicians and priests that worked in Asclepius’ honor were called the Therapeutae of Asclepius.
  9. The Theatre of Epidaurus was often the preferred place for the Asklepieia festival, a festival in honor of Asclepius
  10. During the Roman times, a group of priests and physicians brought snakes from Epidaurus to the Island of Tiber in a bid to rid the island of plague.
  11. Starting around the 5th century BCE, the Greeks took to honoring Asclepius during the Asklepieia festival. A host of activities and events from sports to music to drama were used to seek his blessings.
  12. In the city of Athens, there was a sanctuary dedicated to this god. The place was sited close to the Acropolis. According to some ancient accounts, the place became famous after a priest called Telemachos introduced snakes into the area. The snakes were believed to be the embodiment of Asclepius.
  13. In the mid-18th century, the Swedish botanist and zoologist Carl Linnaeus (1701-1778) named a genus of herbaceous, flowering plants Asclepias. The name of the genus, which is also known as milkweeds, was in his honor.

    Asclepias syriaca

    Asclepias syriaca

  14. Snake came to be associated with healing and rejuvenation (or resurrection) because of the animal’s ability to shed its skin and renew itself. For centuries, ancient Greeks also used many by-products from bodies of snakes to make medicines. Sometimes, the concoction could prove lethal. This is aptly reflected in the Greek term “pharmakon”, which translates to either “drug” or “poison”.
  15. He is usually shown as a man with full beard, almost similar to Zeus’ depictions. What stands out, however, in his depictions is his staff – the Staff of Asclepius. Coiled around this staff is a sacred snake, which the ancient Greeks believed had the power to heal and even bring the dead back to life. Presently, the Staff of Asclepius usually appears on the logos of health institutions all over the world.


    The Star of Life is often the symbol of emergency medical services in several countries across the world

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