Asclepius, Lat. Aesculapius, legendary Greek physician; son of Apollo and Coronis. His first teacher was the wise centaur Chiron. When he became so skillful in healing that he could revive the dead, Zeus killed him. Apollo persuaded Zeus to make Asclepius the god of medicine. The worship of Asclepius is believed to have originated in Thessaly. Temples were built to him at Epidaurus, Cos, Pergamum, and later Rome, where his worship spread after a plague in 293 B.C. Treatments, including massage and baths, were given to the sick. The serpent and the cock were sacred to Asclepius. People who claimed descent from him and those who followed his teachings were known as Asclepiads.

See E. J. Edelstein, Asclepius (1945, repr. 1988); S. B. Aleshire, The Athenian Asklepieion (1989).

Latin Aesculapius

Asclepius, from an ivory diptych, 5th century AD; in the Liverpool City Museum, England

Greco-Roman god of medicine. He was the son of Apollo and the nymph Coronis. He learned the art of healing from the Centaur Chiron. Fearful that Asclepius would make humans immortal, Zeus slew him with a thunderbolt. His cult originated in Thessaly and spread throughout Greece. Because he was said to cure the sick in dreams, the practice of sleeping in his temples became common. Asclepius was often represented holding a staff with a serpent coiled around it.

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