(pronounced [[Help:pronunciation|/æsˈkliːpiːəs/]], Greek Ἀσκληπιός
, transliterated Asklēpiós
; Latin Aesculapius
) is the god of medicine
and healing in ancient Greek mythology
. Asclepius represents the healing aspect of the medical arts, while his daughters Hygieia
(literally, "all-healing") symbolize the forces of cleanliness, medicine, and healing, respectively.
The etymology of the name is unknown. In his revised version of Frisk's Griechisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, R.S.P. Beekes gives this summary of the different attempts:
- "H. Grégoire (with R. Goossens and M. Mathieu) in Asklépios, Apollon Smintheus et Rudra 1949 (Mém. Acad. Roy. de Belgique. Cl. d. lettres. 2. sér. 45), explains the name as 'the mole-hero', connecting σκάλοψ, ἀσπάλαξ 'mole' and refers to the resemblance of the Tholos in Epidauros and the building of a mole. (Thus Puhvel, Comp. Mythol. 1987, 135.) But the variants of Asklepios and those of the word for 'mole' do not agree.
- The name is typical for Pre-Greek words; apart from minor variations (β for π, αλ(α) for λα) we find α/αι (a well known variation; Fur. 335 - 339) followed by -γλαπ- or -σκλαπ-/-σχλαπ/β-, i.e. a voiced velar (without -σ-) or a voiceless velar (or an aspirated one: we know that there was no distinction between the three in the substr. language) with a -σ-. I think that the -σ- renders an original affricate, which (prob. as δ) was lost before the -γ- (in Greek the group -σγ- is rare, and certainly before another consonant); Beekes Pre-Greek
- Szemerényi's etymology (JHS 94, 1974, 155) from Hitt. assula(a)- 'well-being' and piya- 'give' cannot be correct, as it does not explain the velar."
One might add that even though Szemerényi's etymology (Hitt. asula- + piya-) does not account for the velar, it is perhaps inserted spontaneously in Greek due to the fact that the cluster -sl- was uncommon in Greek: so, *Aslāpios would become *Asklāpios automatically.
Associated with the Roman/Etruscan god Vediovis.
He was the son of Apollo
and Koronis (Coronis). His mother died in labour and was laid out on a funeral pyre to be consumed, but the unborn child was rescued from her womb. From this he received the name Asklepios "to cut open."
Apollo carried the babe to the centaur Kheiron who raised Asclepius and instructed him in the art of medicine
(Panakeia), and Hygeia
killed Asklepios with a thunderbolt because he raised the dead. This angered Apollo who in turn murdered the cyclops
who made the thunderbolt for Zeus. For this act, Zeus banned Apollo from the night sky and commanded Apollo to serve Admetus
, King of Thessaly
. After Asclepius' death, Zeus placed Asclepius among the stars as the constellation
Ophiochus ("the Serpent Holder").
Asclepius' most famous sanctuary was in Epidaurus
in Northeastern Peloponnese
. Another famous "asclepieion" was on the island of Kos
, where Hippocrates
, the legendary doctor, may have begun his career. Other asclepieions were situated in Trikala
(in Arcadia), and Pergamum
In honor of Asclepios, snakes were often used in healing rituals. Non-venomous snakes were left to crawl on the floor in dormitories where the sick and injured slept. Starting about 300 BC, the cult of Asclepios grew very popular. His healing temples were called asclepieion; pilgrims flocked to them to be healed. They slept overnight and reported their dreams to a priest the following day. He prescribed a cure, often a visit to the baths or a gymnasium.
It is also written by Lewis Farnell, that some healing temples used sacred dogs to lick the wounds of the sick petitioners.
The original, ancient Hippocratic Oath begins with the invocation "I swear | by Apollo the Physician and by Asclepius and by Hygieia and Panacea and by all the gods . . ." Scholars have written that this oath may not have been written by Hippocrates, but by or with others in his school, or followers of Pythagoras.
Some later religious movements claimed links to Asclepios. In the 2nd Century AD The False Prophet Alexander claimed that his god Glycon was an incarnation of Asclepios.
The botanical genus Asclepias (commonly known as milkweed), is named after him, and includes the medicinal plant A. tuberosa or "Pleurisy root".
- cf. L.R. Farnell, Greek Hero Cults and Ideas of Immortality, Chapter 10, "The Cult of Asklepios" (pp.234-279), p.240
- cf. L.R. Farnell, Greek Hero Cults and Ideas of Immortality, Chapter 10, "The Cult of Asklepios" (pp.234-279), p.269: "The famous Hippocratean oath may not be an authentic deliverance of the great master, but is an ancient formula current in his school."
- Lewis Richard Farnell, Greek Hero Cults and Ideas of Immortality, 1921.