Asclepius, the health and wellness retreat of ancient Greece and Rome
Anatolia is full of historic sites and natural wonders. Some are known worldwide, while many others await discovery. Check out our post on this amazing site:
– A brief history of Asclepius
Asclepius is believed to have been founded in the 4th century BC during the Hellenistic era in honor of the Greco-Roman god of medicine, Asclepius. This place was one of the most popular healing centers in the ancient world. Although the first structures were established in the 4th century BC, the ruins we see today date back to the 2nd century A.D., when the Roman emperor Hadrian was in power.
Many people, including needy patients who needed medical assistance, arrived in Asclepius for treatment.
The local land is a small fertile valley at the foot of Mount Geyikli, which is northeast of Bergama. The natural sources around the valley were considered sacred and had healing powers.
According to legend, Asclepius was founded by Archias, a native of Pergamon (now Bergama), who suffered a foot injury while hunting. He was later taken to Epidaurus (now Argolis, Greece), which was among the best healing centers in ancient Greece. After recovering, to show his gratitude, Archias founded the cult of Asclepius, the god of medicine, in Pergamo.
The myth of the stone and the snakes
A very interesting artifact that you will find, both in the museum and in Asclepius, is a stone representing a serpent curled on a stick or rod. You can recognize this as the universal symbol of medicine.
The origins of this symbol are the source of much debate. The most popular origin myth has some variations, depending on the source, but they follow more or less a similar plot.
As detailed in the museum, the myth involves a patient who was admitted to Asclepius, but could not be treated and was on the verge of death. He was taken to the entrance to the temple of healing by the prominent Greek physician Galen and left to be picked up by relatives.
While waiting, the patient saw two snakes drink milk and regurgitate in the same bowl. The desperate patient approached the bowl and drank the poisonous milk, hoping to end the pain and die. The patient fell asleep immediately and, much to everyone’s shock, when he woke up, he was fully recovered. Non-poisonous snakes were quite common in Asclepius and they were thought to bring luck to sick patients.
Later, Galen ordered the construction of a column with the now famous symbol to honor Asclepius, the god of health. You can find the column today at the end of Via Tecta.
The information we have about ancient treatments was acquired mainly from the 2nd century AD Greek author and speaker Aelius Aristides.
Various methods, such as sleep therapy, dream interpretation, mud baths, exposure to healing waters, tasting, music therapy, and diet programs, have been used to treat patients.
The long underground tunnel and circular treatment center
Following the source, you will find a long underground tunnel that has remained intact since it was in use – not a single stone has been displaced over the centuries.
This tunnel connects the colonnaded street near the theater to a circular treatment center in the southern part of the sanctuary. Here are the remains of the rooms in the room and the other corridors where the patients received treatment.
How can Guide in Turkey help me?
If you want to visit Asclepius, we can schedule these visits on a private tour. Also, we offer other packages to the main destinations in the country, transfers, accommodation, and much more.
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