Asklepieion - History and Facts | History Hit

Asklepieion

Kos, Kos, Greece

Asklepieion is an archaeological site containing the well-preserved ruins of the birthplace of medicine.

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About Asklepieion

Asklepieion, also known as Asclepeion, in Kos, Greece, was an ancient Greek and Roman sacred centre of healing based on the teachings of Hippocrates. The ancient medical centre dates back to the early 3rd century BC, built in honour of the god of health and medicine – Asklepios.

Today, despite millennia of damage, you can still tell apart the different rooms that made up the Asklepieion.

Asklepieion history

It seems that there has been a healing sanctuary at the site of Asklepieion since prehistory, but the main ruins today are those of later sanctuaries. The most significant was dedicated to Asklepios, a Greek deity of health, to whose temples people would flock for medical treatments.

The temple combined spiritual healing with physical healing: a popular treatment included ‘temple sleep’, hoping to be visited by Asklepios himself in their dreams. Priests would interpret dreams, often advising bathing or the gymnasium. Over time, Asklepieion became increasingly popular and visitors would travel from far and wide to experience its healing properties. Thus, the sanctuary was expanded.

Asklepieion today

Today, the pretty and relatively well-preserved ruins of Asklepieion are set over 3 levels and include several temples, some Roman baths, gateways and a banqueting hall. Although damaged from several earthquakes, the first terrace is still enclosed by a portico with an open south side. The second terrace is the oldest part of the temple – the ruins of an altar from the 4th century BC, the sleep room and 2 smaller temples.

The third terrace is the Doric Temple of Asklepieion, dating from the 2nd century BC. During the Christian period an early church was dedicated here to Panagua Tarsou. Try looking for the initials ‘ICXP’ which mean Jesus Christ.

It is worth noting that this is not the most easily accessible site for people with mobility issues. The terrain is quite steep and there are many stairs to climb. However, for those who can reach the top, you are rewarded with panoramic views over the town of Kos, a view shared with patients from ancient times.

Getting to Asklepieion

If you cannot walk up the hill, a car park at the site allows for easier access. For those driving from Kos, take Asklipioy road and drive for 8 minutes. The car park is to the left at a fork-shaped turning.

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