Epidaurus – a Journey in the Land of Asklepieion

Epidaurus is one of the most important archaeological findings reflecting the splendour of Greek culture through its imposing beauty. Its ancient town stands on Argolian land, overlooking the Saronic Gulf. The mountain heights of Arachnaio, Koryfaio and Tithio form a natural perimeter which embraces the town, protecting from the winds and giving it an exceptionally mild climate. Clear running waters, beautiful natural landscapes and beneficial climatic conditions served to create the ideal place for healing of man with the power of the gods. The Asklepieion at Epidaurus gained fame throughout the world for its unique healing practices as it was undoubtedly the greatest of the theurgical sites in antiquity.

It is said that more than 200 healing centres worked under Asklepieion’s authorization throughout the Eastern Mediterranean area. Today its monuments apart from being recognised as masterpieces of ancient Greek art they are also standing proof of the practice of medicine in antiquity. They illustrate the medical evolution from the time where it was believed that healing depended on God to the time where it developed into science based on a systematic knowledge through accumulative experience.

Change Through the Course of Time

Asklepios’ worshiping, son of Apollo and Koronis, granddaughter of King Malos of Epidaurus, was established in the sixth century BC. Asklepios, protector of human health and personal happiness, was a very popular deity with an ever-increasing number of worshippers. The Sanctuary at Kynortion was quickly overwhelmed by a great number of visitors, so a new sanctuary was founded in the plain, approximately 1 km northwest of Kynortion Hill, on the site where, according to the myth, Asklepios was born. The two sanctuaries, one dedicated to Apollo Maleatas and the other to Asklepios, were subsequently known under the common name of Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas and Asklepios.

During the fourth and third centuries BC buildings were erected in both the mountain and plain sanctuaries; the Classical temple, the altar of Apollo, the Great Stoa, the priests' residence and the Temenos of the Muses in the former; the Temple of Asklepios, the Abaton, the Tholos, the Theatre, the Stadium, the Banqueting Hall and the hostel in the latter.

The Asklepion flourished again in Imperial times and particularly in the second half of the second century AD, when the Roman consul Antonine financed the refurbishment of old buildings and the construction of new ones. During this period, Pausanias visited, admired and described in detail the sanctuary and its monuments.

Excavations began in 1881 under the guidance of Panagiotis Kavvadias, who devoted his entire life to his beloved Epidaurus. The Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus was added to the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in 1988.

 

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