Infobox Greek deity

Caption = Statue of Asclepius with his symbol, the serpent-entwined staff
Name = Asclepius
God_of = God of medicine, healing, and physicians
Abode =
Symbol = A serpent-entwined staff
Consort = Epione
Parents = Apollo and Koronis
Children= Machaon, Podaleirius, Iaso, Aigle, Panakea, and Hygeia
Mount =
Roman_equivalent = Aesculapius

Asclepius (pronounced IPA|, Greek polytonic|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, Meditrina, Iaso, Aceso, Aglæa/Ægle and Panacea (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 [ [ dataiegreek: Database query ] ] :

:"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 Polytonic|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 (Polytonic|β for Polytonic|π, Polytonic|αλ(α) for Polytonic|λα) we find Polytonic|α/αι (a well known variation; Fur. 335 - 339) followed by Polytonic|-γλαπ- or Polytonic|-σκλαπ-/-σχλαπ/β-, i.e. a voiced velar (without Polytonic|-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 Polytonic|-σ-. I think that the Polytonic|-σ- renders an original affricate, which (prob. as Polytonic|δ) was lost before the Polytonic|-γ- (in Greek the group Polytonic|-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 [Pindar, Pythian Ode 3. 5 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) ]


Epione [Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 29. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.)] [Suidas s.v. Epione (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.)]



Makhaon [Homer, Iliad 4. 193 & 217 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.)] [Homer, Iliad 11. 518 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.)] and Podaleirios [Homer, Iliad 2. 730 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.)] [Lycophron, Alexandra 1047 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.)] [Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 71. 3 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.)]


Iaso, Aigle, Panakea (Panakeia), and Hygeia [Greek Lyric V Anonymous, Fragments 939 (Inscription from Erythrai) (trans. Campbell) (B.C.)] [Suidas s.v. Epione (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.)]


Zeus killed Asklepios with a thunderbolt because he raised the dead [Philodemus, On Piety (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV Stesichorus Frag 147 & Cinesias Frag 774) (C7th to 6th B.C.)] . This angered Apollo who in turn murdered the cyclops who made the thunderbolt for Zeus [Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 121 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) ] . For this act, Zeus banned Apollo from the night sky [Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 610 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.)] and commanded Apollo to serve Admetus, King of Thessaly [Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 71. 3 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.)] [Hyginus, Fabulae 49 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.)] . After Asclepius' death, Zeus placed Asclepius among the stars as the constellation Ophiochus ("the Serpent Holder") [Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 14 Latin Mythography C2nd A.D] .


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, Gortys (in Arcadia), and Pergamum in Asia.

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. rf|1|Farnell1

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. rf|2|Farnell2

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.

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