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Asklepios (copy drawing)
Asclepius (Roman marble statue copied from a Greek original from the 5th century)

Asklepios ( ancient Greek Ἀσκληπιός Asklēpiós , meaning unknown, but suggesting an originally pre-Greek deity; Latin Aesculapius ; German also Aesculapius , English Asclepius ) is the god of healing in Greek mythology and Roman mythology . The snake that winds around the Aesculapian staff in most of the depictions assigns it to the chthonic or earth deities .



Asklepios is considered the son of Apollo and Koronis , the daughter of King Phlegyas . When Koronis was already pregnant by the god Apollo, she got involved with Ischys , a mortal . As a punishment, she was killed by Apollon 's twin sister Artemis or by Apollon himself. When her body was burned at the stake, Hermes approached and cut the unborn Aesculapius from her womb. Apollon took him to the healing Centaur en Cheiron , who took the child in and instructed him in the healing arts, which he himself had learned from Apollon.

According to other tradition, Phlegyas came secretly to the Peloponnese to find out where he could easily attack. His daughter, who was pregnant by Apollo, accompanied him. Koronis either secretly gave birth to the child and released it on Mount Titthion, or Phlegyas had it released there after it was born, or a goat from a herd fed Asclepius with milk and a watchdog protected him. The shepherd of Aresthanas was looking for his dog and goat. When he found them both, he wanted to kill Asclepius, but as he approached it began to shine around the child and he realized that it was the child of a god. Another tradition makes Asklepios the son of Arsinoe , the daughter of Leucippus .


With this mythological origin, Asklepios is seen as an incomparable master of the medical art of healing, including veterinary medicine . With the help of the magical healing powers of the blood of the Gorgon Medusa , which Athena brought him, he even managed to bring a dead person back to life. Furthermore, Asklepios is also mentioned in the Iliad , where Homer sees in him an “incomparable doctor”, whose son Machaon does his job at the gates of the embattled Troy . With his wife Epione he had another son Podaleirios and five daughters Panakeia , Hygieia , Akeso , Iaso and Aigle . In the late period Telesphorus and Meditrina were also regarded as their children. With the Aristodama he was the father of Aratos.

Asklepios is said to have mastered surgery and medicine (as well as the herbalism included ). The healing treatment in the Asklepios cult often consisted of the patient sleeping in the temple of Asklepios, which is mostly outside the city. Then in the dream the doctor appeared to him and gave the patient diets or other cures. It is even said that he made it possible for a bald man to enjoy new hair growth.

His daughter Hygieia is considered the personification of health. His second daughter Panakeia is considered to be the personification of healing through medicinal plants.


With the resurrection of a dead person, Asklepios had probably exceeded his authority, at any rate Hades complained energetically about him to his brother Zeus . The latter, too, feared the success of the healing artist that soon no one would die anymore. He then hurled lightning at Asclepius and killed him. His father Apollo was angry about this and killed all the Cyclopes who forged the lightning for Zeus. The punishment that Zeus imposed on Apollon for this said that he had to look after Admetus' cattle for a long year, that is, for a nine-year period or ennaheteris .

After his death Asklepios or Aesculapius was accepted among the gods.

Asclepius with Zeus-like facial features


Asklepios is mostly depicted as a bearded, serious man who is decorated with laurel and leaning on a staff. This rod, which was made by a snake ( adder ), into whose shape it was once transformed, to the year 293 BC. To end an epidemic in Rome, the so-called Asclepius staff , became a symbol of medicine. The rooster, the owl, the snake and the cypress were sacred to him.

Places of worship

Asklepios had many names depending on the area, some of them were: Aglaopes, Apaleriacus, Archgetas, Aulonius, Causius, Coronides, Cotyläus, Demenaetus, Epidaurius, Gortynius, Hagnitas, Pergameuns and Tricacus. The Asklepios healing cult was practiced primarily in Asklepieia in Epidauros , Pergamon and on Kos . Hippocrates is said to have received his medical training in the sanatorium in Kos . The ruins of the huge complex with temple, treatment rooms and altar can still be visited today. In 293 BC The cult found its way into Rome, according to Titus Livius, in response to an epidemic in the city, in 289 BC. A temple of Asclepius was inaugurated on the Tiber Island .

Similar stories

The Asklepios saga resembles the Brothers Grimm variant of the " godfather "; there death becomes the godfather (godfather) of a man who is only allowed to heal those with an herb who are not fatally ill. The young man becomes the “most famous doctor in the world”, a reputation that originally Asklepios owed. But when, despite his professional success, one day the doctor heals two terminally ill people (an old king and his beautiful daughter), death takes him instead of her.

There is also evidence that there was a certain historical continuity between the Egyptian Imhotep healing cult and the later Greek Asklepios healing cult. Temple medicine and healing temple sleep were also elements of the Imhotep healing cult.


Web links

Wiktionary: Äskulap  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Asklepios  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Menelaos Christopoulos: Light and Darkness in Ancient Greek Myth and Religion. Lexington Books, 2010, ISBN 978-0-739-13901-1 , p. 67, footnote 119 ( limited preview in Google Book Search)
  2. Homeric Hymns 16 (On Asclepius), verse 2
  3. Pindar , Pythische Oden 3, 31; Pausanias , travels in Greece 2, 26, 6; Hyginus , Fabulae 202
  4. ^ Pausanias, Journeys in Greece 2, 26, 6
  5. ^ Ovid , Metamorphoses 2, 605
  6. ^ Pausanias, Journeys in Greece 2, 26, 6
  7. ^ Pindar, Pythian Odes 3, 45
  8. ^ Pausanias, Reisen in Greece 2, 26, 3–5
  9. ^ Pausanias, Journeys in Greece 2, 26, 7
  10. ^ Homer , Iliad , 11, 518
  11. ^ Pausanias, Journeys in Greece 2, 29, 1
  12. Libraries of Apollodorus 3, 131
  13. ^ Pausanias, Travels in Greece 2, 10, 3
  14. Diodorus 4, 71
  15. Cicero , De natura deorum 2, 62
  16. Ferdinand Peter Moog: An iron recovery wish - notes on a coin of L. Aelius Caesar. In: Würzburger medical history reports , Volume 25, 2006, pp. 7-18, here: p. 12
  17. Karl-Heinz Leven (Ed.): Ancient medicine. A lexicon. CH Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 978-3-406-52891-0 , p. 572.
  18. Wolfgang U. Eckart : History, theory and ethics of medicine. Springer, Heidelberg et al. 2013, pp. 4-7.