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Statue of Asklepios

The Legion of Honor - Joy of Museums 5

Statue of Asklepios

This Statue of Asklepios depicts the son of Apollo, the Greek god of medicine and patron of physicians. During the Hellenistic period, there was increased realism in sculpture, which is exemplified in this statue. He was sculptured standing with his weight on his right leg and leaning on his staff.

Asklepios’ right-hand rests on his weight-bearing hip, which is raised in an exaggerated posture over the folds of his draped cloak. The contrasting directions, called the contrapposto pose, representing the planes of the body and the sharp folds of the himation produce a spiral twist and convey a sense of movement.

Asclepius was a hero and god of medicine in ancient Greek religion and mythology. Although Asklepios was the son of the god Apollo, his appeal lasted well into the Christian era. Some of his daughters include:

  • Hygieia, whose name serves as the root of the word “Hygiene”, the goddess of health, cleanliness, and sanitation.
  • Panacea who was the goddess of universal remedy.
  • Iaso, the goddess of recuperation from illness.
  • Aceso, the goddess of the healing process.
  • Aglaea, the goddess of beauty, splendour, glory, magnificence, and adornment.

The Asklepios statue in its undamaged form would have had him leaning on his staff, with a serpent wound around it. You can see the remnants of the snake and staff in the lower right parts of his clothing. The serpent was sacred to Asklepios, and his staff, the caduceus. The rod of Asclepius, a snake-entwined staff, remains a symbol of medicine today. Below

Asklepios - Epidauros

Asclepius with his serpent-entwined staff from the Archaeological Museum of Epidaurus

Sanctuaries of Asklepieion

Significant sanctuaries or shrines dedicated to Asklepieion can be found in many of the ancient cities of Greece. An infirmary of Asclepios was one of the most important sanctuaries of a city, and many were active for hundreds of years. There were two steps in the treatment process of the Asclepeion. The first was the purification stage where the patient undergoes a series of baths and other purging techniques such as a controlled diet over several days or purging their emotions through art. The patient would then make an offering to the temple, and the priest would offer a prayer to ease the patient’s mind.

The second step is incubation or dream therapy. The patients would sleep at the temple to be visited by a god. The patient would then receive the proper treatment while in the dream or receive directions from the god on what the necessary steps were to treat their ailment. If required, the patient could also tell their dream to a priest or a dream-interpreter who would interpret the type of treatment necessary for that patient.

Reflections

  • How effective were the procedures performed at the Asclepeion?
  • How similar are modern superstitions to those that made Herms popular in ancient Greece?
  • Why were so many medical terms in the west baptised with Ancient Greek names?
  • How similar are some of the treatment processes of the ancient Asclepeion to some modern health or spiritual retreats?

Exploring The Legion of Honor

Reflections

  • Do you know Panacea’s father?

Statue of Asklepios

  • Title:                Statue of Asklepios
  • Date:               2nd century BC
  • Period:             Hellenistic Period
  • Media:             Pentelic Marble
  • Dimensions:    36 x 14 1/2 x 9 (91.4 x 36.8 x 22.9 cm)
  • Country:          Greece
  • Museums:       Legion of Honor

~~~

“To you, the clever and crafty,
bitter beyond all bitterness,
who have sinned against the gods in bestowing honours upon creatures of a day–to you, thief of fire, I speak.”

– (Hermes addresses Prometheus) Aeschylus

~~~


Photo Credit: 1)GM 2) By original file by Michael F. Mehnert [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons