After a period of instruction in medicine by a doctor who also, according to Lucian, was an impostor, he succeeded in establishing an oracle of Aesculapius at his native town.
Having circulated a prophecy that the son of Apollo was to be born again, he contrived that there should be found in the foundations of the temple to Aesculapius, then in course of construction at Abonouteichos, an egg in which a small live snake had been placed.
Cato advised the agriculturist to sell his old oxen and his old slaves, as well as his sick ones; and sick slaves were exposed in the island of Aesculapius in the Tiber; by a decree of Claudius slaves so exposed, if they recovered, could not be reclaimed by their masters.
Although the actual organization of medicine among the Homeric Greeks was thus quite distinct from religion, the worship of Asclepius (or Aesculapius) as the god of healing demands some notice.
Under faith healing in a wider sense may be included (I) the cures in the temples of Aesculapius and other deities in the ancient world; (2) the practice of touching for the king's evil, in vogue from the 11th to the 18th century; (3) the cures of Valentine Greatrakes, the "Stroker" (1629-1683); and (4) the miracles of Lourdes, and other resorts of pilgrims, among which may be mentioned St Winifred's Well in Flintshire, Treves with its Holy Coat, the grave of the Jansenist F.
Serpent cults were well known in ancient Europe; there does not, it is true, appear to be much ground for supposing that Aesculapius was a serpent-god in spite of his connexion with serpents.
Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in his Epistle on Demosthenes and Aristotle (chap. 5), gives the following sketch of his life: - Aristotle ('ApeaToTE ujs) was the son of Nicomachus, who traced back his descent and his art to Machaon,son of Aesculapius; his mother being Phaestis, a descendant of one of those who carried the colony from Chalcis to Stagira.
They include colossal figures of Aesculapius and Bacchus, and the lower half of a seated Egyptian divinity in black basalt, bearing the cartouche of Tethmosis (Thothmes) I.
Persons who had recovered from an illness offered anathemata in the temples of Asclepius (Aesculapius); those who had escaped from shipwreck offered their clothes, or, if these had been lost, a lock of hair, to Neptune (Hor.
Close to this temple was another, of very small size, commonly known as the temple of Aesculapius, but probably dedicated to Zeus Milichius.
Especially interesting is the figure of Aesculapius, whose traditional birthplace was Epidaurum or Epidaurus, the parent city of Ragusa.
Now, serpents were tended in the sanctuaries of the Greek Aesculapius (Asklepios), the famous god of healing.
Finally, although in the sanctuary of Aesculapius healing came directly or indirectly as the patients dreamed, it appears from the burlesque of Aristophanes (Plutus, 653 sqq.) that they first bathed in the sacred spring.
13 In the sanctuary of Aesculapius at Epidaurus women were visited in their dreams by a serpent - the reputed father of the child that was born, and elsewhere Sicyon who had such a progenitor was regarded as the son of the divine healer.14 Similar also was the origin of Augustus in a temple of Apollo, the god who had his tame serpents in the grove on Epirus.
2 Other developments may be illustrated from the cult of Aesculapius, who seems to have been merely a deified ancestor, like the Egyptian Imhotep (below) or the interesting Indian healer Sokha Baba (Crooke i.
Introduced into Athens about 421 B.C., Aesculapius inherited the older local cult of the serpent " protector " Amynos (Harrison, 346 seq.).
3 In Egypt, he superseded the sage Imhotep at Memphis, and at the temple sacred to Aesculapius and Hygieia at Ptolemais the money-box has been found with the upper part in the form of a great snake .4 Finally among the Phoenicians he was identified with Eshmun, an earlier god of healing, who in turn was already closely associated with Dionysus and with Caelestis-Astarte.'
Aesculapius (§ 13) - much in the same way as Hercules has contests with serpents and dragons, becomes the patron of medicinal springs, and by marrying the serpent Echidna was the ancestor of the snakeworshipping Scythians.
Serapis' (OsirisApis) who came to acquire the attributes of Aesculapius and of Pluto, god of the dead, sometimes had serpent-form, and even in the reign of Constantine popular belief connected the rise of the Nile with his agency (Frazer, Adonis, 398).
There is an obvious development from the serpent qua reptile to the deity or the devil, and that the original theriomorphic form is not at once forgotten can be seen in Zeus Meilichios, Aesculapius Amynos, in the Cretan snake-goddesses, or in the Buddhist topes illustrated by Fergusson.
(4) The worship of trees, plants and animals is a particular phase of the wider series of nature-cults, only named here because of its frequency and its obvious survivals in some of the higher polytheisms, where, as in Egypt, the Apis bulls were worshipped; or where, as in Mesopotamia, the great gods are partly symbolized by animal forms; or where, as in Israel, Yahweh might be represented as a bull; or where, as in Greece, such epithets as Dendrites and Endendros preserved traces of the association of Dionysus and Zeus with vegetation; while sacred animals like the serpents of Aesculapius were preserved in the temples.6
In 180 B.C., on the occasion of a plague, vows were made to Apollo, Aesculapius and Salus (Livy xl.
To the south-east is the temple of Aesculapius, which served originally as a kind of court chapel, and has long been transformed into a baptistery.
It is extremely interesting to find a similar poem in the recently discovered mimes of Herondas, the fourth of which is termed " Women making offerings to Aesculapius" (Acranirly avar,OE2aat Kai Ovaci ovaac).
These may be divided into three classes: first, the sprig of rue in silver, with sundry emblems attached to it, all of which refer to the worship of Diana, whose shrine at Capua was of considerable importance; secondly, the serpent charms, which formed part of the worship of Aesculapius, and were no doubt derived largely from the ancient eastern ophiolatry; and lastly charms derived from the legends of the Sirens.
Apollo is further supposed to be the father of Asclepius (Aesculapius), whose ritual is closely modelled upon his.
Temples were erected to Aesculapius in many parts of Greece, near healing springs or on high mountains.
Aesculapius was a favourite subject of ancient artists.
Votive reliefs representing such groups have been found near the temple of Aesculapius at Athens.
The British Museum possesses a beautiful head of Aesculapius (or possibly Zeus) from Melos, and the Louvre a magnificent statue.