(Ancient Greek: Ἀσκληπιεῖον Asklepieion; Ἀσκλαπιεῖον in Doric dialect; Latin aesculapīum) was a healing temple, sacred to the god Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine. These healing temples were a place where patients would visit to receive either treatment or some sort of healing, whether it was spiritual or physical.
Asclepius may first have been worshipped as a hero in Trikka (modern Trikala), Thessaly, Greece. Ancient mythographers generally regarded Trikka as the place of Asclepius’ birth, but to date archaeological excavations have yet to uncover his sanctuary there. Epidaurus, on the other hand, was the first place to worship Asclepius as a god, beginning sometime in the 5th century BC. The asclepieion at Epidaurus is both extensive and well preserved. There is also an asclepieion located on the south slopes of the Acropolis of Athens which dates to around 420 BC.
Starting around 350 BC, the cult of Asclepius became increasingly popular. Pilgrims flocked to asclepieia to be healed. They slept overnight (“incubation”) and reported their dreams to a priest the following day. He prescribed a cure, often a visit to the baths or a gymnasium. Since snakes were sacred to Asclepius, they were often used in healing rituals. Non-venomous snakes were left to crawl on the floor in dormitories where the sick and injured slept.
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