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Aesculapius – The Roman God of Healing

Aesculapius The Roman form of the Greek god of healing, Asclepius. Aesculapius was probably a renowned healer who lived during the 11th century BC in Greece. Like many such ancient heroic figures he was later deified to become a god of healing. Such deification is much like the canonisation of saints in the Catholic Church. In the fifth century BC Sophocles built a shrine to Aesculapius in Athens. In the following years many other shrines were built, and over 300 such centres of healing still existed throughout Greece and the Roman Empire in the second century AD. These shrines were dedicated to healing, principally using dreams and the incubation of dreams.

One of the most beautiful of surviving shrines to Aesculapius is at Epidaurus. It was built in the fifth century BC. Such centres were often of great size, and the one at Epidaurus took about 150 years to complete. For instance the temple had an adjoining stadium large enough to hold 14,000 spectators, a temple to the god’s daughter Hygeia, a library, a sacred well, and a hotel with 160 rooms and several areas for people to sleep in to incubate sacred dreams. See: analysis of dreams; Asclepius; Greece (ancient) dream beliefs.

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