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From Greek and Roman Mythology & Heroic Legend, by Professor H. Steuding, Translated from the German and Edited by Lionel D. Barnett. The Temple Primers, London: J. M. Dent; 1901; pp. 12-13.


Greek Religion from the Beginning of the Homeric Age

Asklepios.   § 22.  In Homer’s time a few of the cave-dwelling subterranean powers formerly limited to their own districts (described above, § 4) have likewise come to be widely esteemed as heroes or gods. One of the most venerated amongst them is Asklepios, who in all probability had his original home in the neighbourhood of Trikka in Thessaly, at the foot of Pindos. His worshippers and priests, the family of the Asklepiadai, practised healing as a secret science, so that the remedies prescribed by their god in dream-oracles and skilfully applied by them were wont to have the desired effect. Hence his reputation rose above that of other beings of his kind, and his worship was then carried further; it came to Boiotia, where it was connected with the kindred cult of Trophonios at Lebadeia, thence to Phokis, Athens, and Epidauros in Argolis, finally even to Rome, where the god’s name was modified to Aesculapius.

§ 23.  Like the dead, he was represented in the form of a snake, and in Homer he still appears as an actual physician-hero. In Homer he is a son of the healing god Apollon, but he is instructed in the arts of the leech by the wise Centaur Cheiron. When he recalls even the dead to life by his 13 skill, the god of the nether world complains of him to Zeus, who thereupon smites him with his lightning. His children are the healers Machaon and Podaleirios, together with the goddesses bestowing health and healing, Hygieia (‘Health-giver’), Iaso (‘Healer’), Panakeia (‘All-curing’), and Aigle (‘Brilliance’). Asklepios is usually figured as a kindly man with a shrewd look, standing, and with his upper body bared. As token he carries a large staff enwreathed by a snake, often too a fillet round the head.

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