Original Research

Asklepios: Sy rol in die evolusie van die Geneeskunde

François P. Retief, Louise Cilliers
Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie | Vol 30, No 1 | a26 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/satnt.v30i1.26 | © 2011 François P. Retief, Louise Cilliers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 February 2011 | Published: 06 April 2011

About the author(s)

François P. Retief, University of the Free State, South Africa
Louise Cilliers, University of the Free State, South Africa


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Abstract

Asclepius is first mentioned by Homer as leader and physician in the Trojan War. Later, during the 5th century, he became known as the god of healing, and in this century the Asclepian cult of healing became established in Epidaurus. This healing cult, which was accommodated by empiric (Hippocratic) physicians of the time, endured for close on ten centuries in Asclepieia, of which there were more than 400 in the Mediterranean area and surrounding countries. The Asclepieia were of different design, but usually included a temple dedicated to the god, as well as inscriptions [iamata] with information on the patients who were healed, a sacred bath, a well and a room [abaton] for so-called incubation sleep where the patient would spend the night. Asclepius traditionally appeared to the patients in a vision in the course of the night and an immediate miraculous healing could take place, or advice was given regarding the future treatment of the patient, which was in the morning thereafter discussed by the temple personnel. It is said that the Asclepian cult, a religious healing programme, complemented secular treatment since the tempel personnel were in contact with contemporary Hippocratic medicine. The emotional impact of the incubation sleep and dreams could have had a healing impact on ailments with a psycological basis. The final disappearance of the Asclepian cult was the result of the rise of Christianity, rather than the decline of its healing effectiveness.

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