As promised, today’s topic is the Sanctuary of Asklpieos in Athens.
Now Asklepios was a major healing god (see yesterday’s post) and his sanctuaries were places where the sick would flock to ask to be cured. Be treated by priests (with controlled diets etc.) and sleeping in the stoas near the temple in the hopes the god would come and visit them in their dreams and offer a cure.
The Athenian Asklepieion lies on the south slopes of the Acropolis, between the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus, right at the religious heart of the city. This is unusual as nearly all of Asklepios’s sanctuaries are situated away from cities in the countryside like Kos and Epidauros.
The Athenian site developed over time and was most likely founded at this site because of the fresh water source in the form of a spring since water played an important role in the cult.
It would have been a very beautiful place to visit with groves of trees and covered walkways (aka stoas) to protect you from the glare of the hot sun. There were many statues and relief monuments set up all over the sanctuary which would have looked quite “busy” and crowded to us but truth be told most sanctuaries and public areas of ancient Greece would have been like that. It is something that is very difficult to reconstruct since the majority of monuments are lost or not in situ.
The building highlighted light blue/turquoise is a doric stoa dated to the early 3rd century BC. It contains a covered walkway (like all stoas) but also a covered pit.
The green square building is a spring house where water would have been drawn up for religious use (purifications, libations etc.).
The blue squares show the small temple and outside altar (all altars were outside, this was the central place of worship. Temple were pretty much just storehouses for the gods treasures and gifts).
The pinky square shows a stoa that was added in the Augustan period of the corinthian order. Yellow square is yet another stoa, this one having dining rooms at the rear.
The red square is a spring house (even more water yay!) and the orangey square surround two temples generally thought to be those of Themis and Isis. There were other deities honoured in this area too. One dedicatory inscription also includes Hermes, the nymphs, Pan and Aphrodite.
The main courtyard with the altar and temple was paved in the 2nd century AD.
The sanctuary seems to have remained in use until 485 AD and in 529 AD a Christian Basilica was built on the site. Even this was linked healing, it was built to the Aghioi Anargyroi, the doctor saints.
Up next I will to talk about some of the objects found at the site.