Located 4 kilometres south east of Kos town, surrounded by a pine-covered hill which commands stunning views towards Turkey, stands Kos’ most important ancient site.
Founded in the 3rd century BC, the Asklepieion was a healing temple and a school of medicine, a religious sanctuary built to honour the god of health, healing and medicine- Asclepius. According to legend it was built after the death of the famous ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, the Kos-born ‘father’ of modern medicine. The training here simply followed his teachings.
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. These patients would come to pay homage to the gods by making pilgrimages to the site, performing a prayer or a sacrifice, giving monetary gifts. They would sleep overnight and report 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. It also served as a sanctuary for those who were extremely ill.
The image below has been borrowed and shows what the site once looked like...
(This image has been borrowed from https://www.ostia-antica.org/kos/asklep-p/asklep-p.htm and we thank them for the use)
Some rather interesting facts-
The characteristic symbol of this institution was a snake, as Greeks honoured this animal due to its ability in terms of selecting curative herbs, The symbol of a snake wrapped around a staff, which is seen throughout all medical infrastructures as well as the American Medical Association in modern times, is reminiscent of the staff that Asclepius carried.
In Greek mythology and religion, Asclepius was the Grecian God of Medicine, descended from Apollo and the Coronis. He received his name as a result of his birth in which his mother had to have her womb cut open in order for him to be birthed (now known as a caesarean section). Asclepius means "to cut open” According to Greek mythology, in his upbringing, he was taught the art of medicine by the centaur Chiron. Through his studies, he had become so deft at the art of medicine that he was able to return the living from the dead.
What was the sanctuary like? -
The sanctuary (or hospital as it is commonly known) now lies in ruins, since it was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 554 but you can still tell apart the different areas and rooms that were part of the buildings.
The ruins occupy three terraces, the first held the medical school and Roman-era public baths. The second held an altar and temples. On the third terrace is the once-magnificent 2nd-century-BC Temple of Asclepius, and a church.