Homeric world ASKLEPIEION OF EPIDAURUS (Ancient sanctuary) ARGOLIS - GTP - Greek Travel Pages

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Gods & demigods

Asclepius (Asclepios, Aesculapius)

Asclepius is not a god in the Iliad but a great doctor and the father of Machaon and Podaleirius, who were the leaders of Tricca, Ithome and Oechalia in the Trojan War (Il. 2.731, 4.194, 11.518). He is mentioned by the posterity as the god of medicine and son of Apollo and Coronis, daughter of Phlegyas. According to ancient myths, Asclepius was born in Tricca and not in Epidaurus.

Aesculapius (Asklepios), the god of the medical art. In the Homeric poems Aesculapius does not appear to be considered as a divinity, but merely as a human being, which is indicated by the adjective amumon, which is never given to a god. No allusion is made to his descent, and he is merely mentioned as the ieter amumon, and the father of Machaon and Podaleirius (Il. ii. 731, iv. 194, xi. 518). From the fact that Homer (Od. iv. 232) calls all those who practise the healimlg art descendants of Paeeon, and that Podaleirius and Machaon are called the sons of Aesculapius, it has been inferred, that Aesculapius and Paeeon are the same being, and consequently a divinity. But wherever Homer mentions the healing god, it is always Paeeon, and never Aesculapius; and as in the poet's opinion all physicians were descended from Paeeon, he probably considered Aesculapius in the same light. This supposition is corroborated by the fact, that in later times Paeeon was identified with Apollo, and that Aesculapius is universally described as a descendant of Apollo. The two sons of Aesculapius in the Iliad, were the physicians in the Greek army, and are described as ruling over Tricca, Ithome, and Oechalia (Il. ii. 729).
  According to Eustathius (ad Hom. p. 330), Lapithes was a son of Apollo and Stilbe, and Aesculapius was a descendant of Lapithes. This tradition seems to be based on the same groundwork as the more common one, that Aesculapius was a son of Apollo and Coronis, the daughter of Phlegyas, who is a descendant of Lapithes (Apollod. iii. 10.3; Pind. Pyth. iii. 14, with the Schol.) .
  The common story then goes on as follows. When Coronis was with child by Apollo, she became enamoured with Ischys, an Arcadian, and Apollo informed of this by a raven, which he had set to watch her, or, according to Pindar, by his own prophetic powers, sent his sister Artemis to kill Coronis. Artemis accordingly destroyed Coronis in her own house at Lacereia in Thessaly, on the shore of lake Baebia (Comp. Horn. Hymn. 27. 3.) According to Ovid (Met. ii. 605) and Hyginus (Poet. Astr. ii. 40), it was Apollo himself who killed Coronis and Ischys. When the body of Coronis was to be burnt, Apollo, or, according to others (Paus. ii. 26.5), Hermes, saved the child (Aesculapius) from the flames, and carried it to Cheiron, who instructed the boy in the art of healing and in hunting (Pind. Pyth. iii. 1; Apollod. iii. 10.3; Paus. l. c).
  According to other traditions Aesculapius was born at Tricca in Thessaly (Strab. xiv. p. 647), and others again related that Coronis gave birth to him during an expedition of her father Phlegyas into Peloponnesus, in the territory of Epidaurus, and that she exposed him on mount Tittheion, which was before called Myrtion. Here he was fed by a goat and watched by a dog, until at last he was found by Aresthanas, a shepherd, who saw the boy surrounded by a lustre like that of lightning (See a different account in Paus. viii. 25.6). From this dazzling splendour, or from his having been rescued from the flames, he was called by the Dorians aiglaer. The truth of the tradition that Aesculapius was born in the territory of Epidaurus, and was not the son of Arsinoe, daughter of Leucippus and born in Messenia, was attested by an oracle which was consulted to decide the question (Paus. ii. 26.6, iv. 3.2; Cic. De Nat. Deor. iii. 22, where three different Aesculapiuses are made out of the different local traditions about him).
  After Aesculapius had grown up, reports spread over all countries, that he not only cured all the sick, but called the dead to life again. About the manner in which he acquired this latter power, there were two traditions in ancient times. According to the one (Apollod. l. c.), he had received from Athena the blood which had flowed from the veins of Gorgo, and the blood which had flowed from the veins of the right side of her body possessed the power of restoring the dead to life. According to the other tradition, Aesculapius on one occasion was shut up in the house of Glaucus, whom he was to cure, and while he was standing absorbed in thought, there came a serpent which twined round the staff, and which he killed. Another serpent then came carrying in its mouth a herb with which it recalled to life the one that had been killed, and Aesculapius henceforth made use of the same herb with the same effect upon men (Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 14). Several persons, whom Aesculapius was believed to have restored to life, are mentioned by the Scholiast on Pindar (Pyth. iii. 96) and by Apollodorus (l. c.). When he was exercising this art upon Glaucus, Zeus killed Aesculapius with a flash of lightning, as he feared lest men might gradually contrive to escape death altogether (Apollod. iii. 10.4), or, according to others, because Pluto had complained of Aesculapius diminishing the number of the dead too much (Diod. iv. 71; comp. Schol. ad Pind. Pyth. iii. 102). But, on the request of Apollo, Zeus placed Aesculapius among the stars (Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 14). Aesculapius is also said to have taken part in the expedition of the Argonauts and in the Calydonian hunt. He was married to Epione, and besides the two sons spoken of by Homer, we also find mention of the following children of his : Janiscus, Alexenor, Aratus, Hygieia, Aegle, laso, land Panaceia (Schol. ad Pind. Pyth. iii. 14; Paus. ii. 10.3, i. 34.2), most of whom are only personifications of the powers ascribed to their father.
  These are the legends about one of the most interesting and important divinities of antiquity. Various hypotheses have been brought forward to explain the origin of his worship in Greece; and, while some consider Aesculapius to have been originally a real personage, whom tradition had connected with various marvellous stories, others have explained all the legends about him as mere personifications of certain ideas. The serpent, the perpetual symbol of Aesculapius, has given rise to the opinion, that the worship was derived from Egypt, and that Aesculapius was identical with the serpent Cnuph worshipped in Egypt, or with the Phoenician Esmun (Euseb. Praep. Evang. i. 10; comp. Paus. vii. 23.6). But it does not seem necessary to have recourse to foreign countries in order to explain the worship of this god. His story is undoubtedly a combination of real events with the results of thoughts or ideas, which, as in so many instances in Greek mythology, are, like the former, considered as facts. The kernel, out of which the whole myth has grown, is perhaps the account we read in Homer; but gradually the sphere in which Aesculapius acted was so extended, that he became the representative or the personification of the healing powers of nature, which are naturally enough described as the son (the effects) of Helios, Apollo, or the Sun.
  Aesculapius was worshipped all over Greece, and many towns, as we have seen, claimed the honour of his birth. His temples were usually built in healthy places, on hills outside the town, and near wells which were believed to have healing powers. These temples were not only places of worship, but were frequented by great numbers of sick persons, and may therefore be compared to modern hospitals (Plut. Quaest. Rom.).
  The principal seat of his worship in Greece was Epidaurus, where he had a temple surrounded with an extensive grove, within which no one was allowed to die, and no woman to give birth to a child. His sanctuary contained a magnificent statue of ivory and gold, the work of Thrasymedes, in which he was represented as a handsome and manly figure, resembling that of Zeus (Paus. ii. 26 & 27) lie was seated on a throne, holding in one hand a staff, and with the other resting upon the head of a dragon (serpent), and by his side lay a dog. Serpents were everywhere connected with the worship of Aesculapius, probably because they were a symbol of prudence and renovation, and were believed to have the power of discovering herbs of wondrous powers, as is indicated in the story about Aesculapius and the serpents in the house of Glaucus. Serpents were further believed to be guardians of wells with salutary powers. For these reasons a peculiar kind of tame serpents, in which Epidaurus abounded, were not only kept in his temple (Paus. ii. 28.1), but the god himself frequently appeared in the form of a serpent (Paus. iii. 23.4; Val. Max. i. 8.2; Liv. Epit. 11; compare the account of Alexander Pseudomantis in Lucian).
  Besides the temple of Epidaurus, whence the worship of the god was transplanted to various other parts of the ancient world, we may mention those of Tricca (Strab. ix. p. 437), Celaenae (xiii. p. 603), between Dyme and Patrae (viii. p. 386), near Cyllene (viii. p. 337), in the island of Cos (xiii. p. 657; Paus. iii. 23.4), at Gerenia (Strab. viii. p. 360), near Caus in Arcadia (Steph. Byz. s. v.), at Sicyon (Paus. ii. 10.2), at Athens (i. 21.7), near Patrae (vii. 21.6), at Titane in the territory of Sicyon (vii. 23.6), at Thelpusa (viii. 25.3), in Messene (iv. 31.8), at Phlius (ii. 13. 3), Argos (ii. 23.4), Aegium (ii. 23.5), Pellene (vii. 27. 5), Asopus (iii. 22.7), Pergamum (iii. 26.7), Lebene in Crete, Smyrna, Balagrae (ii. 26.7), Ambracia (Liv. xxxviii. 5), at Rome and other places. At Rome the worship of Aesculapius was introduced from Epidaurus at the command of the Delphic oracle or of the Sibylline books, in B. C. 293, for the purpose of averting a pestilence. Respecting the miraculous manner in which this was effected see Valerius Maximus (i. 8.2), and Ovid. Met. xv. 620; comp. Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome, iii; Liv. x. 47, xxix. 11; Suet. Claud. 25).
  The sick, who visited the temples of Aesculapius, had usually to spend one or more nights in his sanctuary (katheudein, ineubare, Paus. ii. 27.2), during which they observed certain rules prescribed by the priests. The god then usually revealed the remedies for the disease in a dream (Aristoph. Plut. 662; Cic. De Div. ii. 59 ; Philostr. Vita Apollon. i. 7). It was in allusion to this incubatio that many temples of Aesculapius contained statues representing Sleep and Dream. (Paus. ii. 10. ยง 2.) Those whom the god cured of their disease offered a sacrifice to him, generally a cock (Plat Phacd.) or a goat (Paus. x. 32.8; Serv. ad Virg. Georg. ii. 380), and hung up in his temple a tablet recording the name of the sick, the disease, and the manner in which the cure had been effected. The temples of Epidaurus, Tricca, and Cos, were full of such votive tablets, and several of them are still extant (Paus. ii. 27.3; Strab. viii). Respecting the festivals celebrated in honour of Aesculapius see Dict. of Ant. p. 103. &c. The various surnames given to the god partly describe him as the healing or saving god, and are partly derived from the places in which he was worshipped. Some of his statues are described by Pausanias (ii. 10.3, x. 32.8). Besides the attributes mentioned in the description of his statue at Epidaurus, he is sometimes represented holding in one hand a phial, and in the other a stalf; sometimes also a boy is represented standing by his side, who is the genius of recovery, and is called Telesphorus, Euamerion, or Acesius (Paus. ii. 11.7). We still possess a considerable number of marble statues and busts of Aesculapius, as well as many representations on coins and gems.
  There were in antiquity two works which went under the name of Aesculapius, which, however, were no more genuine than the works ascribed to Orpheus (Fabricius, Bibl. Graec. i. p. 55).
  The descendants of Aesculapius were called by the patronymic name Asclepiadae (Asklepiadai). Those writers, who consider Aesculapius as a real personage, must regard the Asclepiadae as his real descendants, to whom he transmitted his medical knowledge, and whose principal seats were Cos and Cnidus (Plat. de Re Publ. iii). But the Asclepiadae were also regarded as an order or caste of priests, and for a long period the practice of medicine was intimately connected with religion. The knowledge of medicine was regarded as a sacred secret, which was transmitted from father to son in the families of the Asclepiadae, and we still possess the oath which every one was obliged to take when he was put in possession of the medical secrets. (Galen, Anat. ii; Aristid. Orat. i. p. 80) art. In Homer he is not a divinity, but simply the "blameless physician" whose sons, Machaon and Podalirius, were the physicians in the Greek army. The common story relates that Aesculapius was a son of Apollo and Coronis, and that when Coronis was with child by Apollo she became enamoured of Ischys, an Arcadian. Apollo, informed of this by a raven, killed Coronis and Ischys. When the body of Coronis was to be burnt, the child Aesculapius was saved from the flames, and was brought up by the centaur Chiron, who instructed him in the art of healing and in hunting. There are other tales respecting his birth, according to some of which he was a native of Epidaurus, and this was a common opinion in later times. After he had grown up, he not only cured the sick, but recalled the dead to life. Zeus, fearing lest men might contrive to escape death altogether, killed Aesculapius with his thunderbolt; but, on the request of Apollo, Zeus placed him among the stars. He was married to Epione, by whom he had the two sons spoken of by Homer, and also other children. The chief seat of the worship of Aesculapius was Epidaurus, where he had a temple surrounded with an extensive grove. Serpents were sacred to him, because they were a symbol of renovation, and were believed to have the power of discovering healing herbs. The cock was sacrificed to him. At Rome the worship of Aesculapius was introduced from Epidaurus in B.C. 293, for the purpose of averting a pestilence. The supposed descendants of Aesculapius were called by the patronymic name of Asclepiadae, and their principal seats were Cos and Cnidus. They were an order or caste of priests, among whom the knowledge of medicine was regarded as a sacred secret, and was transmitted from father to son in these families.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited June 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Medicus (iatros), the name given by the ancients to every professor of the healing art, whether physician or surgeon, and accordingly both divisions of the medical profession will here be included under that term. In Greece and Asia Minor physicians seem to have been held in high esteem; far more so than at Rome. This was at least to some extent due to the religious sense, iatrike and mantike being regarded as akin (Eustath. ad II. i. 63), and to the apotheosis of Aesculapius, of whom physicians speak as hohemeteros progonos (Plat. Symp. p. 186 A). When we meet such expressions as that in Athen. xv. p. 666 b, ei me iatroi esan ouden an hen ton grammatikon moroteron, the allusion is to the pedantry of physicians after the type ridiculed by Moliere, and does not show a general depreciation of their class. Aelian mentions one of the laws of Zaleucus among the Epizephyrian Locrians, by which it was ordered that if any one during his illness should drink wine contrary to the orders of his physician, even if he should recover, he should be put to death for his disobedience (Var. Hist. ii. 37); and, according to Mead, there are extant several medals struck by the people of Smyrna in honour of different persons belonging to the medical profession. According to the Decree of the Athenians and the Life of Hippocrates by Soranus, the same honours were conferred upon that physician as had before been given to Hercules; he was voted a golden crown, publicly initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries, and maintained in the Prytaneum at the state's expense. Both these pieces, however, are more legendary than historical (Compare Plin. H. N. vii, 123).
  The physician made up his medicines himself, and either sat in his iatreion, which was both a consulting-room and a dispensary (called also ergasterion, Aeschin. in Timarch. 124), or went a round of visits (Plat. Legg. iv. 720 C. For these iatreia cf. Poll. x. 46; Plat. Legg. i. p. 646 C). Here he had also assistants and apprentices or pupils (Plat. Legg. iv. l. c.; Aeschin. in Timarch. 40). In the former passage the assistant doctors are slaves, on which point cf. Diog. Laert. vi. 30. No doubt slaves only as a rule were attended by slave doctors, and free men by free, but it is noticeable that Plato, when he says this, qualifies by hos epi to pleiston. When Hyginus, Fab. 274, says that there was a law at Athens against any slave practising, he must allude, if his assertion is true at all, to the state physicians.
  Though hospitals are mentioned in Roman writers (Cels. de Medic. i. praef. sub fin.; Colum. de Re Rust. xi. 1, 18; Sen. Epist. 27,1) after the time of Augustus, they are never, with one single exception in Crates, mentioned by Greek writers before the Roman period. The function, so far as it was performed at all, was discharged by the temples of Aesculapius, and accordingly the chief places of study for medical pupils were the Asklepieia, or temples of Aesculapius, where the votive tablets furnished them with a collection of cases. Hence we find in ancient works of art Aesculapius represented as visiting the sick. The Asclepiadae were very strict in examining into and overlooking the character and conduct of their pupils, and the famous Hippocratic oath (which, if not drawn up by Hippocrates himself, is certainly very ancient) requires to be inserted here as being the most curious medical monument of antiquity.

I swear by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius, and Hygeia (Health), and Panaceia (All-heal), and all the gods and goddesses, calling them to witness that I will fulfil, according to the best of my power and judgment, this oath and written bond:
to honour as my parents the master who has taught me this art, and to share my substance with him, and to minister to all his necessities; to consider his children as my own brothers, and to teach them this art should they desire to follow it, without remuneration or written bond; to admit to my lessons, my discourses, and all my other teaching, my own sons, and those of my tutor, and those who have been inscribed as pupils and have taken the medical oath; but no one else. I will prescribe such regimen as may be for the benefit of my patients, according to the best of my power and judgment, and preserve them from anything hurtful and mischievous. I will never, if asked, administer poison, nor be the author of such advice; neither will I give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. I will maintain the purity and integrity both of my conduct and of my art. I will not cut any one for the stone, but will leave the operation to those who cultivate it. Into whatever dwellings I may go, I will enter them for the benefit of the sick, abstaining from all mischief and corruption, especially from any immodest action, towards women or men, freemen or slaves. If during my attendance, or even unprofessionally in common life, I happen to see or hear of anything which should not be revealed, I will consider it a secret not to be divulged. May I, if I observe this oath, and do not break it, enjoy good success in life, and in [the practice of] my art, and be esteemed for ever; should I transgress and become a perjurer, may the reverse be my lot.

  Some idea of the income of a physician in those times may be formed from the fact mentioned by Herodotus (iii. 131) that the Aeginetans (about the year B.C. 532) paid Democedes from the public treasury one talent per annum for his services, i. e. (if we reckon the Aeginetan drachma to be worth 1s.) not quite 304l.; he afterwards received from the Athenians one hundred minae, i. e. (reckoning the Attic drachma to be worth 9 3/4 d.) rather more than 406l., and he was finally attracted to Samos by being offered by Polycrates a salary of two talents, i. e. (if the Attic standard be meant) about 422l. A physician, called by Pliny both Erasistratus (H. N. xxix. 5) and Cleombrotus (H. N. vii.123), is said by him to have received one hundred talents, i. e. considerably over 20,000l., for curing king Antiochus.
  State physicians were employed in Greece (from Democedes downwards). They were selected on the ground of knowledge evidenced in their private practice (Xen. Mem. iv. 2, 5; Plat. Gorg. 455 B, 514 D). In Plat. Polit. p. 259 A we see them distinguished from those who practised privately: their practice and official status are described by the word demosieuein specially applied to them, and in their public capacity they received salary but took no fees (Aristoph. Av. 587; Acharn. 994); their expenses, however, were paid besides their salary, and they received public honours for distinguished service. It appears from Diod. xii. 13 that they attended gratis any one who applied to them, and it is at least probable that they were bound to give their services on military expeditions. From Aristoph. Plut. 407 it appears that in that period of depression at Athens the office was discontinued from motives of economy.
  As regards the rise and progress of the medical profession at Rome, we must distinguish between the slaves skilled in medicine, who were kept in the larger households, and the physician in general practice. The former, no doubt, came earlier in date, and those who could afford skilled slaves for medical treatment already employed them, when for the masses there was no practising physician: but in the yet earlier times for all alike, and for the general public to a comparatively late period, the treatment of sickness was by traditional family recipes, partly founded on experience, partly on superstition, the Romans being for the most part, as late as the 600th year of the city (according to Pliny, H. N. xix.11), sine medicis nec tamen sine medicina.
  A little earlier however than this (B.C. 219), says Pliny on the authority of Cassius Hemina, the first professed physician, the Greek Archagathus, came to Rome. He was made a citizen and started in a shop at the public expense (Plin. xxix.12): but his treatment was unpopular from its heroic method, a saevitia secandi urendique. There was much opposition, for the Romans regarded with suspicion the skill of the foreigners, and shunned the calling themselves as a degradation. Cato, who still held to the old custom, and used a family manual of medicine (commentarium), quo mederetur filio, servis et familiaribus, strongly opposed the whole class of medici, against whom he warns his son, as banded together to kill Roman citizens. In Plautus (Menaechm. v. 1) we have perhaps evidence of the same mistrust and contempt; but it is never possible to assume that the customs and sentiments described in Plautus are Roman rather than Greek.
  Gradually however, after the time of Archagathus, the number of foreign physicians in Rome increased, alike those in private houses, who were either slaves (cf. Suet. Ner. 2) or freedmen, and those who had general practice. As a household physician of this kind we may instance Strato from the Cluentius of Cicero (63, 176). We have the price of a slave physician fixed at 60 solidi (Just. Cod. vii. 7, 1, 5). The practising physicians at Rome were nearly all of the freedman class. They had booths (tabernae), where they practised with slaves or freedmen as their assistants and pupils, whom they took about with them in their visits (Mart. v. 9). Few Romans took up the profession (though we hear of Vettius Valens, a man of equestrian rank in the reign of Claudius); and Julius Caesar, avowedly to encourage their residence, gave the citizenship to foreign physicians (Suet. Jul. 42), with the result which he desired.
  Among physicians who seem to have risen to greater repute we have Asclepiades of Prusa (Cic. de Or. i. 1. 4, 62; cf. Plin. H. N. vii.124); Asclapo of Patrae, whom Cicero treated as a friend (Cic. ad Fam. xiii. 2. 0); Alexio, for whom he seems to have had even greater regard (ad Att. xv. 1); Antonius Musa, the freedman and trusted physician of Augustus (Suet. Aug. 59; cf. Hor. Ep. i. 15, 3); M. Artorius (Vell. Pat. ii. 70, 1; Plut. Brut. 41); A. Cornelius Celsus, who wrote a medical treatise under Tiberius; Eudemus (Tac. Ann. iv. 3), &c.
  The professional gains of physicians under the Empire seem often to have been large: we are told of Stertinius by private practice making more than 5,000l. a year, and the surgeon Alcon amassing a fortune of nearly 100,000l. by a few years' practice in Gaul (Plin. H. N. xxix.7, 22; cf. Mart. xi. 84). Regular medical posts were instituted with large appointments: as court physicians with salaries varying from 250,000 to 500,000 H.S. (Plin. l. c.); as doctors for the army, for gladiatorial schools, and for the poorer public. Apart from these state appointments the practice was entirely free from control or training: as a rule probably the training was gained by the sort of apprenticeship to some medicus described above, but anyone was at liberty to practise, and, in the words of Pliny, experimenta per mortes facere ; ignorance was not, as in our country, penal, and hence medico hominem occidisse summa impunitas (Plin. xxix.18).
  Besides the archiatri at Rome itself (one for each region), there were by order of Antoninus Pius in each city of Asia Minor state physicians (paid by the state, with immunity from taxes), in numbers varying from five to ten according to the size of the town. We can trace specialist physicians also, such as the oculist (ocularius or ab oculis), the aurist (aurarius).The profession of dentist is implied at a very early date by the remarkable extract from the XII. Tables in Cic. de Leg. ii. 2. 4, 60, relating to teeth stopped with gold. We may also notice that female doctors (medicae) for attendance on women, apparently distinct from midwives (obstetrices), are found in many inscriptions.
  As regards army doctors among the Greeks, we find them in the heroic age when the ietros aner is pollon antaxios allon. It would appear from Homer, Il. xvi. 28, that there were several; perhaps, as some suggest, each contingent had an ietros. In historical times we may learn something of their presence from Xenophon, Anab. iii. 4, 30; Cyrop. i. 6, 16, iii. 2, 12, v. 4, 17. Perhaps the demosioi iatroi had to accompany the army, as was the case in Egyptian armies (Diod. i. 82).

This text is from: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin). Cited June 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Archiater (archiatros, compounded of archos, a chief, and iatros, a physician), a medical title under the Roman emperors, the exact signification of which has been the subject of much discussion; for while some persons interpret it the chief of the physicians (quasi archos ton iatron), others explain it to mean the physician to the prince (quasi tou archou iatros). Upon the whole it seems tolerably certain that the former is the true meaning of the word, and for these reasons:
1. From its etymology it can hardly have any other sense, and of all the words similarly formed (architekton, architriklinos, archiepiskopos, &c.) there is not one that has any reference to the prince.
2. We find the title applied to physicians who lived at Edessa, Alexandria, &c., where no king was at that time reigning.
3. Galen (de Ther. ad Pis. c. 1) speaks of Andromachus being appointed to rule over the physicians (archein) ; i.e., in fact, to be archiater.
4. Augustine (de Civit. Dei, iii. 17) applies the word to Aesculapius, and St. Jerome to our Saviour (xiii. Homil. in S. Luc.), in both which cases it evidently means the chief physician.
5. It is apparently synonymous with protomedicus, supra medicos, dominus medicorum, and superpositus medicorum, all which expressions occur in inscriptions, &c., and also with the title Rais'ala'l-atebba, among the Arabians.
6. We find the names of several persons who were physicians to the emperor, mentioned without the addition of the title archiater.
7. The archiatri were divided into Archiatri sancti palatii, who attended on the emperor, and Archiatri populares, who attended on the people; so that it is certain that all those who bore this title were not physicians to the prince. The chief argument in favour of the contrary opinion seems to arise from the fact, that of all those who are known to have held the office of Archiatri the greater part certainly were also physicians to the emperor; but this is only what might a priori be expected, viz. that those who had attained the highest rank in their profession would be chosen to attend upon the prince...

This extract is from: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin). Cited June 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Medicina (Iatrike), the name of that science which, as Celsus says (de Medic. lib. i. Praef.), promises health to the sick, and whose object is defined in one of the Hippocratic treatises (de Arte, vol. i) to be the delivering sick persons from their sufferings, and the diminishing the violence of diseases, and the not undertaking the treatment of those who are quite overcome by sickness, as we know that medicine is here of no avail. This and other definitions of the art and science of Medicine are critically examined in Pseudo-Galen. The invention of medicine was almost universally attributed by the ancients to the gods (Cic. Tusc. Dis. iii. 1; Plin. H. N. xxix.2). So also in Aeschylus (Pr. 478) we have the claim advanced for Prometheus, that he first taught men the art of medicine both externally applied and as potions, and there is a remarkable passage in Pindar (Nem. iii. 45) where Aesculapius is taught by Chiron the triple art of healing by drugs, incantations, and surgical operations. Another source of information too was observing the means resorted to by animals when labouring under disease. Pliny (H. N. viii.97) gives many instances in which these instinctive efforts taught mankind the properties of various plants, and the more simple surgical operations. The wild goats of Crete pointed out the use of the dictamnus and vulnerary herbs; dogs when indisposed sought the triticum repens, and the same animal taught the Egyptians the use of purgatives, constituting the treatment called syrmaism. The hippopotamus introduced the practice of bleeding, and it is affirmed that the employment of clysters was shown by the ibis. Sheep with worms in their liver were seen seeking saline substances, and cattle affected with dropsy anxiously looked for chalybeate waters. We are told (Herod. i. 197; Strabo, xvi. p. 348) that the Babylonians and Chaldaeans had no physicians, and that in cases of sickness the patient was carried out and exposed on the highway, in order that any of the passers-by, who had been affected in a similar manner, might give some information respecting the means that had afforded them relief. Shortly afterwards, these observations of cures were suspended in the temples of the gods, and we find that in Egypt the walls of their sanctuaries were covered with records of this description. The priests of Greece adopted the same practice, and some of the curious tablets suspended in their temples will illustrate the custom. The following votive memorials are given by Hieron. Mercurialis (de Arte Gymnast.): Some days back a certain Caius, who was blind, was ordered by an oracle that he should repair to the sacred altar and kneel in prayer, then cross from right to left, place his five fingers on the altar, then raise his hand and cover his eyes. [He obeyed,] and his sight was restored in the presence of the multitude, who congratulated each other that such signs [of the omnipotence of the gods] were shown in the reign of our emperor Antoninus. A blind soldier named Valerius Aper was ordered by the oracle to mix the blood of a white cock with honey, to make up an ointment to be applied to his eyes, for three consecutive days: he received his sight, and came and returned public thanks to the god. Julian appeared lost beyond all hope from a spitting of blood. The god ordered him to take from the altar some seeds of the pine, and to mix them with honey, of which mixture he was to eat for three days. He was saved, and gave thanks in presence of the people.
  With regard to the medical literature of the ancients: When (says Littre, Euvres completes d'Hippocrate, tome i. Introd.) we search into the history of medicine and the commencement of science, the first body of doctrine that we meet with is the collection of writings known under the name of the works of Hippocrates. Science mounts up directly to that origin, and there stops. Not that it had not been cultivated earlier, and had not given rise to even numerous productions; but everything that had been made before the physician of Cos has perished. We have only scattered and unconnected fragments remaining of them; the works of Hippocrates have alone escaped destruction; and by a singular circumstance there exists a great gap after them, as well as before them. The medical works from Hippocrates to the establishment of the school of Alexandria, and those of that school itself, are completely lost, except some quotations and passages preserved in the later writers; so that the writings of Hippocrates remain isolated amongst the ruins of ancient medical literature. The Asclepiadae, to which family Hippocrates belonged, were the supposed descendants of Aesculapius (Asklepios), and were in a manner the hereditary physicians of Greece. They professed to have among them certain secrets of the medical art, which had been handed down to them from their great progenitor, and founded several medical schools in different parts of the world. Galen mentions (de Meth. Med. i. 1) three, viz. Rhodes, Cnidos, and Cos. The first of these appears soon to have become extinct, and has left no traces of its existence behind. From the second proceeded a collection of observations called Knidiai Gnomai, Cnidian Sentences, a work of much reputation in early times, which is mentioned by Hippocrates (de Rat. Vict. in Morb. Acut. vol. ii. p. 25), and which appears to have existed in the time of Galen (Comment. in Hippocr. lib. cit. vol. xv. p. 427). The school of Cos, however, is by far the most celebrated, on account of the greater number of eminent physicians that sprang from it, among whom was the great Hippocrates. We learn from Herodotus (iii. 131) that there were also two celebrated medical schools at Crotona in Magna Graecia, and at Cyrene in Africa, of which he says that the former was in his time more esteemed in Greece than any other, and in the next place came that of Cyrene. In subsequent times the medical profession was divided into different sects; but a detailed account of their opinions would be out of place in the present work. The oldest and perhaps the most influential of these sects was that of the Dogmatici, founded about B.C. 400 by Thessalus, the son, and Polybus, the son-in-law of Hippocrates, and thence called also the Hippocratici. These retained their influence till the rise of the Empirici, founded by Serapion of Alexandria and Philinus of Cos, in the third century B.C., and so called because they professed to derive their knowledge from experience only. After this time every member of the medical profession during a long period ranged himself under one of these two sects. In the first century B.C., Themison founded the sect of the Methodici, who held doctrines nearly intermediate between those of the two sects already mentioned; and who, about two centuries later, were subdivided into numerous sects, as the doctrines of particular physicians became more generally received. The chief of these sects were the Pneumatici and the Eclectici; the former founded by Athenaeus about the middle or end of the first century A.D.; the latter about the same time, either by Agathinus of Sparta or his pupil Archigenes.
  It only remains to mention the principal medical authors after Hippocrates whose works are still extant, referring for more particulars respecting their writings to the articles in the Dictionary of Biography. Celsus is supposed to have lived in the Augustan age, and deserves to be mentioned more for the elegance of his style, and the neatness and judiciousness of his compilation, than for any original contributions to the science of Medicine. Dioscorides of Anazarba, who lived in the first century after Christ, was for many centuries the greatest authority in Materia Medica, and was almost as much esteemed as Galen in Medicine and Physiology, or Aristotle in Philosophy. Aretaeus, who probably lived in the time of Nero, is an interesting and striking writer, both from the elegance of his language and the originality of his opinions. Caelius Aurelianus, whose matter is excellent, but the style quite barbarous. The next in chronological order, and perhaps the most valuable, as he is certainly by far the most voluminous, of all the medical writers of antiquity, is Galen, who reigned supreme in all matters relating to medical science from the third century till the commencement of modern times. After him the only writers deserving particular notice are Oribasius of Pergamus, physician to the Emperor Julian in the fourth century; Aetius of Amida, who lived probably in the sixth century; Alexander Trallianus, who lived something later; and Paulus Aegineta, who belongs to the end of the seventh.

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Chirourgia (cheirourgia), surgery. The practice of surgery was at first considered by the ancients to be merely a part of a physician's duty; but, as in later times the two branches of the profession were to a great extent separated, it will perhaps be more convenient to treat of it under a separate head. Without touching upon the disputed questions, which is the more ancient, or which is the more honourable branch of the profession ; or even trying to give such a definition of the word chirurgia as would be likely to satisfy both the physicians and surgeons of the present day; it will be sufficient to determine the sense in which the word was used by the ancients: and then to give an account of this division of the science and art of medicine, as practised among the Greeks and Romans, referring to the article Medicina for further particulars.
  The word chirurgia is derived from cheir, the hand, and ergon, a work, and is explained by Celsus (de Med. lib. vii. Praefat.) to mean that part of medicine quae manu curat, which treats ailments by means of the hand; in Diogenes Laertius (iii. 85) it is said to cure 51 dia tou temnein kai kaien, by cutting and burning; nor (as far as the writer is aware) is it ever used by ancient authors in any other sense. Omitting the fabulous and mythological personages, Apollo, Aesculapius, Chiron, &c., the only certain traditions respecting the state of surgery before the establishment of the republics of Greece, and even until the time of the Peloponnesian war, are to be found in the Iliad and Odyssey. There it appears that surgery was almost entirely confined to the treatment of wounds; and the imaginary power of enchantment was joined with the use of topical applications. (Il. iii. 218 ; xi. 515, 828, 843, &c.)
  The Greeks received surgery, together with the other branches of medicine, from the Egyptians; and, from some observations made by the archaeologists who accompanied the French expedition to Egypt in 1798, it appears that there are documents fully proving that in very remote times this extraordinary people had reached a degree of proficiency of which few of the moderns have any conception. Upon the ceilings and walls of the-temples at Tentyra, Karnac, Luxor, &c., bassirilievi are seen, representing limbs that have been cut off with instruments very similar to those which are employed for amputations at the present day. The same instruments are again observed in the hieroglyphics, and vestiges of other surgical operations may be traced, which afford convincing proofs of the skill of the ancient Egyptians in this branch of medical science.
  The earliest remaining surgical writings are those in the Hippocratic Collection, where there are ten treatises on this subject, of which however only one is considered undoubtedly genuine. Hippocrates (B.C. 460-357?) far surpassed all his predecessors (and indeed most of his successors) in the boldness and success of his operations; and though the scanty knowledge of anatomy possessed in those times prevented his attaining any very great perfection, still we should rather admire his genius, which enabled him to do so much, than blame him because, with his imperfect information, he could not accomplish more. The scientific skill in reducing fractures and luxations displayed in his works De Fracturis, De Articulis, excites the admiration of Haller (Biblioth. Chirurg.); and he was most probably the inventor of the ambe, an old surgical machine for dislocations of the shoulder, which, though now fallen into disuse, enjoyed for a long time a great reputation. In his work De Capitis Vulneribus he gives minute directions about the time and mode of using the trephine, and warns the operator against the probability of his being deceived by the sutures of the cranium, as he confesses happened to himself. Amputation, in the modern sense of the word, is not described in the Hippocratic Collection; though mention is made of the removal of a limb at the joint, after the flesh has been completely destroyed by gangrene. (De Artic. tom. iii. p. 248.) The author of the Oath, commonly attributed to Hippocrates, binds his pupils not to perform the operation of lithotomy, but to leave it to persons specially accustomed to it (ergatesi andrasi prexios tesde); from which it would appear as if certain persons confined themselves to particular operations.
  The names of several persons are preserved who practised surgery as well as medicine, in the times immediately succeeding those of Hippocrates; but, with the exception of some fragments, inserted in the writings of Galen, Oribasius, Aetius, &c., all their writings have perished.
  Archagathus deserves to be mentioned, as he is said to have been the first foreign surgeon that settled at Rome, B.C. 219. (Cassius Hemina, in Pliny, Hist. Nat. xxix.12.) He was at first very well received, the jus Quiritium was conferred upon him, a shop was bought for him at the public expense, and he received the honourable title of Vulnerarius; which, however, on account of his frequent use of the knife and cautery, was soon changed by the Romans (who were unused to such a mode of practice) into that of Carnifex.   Asclepiades, who lived at the beginning of the first century B.C., is said to have been the first person who proposed the operation of tracheotomy. (Cael. Aurel. de Morb. Acut. i. 14,111; iii. 4,39.)
  Ammonius of Alexandria, surnamed Lithotomos, who is supposed to have lived rather later, is celebrated in the annals of surgery for having been the first to propose and to perform the operation of lithotrity, or breaking a calculus in the bladder, when found to be too large for safe extraction. Celsus has minutely described his mode of operating (de Med. vii. 26, 3), which in some respects resembles that of Civiale and Heurteloup, in the early part of the present century, and proves that, however much credit they may deserve for perfecting the operation and bringing it out of oblivion into public notice, the praise of having originally thought of it belongs to the ancients. A hook or crotchet, says Celsus, is fixed upon the stone in such a way as easily to hold it firm, even when shaken, so that it may not revolve backward; then an iron instrument is used, of moderate thickness, thin at the front end, but blunt, which, when applied to the stone and struck at the other end, cleaves it: great care must be taken that the instrument do not come into contact with the bladder itself, and that nothing fall upon it by the breaking of the stone.
  The next surgical writer after Hippocrates, whose works are still extant, is Celsus, who lived at the beginning of the first century A.D., and who has devoted the four last books of his work de Medicina, and especially the seventh and eighth, entirely to surgical matter. It appears plainly from reading Celsus, that since the time of Hippocrates surgery had made very great progress, and had, indeed, reached a high degree of perfection. We find in him the earliest mention of the use of the ligature for the arrest of haemorrhage from wounded blood-vessels (v. 26,21); and the Celsian mode of amputation was continued down to comparatively modern times (vii. 33). He is the first author who gives directions for the operation of lithotomy (de Med. vii. 26,2), and the method described by him (called the apparatus minor, or Celsus's method) continued to be practised till the commencement of the sixteenth century. It was performed at Paris, Bordeaux, and other places in France, upon patients of all ages, even as late as the latter part of the seventeenth century; and a modern author (Allan On Lithotomy, p. 12) recommends it always to be preferred for boys under fourteen. He describes (vii. 25,3) the operation of infibulatio, which was so commonly performed by the ancients upon singers, &c., and is often alluded to in classical authors (See Juv. Sat. vi. 73, 379; Seneca, in Lactant. Divin. Instit. i. 16; Mart. Epigr. vii. 82, 1, ix. 28, 12, xiv. 215, 1; Tertull. de Corona Mil. 11). He also describes (vii. 25,1) the operation alluded to by St. Paul (1 Cor. vii. 18), peritetmemenos tis eklethe; me epispastho. Compare Paulus Aegineta (de Re Med. vi. 53), who transcribes from Antyllus a second method of performing the operation.
  The following description, given by Celsus, of the necessary qualifications of a surgeon, deserves to be quoted (lib. vii. Praefat.): 

"A surgeon ought to be young, or, at any rate, not very old; his hand should be firm and steady, and never shake; he should be able to use his left hand as readily as his right; his eyesight should be clear, and his mind not easily startled; he should be so far subject to pity as to make him desirous of the recovery of his patient, but not so far as to suffer himself to be moved by his cries; he should neither hurry the operation more than the case requires, nor cut less than is necessary, but do everything just as if the other's screams made no impression upon him."

  Perhaps the only surgical remark worth quoting from Aretaeus, who lived in the first century A.D., is that he condemns the operation of tracheotomy, and thinks that the heat of the inflammation becomes greater from the wound and contributes to the suffocation, and the patient coughs; and even if he escapes this danger, the lips of the wound do not unite, for both are cartilaginous and unable to grow together. (De Morb. Acut. Cur. i. 7, p. 227, ed. Kuhn.)
  Omitting Scribonius Largus, Moschion, and Soranus, the next author of importance is Caelius Aurelianus, who is supposed to have lived about the beginning of the second century A.D., and in whose works there is much surgical matter, but nothing that can be called original. He rejected as absurd the operation of tracheotomy (de Morb. Chron. iii. 4,39). He mentions a case of ascites that was cured by tapping (ib. iii. 8,128), and also a person who recovered after being shot through the lungs by an arrow (ib. ii. 12,144).
  Galen, the most voluminous and at the same time the most valuable medical writer of antiquity, is less celebrated as a surgeon than as an anatomist and physician. He appears to have practised surgery at Pergamus, but, upon his removal to Rome (A.D. 165), he entirely confined himself to medicine, following, as he says himself (de Meth. Med. vi.), the custom of the place. His writings prove, however, that he did not entirely abandon surgery. His Commentaries on the treatise of Hippocrates, De Officina Medici, and his treatise De Fasciis, show that he was well versed even in the minor details of the art. He appears also to have been a skilful operator, though no great surgical inventions are attributed to him.
  Antyllus, who lived some time between Galen and Oribasius, is the earliest writer whose directions for performing tracheotomy are still extant, though the operation (as was stated above) was proposed by Asclepiades about three hundred years before. Only a few fragments of the writings of Antyllus remain, and among them the following passage is preserved by Paulus Aegineta (de Re Med. vi. 33):

"When we proceed to perform this operation, we must cut through some part of the windpipe, below the larynx, about the third or fourth ring; for to divide the whole would be dangerous. This place is commodious, because it is not covered with any flesh, and because it has no vessels situated near the divided part. Therefore, bending the head of the patient backward, so that the windpipe may come more forward to the view, we make a transverse section between two of the rings, so that in this case not the cartilage, but the membrane which unites the cartilages together, is divided. If the operator be a little timid, he may first stretch the skin with a hook and divide it; then, proceeding to the windpipe, and separating the vessels, if any are in the way, he may make the incision."

  Oribasius, physician to the Emperor Julian (A.D. 361), professes to be merely a compiler; and though there is in his great work, entitled Sunagogai Iatrikai, Collecta Medicinalia, much surgical matter, there is nothing original. The same may be said of Aetius and Alexander Trallianus, both of whom lived towards the end of the sixth century A.D. Paulus Aegineta has given up the fifth and sixth books of his work De Re Medica entirely to surgery, and has inserted much useful matter, derived in a great measure from his own observation and experience. Albucasis translated into Arabic great part of these two books as the basis of his work on Surgery. Paulus was particularly celebrated for his skill in midwifery and female diseases, and was called on that account, by the Arabians, Al-Kawabeli, the Accoucheur. He lived probably towards the end of the seventh century A.D., and is the last of the ancient Greek and Latin medical writers whose surgical works remain. The names of several others are recorded, but they are not of sufficient eminence to require any notice here. For further information on the subject both of medicine and surgery, see Medicina; and for the legal qualifications, social rank, &c., both of physicians and surgeons, among the ancient Greeks and Romans, see Medicus ...

This extract is from: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin). Cited June 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Valetudinarium (nosokomeion), an infirmary. A detached building or room was commonly found in large houses for the reception of sick slaves, who, we are told, should at once be removed there for better treatment, and, no doubt, for the prevention of infection (Col. xi. 1, 18; xii. 3, 7;--Senec. de Ira, i. 16; Nat. Qu. 1). We have no satisfactory evidence of anything that can be regarded as a public infirmary or hospital in Italy until the end of the 4th century A.D. Though the passages of Seneca cited above might bear this interpretation, there is no reason to consider the valetudinaria which he mentions as anything but infirmaries for slaves in private houses... The earliest mention of an infirmary or hospital for the poor in Italy seems to be that found in Jerome (Ep. iii. 10, de mort. Fab.), where we are told that Fabiola, A.D. 380, took care of the sick brought from the streets into a building of this kind: Primo omnium nosocomium, id est languentium villam, instituit, in quo aegrotantes colligeret de plateis et consumpta languoribus atque inedia membra foveret. Shortly before this (A.D. 372) we hear (Sozom. Hist. Eccles. vi. 34) of a hospital at Caesarea established by Basil (primarily, however, for the reception of poor travellers or pilgrims).
  Vercoutre maintains, probably with reason, that all idea of such an institution was derived by the Romans from the Greeks, whose lead they followed in everything connected with medicine. We doubt, however, whether this writer is justified in making as much as he does of the Greek iatreia, or in regarding them as in any sense hospitals. The state physicians, who treated the pool gratuitously in return for their state salary, had in many Greek cities not only their medicines and surgical appliances provided for them by the state, but also a room, or suite of rooms, called iatreion, which otherwise means merely the consulting-room and dispensary of any physician. The description in Galen is oikoi megaloi thuras megalas photos plereis echousin, hoioi kai nun kata pollas ton poleon didontai tois iatrois, hous paronumos auton iatreia prosagoreuousi (Gal. in Hippocr. de Med. Officin. i. 8). In such rooms it is probable that patients might remain for a time; if, for instance, they were unable to move after an operation: but we lack information which would warrant our crediting Greece with hospitals properly so called earlier than the 4th century. It is possible that the paionion at Piraeus, mentioned by Crates, the comedian of the 5th century B.C., may have been something of the kind, but this is doubtful; at any rate, it is not alluded to anywhere else, and can hardly have been an institution lasting or imitated in many other places.
  The function of hospitals for the poor was, to some extent, performed by the temples of Aesculapius, where the priests no doubt combined a certain amount of medical knowledge (cf. Liv. xlv. 28) with a great deal of quackery and superstitious observance (cf. Aristoph. Plut. 665 ff.), and it may, we think, fairly be surmised that the disuse of these temples in Christian times made the necessity of hospitals more apparent, and so led to their institution, in much the same way as in this country the suppression of monasteries, which had largely relieved the indigent poor, made the necessity of Poor-laws immediately evident.

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Donaria (anathemata or anakeimena) are names by which the ancients designated presents made to the gods, either by individuals or communities. Sometimes they are also called dona or dora. The belief that the gods were pleased with costly presents was as natural to the ancients as the belief that they could be influenced in their conduct towards men by the offering of sacrifices; and, indeed, both sprang from the same feeling. Presents were mostly given as tokens of gratitude for some favour which a god had bestowed on man; but in many cases they were intended to induce the deity to grant some special favour. At Athens, every one of the six thesmothetae, or, according to Plato (Phaedr.), all the nine archons, on entering upon their office, had to take an oath, that if they violated any of the laws, they would dedicate in the temple of Delphi a golden statue of the size of the man who dedicated it (andrianta chrusoun isometreton, see Plut. Sol. 25; Pollux, viii. 85; Suidas, s. v. Chruse Eikon: Heraclid. Pont. c. 1). In this last case the anathema was a kind of punishment, in which the statue was regarded as a substitute for the person forfeited to the gods. Almost all presents of this kind were dedicated in temples, to which in some places an especial building was added, in which these treasures were preserved. Such buildings were called thesauroi (treasuries); and in the most frequented temples of Greece many states had their separate treasuries. The act of dedication was called anatithenai, donare, dedicate, or sacrare.
  The custom of making donations to the gods is found among the ancients from the earliest times of which we have any record down to the introduction of Christianity; and even after that period it was, with some modifications, observed by the Christians during the Middle Ages. In the heroic ages of Grecian history the anathemata were of a simple description, and consisted of chaplets and garlands of flowers. A very common donation to the gods seems to have been that of locks of hair (komes aparchai), which youths and maidens, especially young brides, cut off from their heads and consecrated to some deity (Hom. Il. xxiii. 141; Aeschyl. Choeph. 6; Eurip. Orest. 96 and 1427, Bacch. 493, Helen. 1093;. Plut. Thes. 5; Paus. i. 37,2). This custom in some places lasted till a very late period: the maidens of Delos dedicated their hair before their wedding to Hecaerge (Paus. i. 43,4), and those of Megara to Iphinoe. Pausanias (ii. 11,6) saw the statue of Hygieia at Titane covered all over with locks of hair which had been dedicated by women. Costly garments (peploi) are likewise mentioned among the earliest presents made to the gods, especially to Athena and Hera (Hom. II. vi. 293, 303). At Athens the sacred peplos of Athena, in which the great adventures of ancient heroes were worked, was woven by maidens every fifth year, at the festival of the great Panathenaea (Compare Aristoph. Av. 792; Pollux, vii. 50). A similar peplus was woven every five years at Olympia, by sixteen women, and dedicated to Hera (Paus. v. 16,2).
  At the time when the fine arts flourished in Greece the anathemata were generally works of art of exquisite workmanship, such as high tripods bearing vases, craters, cups, candelabras, pictures, statues, and various other things. The materials of which they were made differed according to circumstances; some were of bronze, others of silver or gold (Athen. vi. p. 231, &c.), and their number is to us almost inconceivable (Demosth. Olynth. iii. p. 35). The treasures of the temples of Delphi and Olympia, in particular, surpass all conception. Even Pausanias, at a period when numberless works of art must have perished in the various ravages and plunders to which Greece had been exposed, saw and described an astonishing number of anathemata. Many works of art are still extant, bearing evidence by their inscriptions that they were dedicated to the gods as tokens of gratitude. Every one knows of the magnificent presents which Croesus made to the god of Delphi (Herod. i. 50, &c.). It was an almost invariable custom, after the happy issue of a war, to dedicate the tenth part of the spoil (akrothinion, akroleion, or protoleion) to the gods, generally in the form of some work of art (Herod. viii. 82, 121; Thucyd. i. 132; Pans. iii. 18,5; Athen. vi. p. 231, &c.). Sometimes magnificent specimens of armour, such as a fine sword, helmet, or shield, were set apart as anathemata for the gods (Aristoph. Equit. 792, and Schol). The Athenians always dedicated to Athena the tenth part of the spoil and of confiscated goods; and to all the other gods collectively, the fiftieth part (Demosth. c. Timocr. p. 738, &c.). After a seafight, a ship, placed upon some eminence, was sometimes dedicated to Neptune (Thucyd. ii. 84; Herod. viii. 121). It is not improbable that trophies which were always erected on the field of battle, as well as the statues of the victors in Olympia and other places, were originally intended as tokens of gratitude to the god who was supposed to be the cause of the success which the victorious party had gained. We also find that on some occasions the tenth part of the profit of some commercial undertaking was dedicated to a god in the shape of a work of art. Respecting the large and beautiful craters dedicated to the temples, see the article Crater
  Individuals who had escaped from some danger were no less anxious to show their gratitude to the gods by anathemata than communities. The instances which occur most frequently are those of persons who had recovered from an illness, especially by spending one or more nights in a temple of Asclepius (incubatio). The most celebrated temples of this divinity were those of Epidaurus, Cos, Tricca, and, at a later period, that of Rome (Plin. H. N. xxix.4). Cures were also effected in the grotto of Pluto and Proserpina, in the neighbourhood of Nisa (Strab. ix., xiv.). In all cases in which a cure was effected presents were made to the temple, and little tablets (tabulae votivae) were suspended on its walls, containing an account of the danger from which the patient had escaped, and of the manner in which he had been restored to health. Some tablets of this kind, with their inscriptions, are still extant. From some relics of ancient art we must infer that in some cases, when a particular part of the body was attacked by disease, the person, after his recovery, dedicated an imitation of that part in gold or silver to the god to whom he owed his recovery. Persons who had escaped from shipwreck usually dedicated to Neptune the dress which they wore at the time of their danger (Hor. Carm. i. 5, 13; Verg. Aen. xii. 768); but if they had escaped naked, they dedicated some locks of their hair (Lucian, de Merc. Cond. c. 1). Shipwrecked persons also suspended votive tablets in the temple of Neptune, on which their accident was described or painted. Individuals who gave up the profession or occupation, by which they had gained their livelihood, frequently dedicated in a temple the instruments which they had used, as a grateful acknowledgment of the favour of the gods. The soldier thus dedicated his arms, the fisherman his net, the shepherd his flute, the poet his lyre, cithara, or harp, &c.
  It would be impossible to attempt to enumerate all the occasions on which individuals, as well as communities, showed their gratefulness towards the gods by anathemata. Descriptions of the most remarkable presents in the various temples of Greece may be read in the works of Herodotus, Strabo, Pausanias, Athenaeus, and others.
The custom of making presents to the gods was common to Greeks and Romans, but among the latter the donaria were neither as numerous nor as magnificent as in Greece; and it was more frequent among the Romans to show their gratitude towards a god, by building him a temple, by public prayers and thanksgivings (supplicatio), or by celebrating festive games in honour of him, than to adorn his sanctuary with beautiful and costly works of art. Hence the word donaria was used by the Romans to designate a temple or an altar, as well as statues and other things dedicated in a temple (Verg. Georg. iii. 533; Ovid, Fast. iii. 335). The occasions on which the Romans made donaria to their gods are, on the whole, the same as those we have described among the Greeks, as will be seen from a comparison of the following passages : Liv. x. 36, xxix. 36, xxxii. 30, xl. 40, 37; Suet. Claud. 25; Tacit. Ann. iii. 71; Plaut. Amphitr. iii. 2, 65; Curcul. i. 1, 61, ii. 2, 10; Aurel. Vict. Caes. 35 ; Gellius, ii. 10; Lucan ix.515; Cic. de Nat. Deor. iii. 3. 7 ; Tibull. ii. 5, 29; Hor. Epist. i. 1, 4; Stat. Silv. iv. 92.

This text is from: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin). Cited June 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Stele, is the name given to any block (usually of stone or marble) set up for a monumental purpose; thus it is constantly applied in inscriptions to the block on which a public document is to be incised. But the best known use of the term is to denote a monument set up over a tomb, either plain or with merely ornamental decorations, or containing a commemorative inscription, or a portrait of the deceased, painted or in relief, alone or grouped with other figures; combinations of these characteristics are common. The simplest form of stele consists of a plain marble slab or pillar surmounted by an anthemion, and inscribed with the name of the deceased; often two rosettes. side by side, are added--possibly a survival of an anthropomorphic representation. The most common subjects represented on grave reliefs may be thus classified:
(1). Stmple representations of the deceased, often in some common employment of daily life. Thus the warrior appears fully armed, standing as if on parade (Aristion), or on horseback slaying a prostrate foe (Dexileos). An athlete holds his strigil or exercises, and is attended by his trainer or his slave; a lady sits playing with her jewels, also accompanied by her attendants (fig. 1 in URL below). A man or child is often represented playing with a pet animal.
(2) Parting scenes.--The deceased, standing or seated, takes leave of his or her relatives or friends; family scenes are usually depicted. In later and more elaborate designs a horse appears, as if the deceased were about to start on a journey, and a serpent also is seen as a symbol of the dead. These two symbolic figures are, however, only common in the next class; and in parting scenes of the best period the subject is only indicated by the appearance of melancholy in the faces and attitudes of the persons represented (fig. 2 in URL below).
(3) Banquet scenes.--These seem to have originated in a kind of ancestor-worship, as is seen in the very early stelae from Sparta: in them the deceased, as a hero, holds out a cup as if to require a drink-offering; his wife is seated on another throne behind him, and small worshippers approach with offerings. In later times we find some similar examples; on the painted stele of Lysias at Athens the deceased stands, holding a cup in his hand. In the Spartan reliefs a great serpent coils over the back of the throne, representing, probably, the deceased as the inhabitant of his tomb. In the typical banquet scene of later times the deceased reclines on a couch, and his wife sits on the foot of the couch or on a chair beside it; before them is a feast, of which they partake, and servants with cups or viands take the place of the worshippers; a snake and a dog are often present; and a horse's head, as a symbol of a journey, often appears in a square at the upper corner (fig. 3 in URL below). It has been suggested that we should see here the funeral banquet idealised, or the enjoyments of the deceased in another life: the typical succession seems to indicate that we see rather a development of the representation in which the deceased, as a hero, receives offerings from worshippers, and reminds his descendants to give him more; but the enjoyment of those presents in another life is doubtless included. The type of these reliefs is often reproduced in dedications to Asclepius and Hygieia or other minor divinities; and thus we receive a confirmation of the view that the deceased is, originally at least, to be regarded as a deified hero.
  The numerous series of Greek stelae which still survive is of great value, not only for their subjects but also for their execution; they were mostly the work of inferior artists or mere artisans, but reflect the style of the greater artists of the place or period to which they belong. The most important are those found in Athens, and preserved either in situ in the Outer Ceramicus or in the National Museum at Athens.
  The inscription on a grave stele usually gives merely the name of the deceased, with his father's name and his country or deme, and her husband's also in the case of a woman: this simplicity was almost universal in Attica, but simple metrical inscriptions containing the same information are found from the earliest times. Elsewhere, and commonly later, chaire or chreste chaire is added; but elaborate eulogies are extremely rare, at least before Roman times.

This text is from: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin). Cited June 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


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