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The site of the Asclepion of Kos, Kos

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The Asclepieion (Ασκληπιείο) Kos is a vast sanctuary located on the island of Kos in the Dodecanese . This shrine was dedicated to the god of healing, Asclepius, and was founded in the late fourth century BC, but was enlarged and transformed to the second century AD. The Asclepieion Cos was one of the most important shrines dedicated to Asclepius.

Physician Hippocrates in Kos studied, taught there and founded the Medical School, which became famous throughout the ancient world and the largest hospital in ancient Greece the Asclepion Kos remained a renowned health center until the sixth century BC, where many notable Greek and Roman came to be treated.

The ruins of the Asclepion are the most important archaeological site on the island of Kos.

A Asclepieion or Asklepieion (Aesculapium for the Romans), was a sanctuary dedicated to the god of healing Asclepius (Ασκληπιός) (Aesculapius for the Romans), son of the god Apollo, whose symbol is a snake coiled around a stick (such as the caduceus modern pharmacists). There were over three hundred asklépiéions (asklepieia) in ancient Greece to Europe and Asia Minor, including Epidaurus was the most famous. These shrines were served by a caste of priests, Milkweed (Asklepiada). Three of these Asclépiéions can still be visited.


The Turkish view from Kos (author JD554). Click to enlarge the image.The Asclepieion Kos is at a distance of 3.5 kilometers southwest of the town of Kos .

The ancient sanctuary was built 100 meters above sea level, down the eastern slope of Mount Dikeos(Όρος Δίκαιος) that dominates the area, the site offers a magnificent view over the Gulf of Keramos (Κεραμεικός κόλπος) and the south- western Anatolia .

The entrance to the grove of cypress Asclepieion Kos (author Tedmek). Click to enlarge the image.The Asclepieion since its founding is surrounded by a cypress wood, once sacred.

Since the Asclepion, you can reach the village of Zia , about 12 km, a small mountain road that offers spectacular scenery. The hike can be done on foot or by bike.


Panoramic view of the Asclepion Kos (author Briantist). Click to enlarge the image.The sanctuary of Asclepius was built on a magnificent site overlooking the town of Kos today, but it was not built until later. Initially, the site of the famous sanctuary was occupied by a shrine dedicated to the worship of Apollo, situated in the middle of a grove of cypresses an altar to Asclepius - son of Apollo - was erected in the middle of the fourth century before J . ..-C The Asklepieion was then built around this altar existing during the Hellenistic years , in two construction phases: the first phase during the first half of the third century BC, and the second phase during the first half of the second century BC.

Plan the Asclepion Kos. Click to enlarge the image.Due to the sloping terrain of the land, Asklepieion sprawls over four levels: basic and three large terraces artificial communicate through staircases, these stairs have more than 12 meters wide in some sections. A large part of these stairs was restored during the Italian domination , but original parts are still in place.

During the first phase of construction, the temple was developed on three levels: the base and two terraces, well integrated into the natural environment. The existing altar of Asclepius was at the center of the second terrace , which was then the highest terrace, the small Ionic temple of Asclepius (Temple C of the plan) was erected beside the altar. Side of the sanctuary buildings were built in the surrounding area freely focusing on their functional role. This unadorned composition of the complex was maintained until the early second century BC. At the beginning of the second century, the spread of the cult of Asclepius, the development of therapeutic activities of the medical school founded by Hippocrates, the economic prosperity of the island and the development of close relations with the Hellenistic rulers necessitated an enlargement and architectural reconfiguration of the Asklepieion.

The Sanctuary Asclepieion Kos (author Karelj). Click to enlarge the image.During this second phase of construction - during the first half of the second century BC - the sanctuary turned into a whole Hellenistic monumental in the complex plane. The continuous rise of Hellenistic plan, through the construction of successive levels, impressive staircases and colonnades recurring created of a comprehensive architecture, which gradually reveals its secondary zones. The sanctuary is spread over three successive terraces, maintained by retaining walls. The set included a propylon (door), portals (stoas), temples, altars and sacred grove, and various small buildings both religious and secular, while monumental staircase gave access to terraces. The great temple of Asclepius Doric was built on a new deck, the third terrace , while the altar of Asclepius was rebuilt, inspired the design of the famous altar of Zeus at Pergamum.

The sacred architecture of the new entity adopts new architectural trends of the time and clearly shows the influence of examples from Asia Minor, popularized by the Eastern campaign of Alexander the Great.

In the first century AD, during the Roman period , was built on the first terrace , public restrooms and the small temple of Xenophon. Later, in the second century AD, during the period of the Antonine dynasty was built the temple of Apollo at Corinth, and a century later, the Baths.

The Lower Level
The ruins of the Roman baths Asclepieion Kos (author Elisa Triolo). Click to enlarge the image.The first ruins on the left of the lower level of the Asclepion, are remnants of Roman baths dating from the first century AD. One can discern a basin of cold water (frigidarium).

To the left of propylon access to the first terrace near the walls are five underground chambers without windows, whose use is uncertain, it could be rooms reserved for patients with venereal diseases or leprosy.

The lower terrace is never behaved many buildings, because it was the place of the celebration of the Asclépiéia - celebration quadrennial athletics and music competitions in honor of the god of healing.

The first level of the sanctuary of the Asclepion Kos (author Karelj). Click to enlarge the image.The ruins of the Roman baths Asclepieion Kos (author Elisa Triolo). Click to enlarge the image.The ruins of the Roman baths Asclepieion Kos (author Elisa Triolo). Click to enlarge the image.
First Terrace (2nd level)
After the second phase of construction, access to the second level of the shrine was provided by a monumental propylon or Propylaea, with four columns and a staircase of 24 steps and 11.5 m wide. The first was the largest terrace with dimensions of 93 m by 47 m.

The initial architectural model of the first terrace was maintained after the second phase of construction, with a portico (stoa) in letter form Π placed on the north, east and west of the terrace behind the colonnades of Doric there were many different rooms which are believed were intended for consultation, treatment and accommodation of sick pilgrims seeking treatment at the sanctuary. The porch and rooms dating from the Hellenistic period (third century BC), it is still more now that the foundations.

A group of buildings was devoted to teaching and housed the medical school and a museum of pathological anatomy, with numerous exhibitions, illustrations and votive offerings.

A fountain of the first terrace of the sanctuary Asclepieion Kos (author Rberteig). Click to enlarge the image.On the south side of the first terrace is the retaining wall of the second terrace : it included wall niches with statues and marble fountains with large water tanks, these fountains were essential to the ritual therapies the Asclepion, and were fed by springs and ferruginous sulfur curative gushing at the foot of Mount Dikeo (the source of the king and the source of Halkon Vournika). Until recently, two fountains site ensured a constant supply of clean, fresh water, and large sections of pipe clay are still visible, buried in the ground.

Temple of Xenophon Asclepieion Kos (author reini68). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).Against the south wall to the right of the stairs leading to the second terrace stood a small temple, temple of Xenophon said. It consisted of an apse and a typical facade of a temple. This temple was an offering made by the doctor, a native of Cos, Gaius Stertinius Xenophon to god Asclepius, his daughter Hygieia, goddess of health, and Epione, the wife and assistant of Aesculapius, this temple was Xenophon also devoted to the Emperor, and semi-god, Nero. You can see the base of a statue inscribed with the name of Xenophon, who was the personal physician of the emperor Claudius (Claudius), but that would have helped Claude’s wife to poison him one introducing a feather poison in the throat. Xenophon had also provided financial support to the restoration of the sanctuary after an earthquake, decorating with statues he had brought from Rome, and establishing a medical library on the site of the Asclepion.

The first terrace Asclepieion Kos (author Flo83). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).In arched niches, located directly below the second terrace, were the figures of different gods in one of the niches left of the stairs, you can see a statue of the god Pan.

To the east of the terrace, reaching the lowest level, was the Roman baths, hot and cold, built in the third century AD. Three bathrooms had arches on the smaller sides, they were decorated with murals and had floors covered with mosaic partly preserved and visible today.

To the west of the first terrace behind the portico, were the latrines, dating from the first century AD.

Second Terrace (3rd level)
The Ionic temple of Asclepius and abaton seen from the third terrace of the Asclepion Kos (author Elisa Triolo). Click to enlarge the image.The second terrace was converted from the first construction phase of the Asclepion, this terrace is located 6 meters above the first terrace and is accessed by a marble staircase 10 meters wide and thirty steps. This third level of the sanctuary welcomed the liturgical installations. The monumental altar of Asclepius (fourth century BC), the existing temple was harmoniously integrated into the new group while at the same time, an Ionic temple with two columns "in antis" - about 9 m 15 m - (temple plan B) was built to house the treasures and offerings deposited by the sick and pilgrims, devotion of Asclepius, his son Machaon, and his daughter Hygieia. This temple of Asclepius formerly contained a painting of Aphrodite emerging from the sea. This painting, painted by Apelles, a famous painter of the fourth century BC, was among the art treasures carried to Rome by Emperor Augustus.

The altar of Asclepius and the exedra of the Asclepion Kos (author Elisa Triolo). Click to enlarge the image. A semicircular stone bench (exedra), facing north, was built in the middle of the second terrace for outdoor assemblies, this exedra has niches for statues. She also dates from early Hellenistic phase and the first phase of construction of the sanctuary the exedra is still in place. To the east of the terrace was a Lesche (λέσχη) building which was used for meetings of the Council.

In the second phase of construction, the buildings of the second terrace dating from the first phase of construction were harmoniously integrated into the new monumental. The Ionic temple of Asclepius was modified by adopting the stylistic characteristics of the temples of Asia Minor. It consisted of a pronaos and a cella square of equal size, the bottom of which was the "treasure" (thesaurus), a stone box which housed the treasures of the temple.

The middle of the second century BC, the altar of Asclepius was rebuilt in the style of famous altar of Zeus at Pergamum and was decorated with rich sculptural and architectural decorations awarded to the son of the famous ancient sculptor Praxiteles.  The altar was the oldest structure on the site, whose foundations are still visible near the middle of the second terrace.

The abaton the Asclepieion Kos (author Elisa Triolo). Click to enlarge the image.South of the temple of the Ionic order (temple plan B), a large square building into two parts, an anteroom with four Doric column, 12 m by 13 m, was added, and this is what we call a "abaton"(άβατον), which can be used, according to archaeologists, a dormitory for the priests of the sanctuary (enkoimeterion,εγκοιμητήριο).

To the east of the altar of Asclepius, a portico 17 m in length, was built to house votive offerings.

During Roman times, to the second century AD, a temple of the Corinthian order peripteral (temple C of the plan), dedicated to the worship of Apollo - and probably to the imperial cult of Nero - was erected east of the Hellenistic altar of Asclepius, in 1930, seven of the beautiful Corinthian columns of white marble of the Roman temple were restored by Italian archaeologists in part using original materials.

Ruins of the altar and the temple of Asclepius Apollo Corinthian Kos (author JD554). Click to enlarge the image.The Corinthian temple of Apollo at the Asclepion Kos (author Tedmek). Click to enlarge the image.The temple of Apollo at the Asclepion Kos (author Frans Sellies). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).
Third Terrace (Level 4)
The ruins of the Doric Temple of Asklepios on the third terrace Asclepieion Kos (author Paradasos). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab). The third terrace is accessible by stairs longer Sanctuary: This monumental staircase of sixty steps has a length of 38 m and a width of 18 m first decreases up to 9 m. The fourth level terrace was surrounded on three sides by a Doric portico (stoa) in letter form Π, with rooms for visitors and patients located beyond the portico.

At the center of this terrace stood a large temple dedicated to Asclepius peripteral dating from the second century BC (circa 170-160 BC). It was the largest temple of the sanctuary (temple A Plan): This temple of Doric style was more than 30 meters long and 15 meters wide and contained statues of Asclepius and his daughter Hygieia. The temple facing north and the culmination of the sanctuary, and was visible from the coast. Since the third terrace overlooking the sanctuary is beautiful, then it widens the olive groves, the city of Kos , and up the coast of Anatolia , on the horizon.

The architecture of the temple was dominated by classical forms, and included many similarities with the Asclepion Epidaurus, which reflected the rivalry between the two sanctuaries. The temple was surrounded, originally, columns of white marble accented with black marble (eleven columns on the long sides and six columns on the short sides). Today, there is little of this great temple, except the foundation, flooring and marble seats of black and white marble columns.

The third terrace a staircase leads to a grove of cypresses and pines, dedicated to Apollo.

History and traditionsHistory, literature, arts, traditions, legends, religions, myths, symbols ...

Former altar of Panagia of Tarsos in the ruins of the Doric temple of Aesculapius at Kos (author Paradasos). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).The cult of Asclepius, god of healing, would have appeared to Kos from the fourteenth century BC, with the arrival of the first settlers Dorians from Thessaly.

Many famous doctors have practiced and taught medicine in Kos , the first of them being the "father of clinical medicine," Hippocrates (c. 460-377 BC), who founded the first school in Kos medical at the end of the fifth century BC.

An altar dedicated to Asclepius was built on the site of the Asclepion from the fourth century BC. The sanctuary itself was built from the third century BC and enlarged and transformed to the second century AD, a period of nearly five centuries.

In 242 BC, the sanctuary received the recognition of the right Panhellenic immunity as well as the implementation of the truce, and there were established the Major Games Asclépiéia "Asklepieia Megala"(Μεγάλα Ασκληπιεία) athletic games and music competitions are held every five years. In the second century BC, the Asclepion became famous and received many patients and visitors.

The Asclepieion Kos was a clinic where medicine was practiced by Hippocrates taught, he remained for nearly 900 years after the death of Hippocrates - until 554 AD. At that time, an earthquake destroyed the buildings of the sanctuary, the earthquake that struck in 469 AD Kos had already damaged. The domination of Christianity had also contributed to the decline of the pagan sanctuary.

Under the Byzantine church was built on the foundations of the Doric temple of Asclepius, Notre-Dame de Tarsos (Παναγίας της Ταρσού). Only the capital of a column of the temple, which served as an altar has been preserved of this early Christian church.

In medieval times, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of the materials used it from the ruins of the sanctuary to build their castle Neratzia to Kos .

The Archaeological Excavations
Attempt to reconstruct the Asclepion Kos. Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).Archaeological research to find the ancient sanctuary began in 1902, when the island of Kos was still under Ottoman rule . The sanctuary was excavated by the German archaeologist and historian of medicine, Rudolf Herzog, from the descriptions of Strabo and directed by a physician and amateur historian of Kos, Iakovos Zaraftis. According Zaraftis, the temple was to be found near sources of Vourina and Kokkinonero, whose water was essential to the operation and rituals of the sanctuary. In addition, he noticed several architectural pieces, half-buried in the ground. Herzog continued the excavations until 1904.

The excavations of the Asclepion continued during the Italian domination of the island. In addition to actual excavations, Italians partially restored the sanctuary and gave the site its current form.

The excavations are now pursued by the Italian Archaeological School of Athens.

Hippocrates of Cos
Bust of Hippocrates in the Pushkin Museum. Click to enlarge the image.Hippocrates was born on the island of Kos around 460 BC. JC. and died at Larissa in Thessaly around 370 BC, is an age of about 90 years, but legend has it that he reached the age of 104 years, probably boast its medical methods. He was probably the son of a man named Heraclides was Asclepiades, that is to say, a priest of the god Asclepius (and supposed descendant of god).

Hippocrates traveled throughout ancient Greece and would have studied medicine with Democritus, then moved back to Kos. He devoted much of his life practicing and teaching medicine where will be founded in 366 BC, the city of Kos , near the altar of Asclepius, where will be built the sanctuary of ’Asclepieion after the death of Hippocrates, around 357 BC.

Hippocrates was the initiator of therapy based on clinical symptoms, he advocated a holistic approach to the human body, based on the theory of the humours (body fluid substances: blood, bile, et cetera), Known theory comedian. This approach was at odds with the traditional approach very superstitious attributed to supernatural or the divine cause disease, and invoked the gods for healing. Hippocrates separated the discipline of medicine from those of philosophy and religion and belief, arguing that disease was not a punishment inflicted by the gods but rather the product of environmental factors such as diet and lifestyle. The most important treaty of the Hippocratic collection is "Airs, waters and places"(fifth century BC), who, instead of giving the disease a divine origin, they can imagine coming from the external environment.

Hippocrates is regarded as the "Father of Clinical Medicine" he laid the philosophical foundations and the code of ethics. He is credited with the famous "Hippocratic Oath", which was probably one of the contributors.

Hippocrates summed up, in a masterly way, the magnitude of medicine and the role of the physician:

"Life is short, science is long, occasionally elusive, experience misleading, judgment difficult."

General Information

Visiting hoursVisiting hours
The site of the Asclepion is 3.5 miles southwest of the town of Kos (5 km from the city center), you can get there by buses quite frequent: take bus No. 3 after Vasileos Pavlou Avenue (turn right after the Olympic Airways office). The tourist train also leads to the Asclepion.

Summer hours (June 1 to October 31): Monday, 8 h 30-15 h from Tuesday to Sunday, from 8 am to 20 pm.

Winter hours (November 1 to May 31): Tuesday to Saturday from 8 h 30 to 15 h.

Allow an hour and a half for the visit more pleasant early morning before the tourist buses arrive.

Admission prices: € 4 for adults, € 2 for seniors and students, free for children 16 and under.

Phone: 00 30 22420 28763/28326

There is a small snack bar at the Asclepion, but you can also go to Platani for lunch in a restaurant in Turkish; Platani is only fifteen minutes walk.

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