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Greco-Roman Healing Miracles


Freya Burford

Submitted for MA Ancient History (Rome)

University of Kent


Total Word Count: 13, 667.


This research explores the function of healing miracles within Greco-Roman religion. An

overwhelming interest in biblical miracles has encouraged the view that miraculous healings

were an entirely Christian phenomenon. Yet, the extant evidence describes numerous

miraculous healings which occur before Christianity. These events have only been partially

recognised by scholars who have researched only certain pieces of the event, such as pilgrimage

or incubation. The entire act of a healing miracle was a religiously significant event for ill

supplicants, which remains relatively unexplored. This research askes what sensory experience

(e.g. sight and perception) healing miracles provided for ill supplicants. Through examining

the healing miracles attributed to Asclepius, this paper seeks to develop an awareness of the

lived religious experience that they provided. This project further considers the use of healing

miracles more widely, in relation to anthropological models of Greco-Roman religion. Here, I

compare the Egyptian god Serapis with Asclepius, as both were important deities throughout

the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Thus, they offer an opportunity to examine the implications

of Asclepian miraculous healings for other deities. Further, an analysis of Aristides’ Sacred

Tales establishes individual choice and experience at the centre of religious life. The work of

Aristides is also used to develop the understanding of the relationship between Asclepius and

Serapis. This study concludes that healing miracles at Asclepieia were conditioned to provide

successful healing, which in turn allowed them to operate as an instrument to exact future

worship. Furthermore, these actions allowed Asclepius to function within a competitive market

of healing deities. What follows is not an entire history of Greco-Roman miracles, but an

attempt to re-establish healing miracles as an important part of religious life, and a valuable

insight into Greco-Roman religion.


I wish to express my gratitude to Dr. Efrosyni Boutsikas for her helpful advice and

encouragement throughout the supervision of my dissertation. I would also like to thank all the

academic and administrative staff within the Department of Classics and Archaeological

studies for their generous assistance throughout this year. Finally, I would like to show

appreciation to my grandmother, Margery Swallow, without whom I would not have been able

to accomplish my degree.

Table of Contents

Part One-Introduction

-1.1 Introduction …………………………………………………….5

-1.2 Terminology ……………………………………………………7

-1.3 Scholarship Review …………………………………………….9

-1.4 Methodology……………………………………………………12

Part Two- The Healing Miracles of Asclepius:

-2.1 Introduction and Background ………………………………… 16

-2.2 Location …………………………………………………….….18

-2.3 Temple Location …………………………………………….…22

-2.4 Temple Interior ………………………………………………...26

-2.5 Ritual and Incubation…………………………………………...31

-2.6 Conclusion …………………………………………………..…36

Part Three- Implications for Greco-Roman Religion:

-3.1 Introduction …………………………………………………... 38

-3.2 Religious Market Theory and Greco-Roman Religion ……..... 38

-3.3 Asclepius and Serapis …………………………………….….. 40

-3.4 Aristides’ Case Study ………………………………….….…. 45

Conclusion 48

Figures 50

Bibliography 55

Part 1

1.1 Introduction

The influence of biblical scholarship has developed an understanding that healing miracles are

primarily a Christian phenomenon. Yet, there are countless examples within the extant

evidence where healings are accredited to Greco-Roman divine figures, most famously the

Asclepian healing corpus. This paper presents healing miracles as an important mode in

religious thought and practice, and re-establishes them as a valuable insight into Greco-Roman


In ancient thought, health and wellbeing were influenced by divinity; Apollo brought

plague (Hom. Il. 1. 465) and Asclepius was able to blind men (IG IV.1.121-122). This

understanding also allowed for the gods to miraculously heal. Indeed, Greco-Roman healing

miracles involved individuals from all social strata and healed a range of illnesses and injuries.

The divinity most often noted for healing miracles was Asclepius, as the ‘saviour, mightier and

stronger than any other deity’ (Edelstein, Edelstein 1945: 65). His influence existed throughout

the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman eras, and so provide an appropriate subject for examining

healing miracles.

There has been an interest in Asclepius throughout the 20th and into the 21st century

scholarship, yet these studies focused on single elements of the healings, or certain bodies of

text. For example, the Epidaurian iamata, a collection of epigraphical testimonies, which have

received vast scholarly interest (LiDonnici 1995; Ahearne-Kroll 2013; Błaśkiewicz 2014).

Although these works are important, and do develop scholarly understanding of Asclepius,

they do not accurately assess healing miracles in their religious context. Through demonstrating

a preference for narrower studies, the role of the individual within this healing process is often


Through a lack of scholarly attention, and an overwhelming interest in biblical miracles,

the study of Greco-Roman healing miracles has been forced into an interpretive gridlock

(Dibelius 1935; Moule 1965; Thiessen 1983; Kee 1986). This stark disproportion has

encouraged an understanding that miracles, particularly healing miracles, are primarily a

Christian phenomenon.

This research intends to rebalance the focus on healing miracles as a religious

experience, and so distance from biblical scholarship. This discussion provides the relevant

overview of previous research, before considering what experience was offered by Asclepian

healing miracles, through examining the location, temple structure, ritual and incubation.

Whilst other healing deities, such as Asclepian family members Hygeia and Epione are also

mentioned, this section of the paper will focus largely on Asclepius. How does the presence of

the god transmit into a sensory experience? Does the location of the miracle affect the

experience? This examination will question the sensory impact of a healing miracle, before

demonstrating that those attributed to Asclepius were designed to offer both a salubrious

experience,1 but also to promote the talents of the god to further supplicants.

The second part of this research will situate these findings in relation to our

understanding of Greco-Roman religion. Asclepius was not the only god credited with healing

miracles, and it is important to recognise that other deities were affected by the experiences he

offered his supplicants. A deeper discussion of the Egyptian god Serapis, produces a more

elaborate understanding of healing miracles, and their use within religious life. These two

figures operate as important deities throughout the Hellenistic and Roman periods, with similar

attributions and experiences associated with them. Further, an analysis of Aristides’ Sacred

I have taken the Oxford Dictionary of English definition of salubrious to signify ‘health-giving’ (Stevenson

Tales (Hieroi Logoi)2 allows for consideration of individual religious choice in relation to both

Serapis and Asclepius. This section relies heavily on religious anthropological models,

particularly those relating to religious market theory (Berger 1969; North 1976). Within this

framework, Asclepius’ experiences acted as a direct means of promoting his healing powers

within a rather competitive sphere of healing deities.

Literary, epigraphical and archaeological evidences are utilised within this paper, to

recreate the most accurate understanding of healing miracles. Interdisciplinary methods are

also important here to gain an accurate understanding of contemporary perceptions. In addition,

the evidence used comes from a widespread chronological and geographical span. This

outcome is deliberate, as it encourages a greater consideration of miraculous phenomena as a

part of religious life throughout the Greco-Roman world.

The methodology which is incorporated into this research directs attention towards the

individual within Greco-Roman religion. Furthermore, this research provides an insight into

healing miracles, but also explores the implications of this for understanding Greco-Roman

religion. Conclusively, it is argued here that the study of healing miracles provides an

important insight into lived religious experience.

1.2 Terminology

Before outlining the issues, which pertain the current scholarship surrounding healing miracles,

it is important to set out a working definition of miraculous healing. Ancient scholarship does

not often provide discussion of this term, nevertheless, an entry provided in The Oxford

Classical Companion (OCC) offers an insight into how miraculous healing operated:

The Sacred Tales will be abbreviated as ST, following the style outlined in the translation of Behr (1968).

‘Miracles (healing, punitive, and other) are now explicitly pictured as divine

instruments to exact worship, obedience and submission’

(Hornblower, Spawforth 1996: 989)

The OCC holds that miracles are divine in origin and can be used to ‘exact worship,

obedience and submission’. This understanding is in stark contrast to the modern perception of

a miracle, which concludes that a miraculous occurrence is ‘an extraordinary and welcome

event’ (Stevenson 2011). Indeed, our modern understanding of miracles has been shaped by

biblical texts, which conclude also that they must be a positive and ‘uplifting event’ (Corner

2005: 13). As the OCC accurately explained, the ancient miracle was not necessarily positive;

the god Asclepius could remove a miraculous healing, should the proper offerings be neglected

(IG IV.1.121-122). This notion of exacting worship through the use of miracles is one which

shall be returned to frequently within this paper.

Nevertheless, it must be stated that ‘miracle’ is a rather unpopular term amongst ancient

historians. Scholars appear wholly reluctant to adopt this terminology when referring to events

clearly associated with healing miracles. This is evident within the scholarship of pilgrimage

and incubation, both areas integral to healing miracles. In a recent work by Petridou on Greek

epiphany, a chapter is included which relates to ‘healing epiphanies’ (2015: 171-193). Whilst

this chapter discusses at length the ritual of incubation, and how the individual perceives

healing gods, it does not once refer to miracles. Similarly, within a publication on pilgrimage,

an entire section of the typology refers to ‘healing pilgrimage’ (Elsner, Rutherford 2005: 16).
Yet, there is again no reference to miraculous healings. These rituals form important parts of

a healing miracle, and yet scholarship has treated them as individual processes.

Note that Naiden does challenge the categorising of healing pilgrimage, acknowledging that the Greeks used a
specific term for these individuals seeking healing (hiketês), which differed from the Greek term for pilgrimage
(theôros) (Naiden 2015: 73-95).

Continuing from this discussion, this research paper will adopt a wider understanding

of miraculous healings. Adopting from OCC’s definition, a healing miracle is part of the

relationship between divine and mortal, operating as a divine tool. A healing miracle is a

miraculous event, which is performed by a god or divine figure, with direct consequences

affecting the health of the individual. Further, this understanding of healing miracles will focus

on the entire process of healing, from pilgrimage to ritual and aftermath.

1.3 Review of Scholarship

The issues pertaining to miraculous scholarship originate from a general reluctance to approach

them within academia. This review will begin by considering the origin of miraculous study,

before investigating topically the areas of research which have impacted miracle healings. It is

demonstrated that, despite an overwhelming interest in biblical healing miracles, the study of

other miracles has been drastically neglected. Whilst miraculous healings are occasionally

referenced for their medical or political value, no attempt has been made to discuss how

miracles operated within Greco-Roman religion.

Miracle research originates in the 20th century scholarship of the New Testament

(Dibelius 1935). This initial attention generated a greater awareness of miraculous behaviour

and sequentially promoted its study within academia (eg. Moule 1965; Thiessen 1983; Kee

1986). Nevertheless, biblical miracles remain at the forefront of scholarship, with a continued

interest in them in recent publications (Watson 2012; Alkier, Weissenrieder 2013). Whilst these

works are informative, they are damaging for the study of Greco-Roman miracles, as they

encourage an understanding that miracles are primarily a Christian entity.

This distortion is also apparent in the lack of ancient scholarship on miraculous

phenomena. Grant’s Miracle and Natural Law in Greco-Roman and early Christian Thought

(1952) and Cotter’s Miracles in Greco-Roman Antiquity (1999) are the only two publications

relating to Greco-Roman miracles as a body of evidence. Even within these volumes, it is

evident that the Christian miracles dominate; Grant, despite the title of his work, offers very

limited discussion on what he calls Greco-Roman ‘science’ as a backdrop for his further

discussion on Christianity (1952: 127). Nevertheless, Cotter’s work is a collection of miracle

texts, which does include Greco-Roman miracles, including examples of the Asclepian

healings and a variety of others (1999: 17-19). Yet again, her intention is ‘particularly focused

on the Jesus miracles’ (1999: 6). Both these works reflect the scholarly dismissal of Greco-

Roman miracles, which at best regards these events as background for situating the study of

Christian miracles. Furthermore, the limited classical appreciation of Greco-Roman miracles

has also encouraged the distortion apparent within miracle academia.

Nevertheless, individual Greco-Roman miracles are sometimes examined within other

areas of ancient scholarship. Indeed, certain miracles have received significant attention from

scholars, particularly those attributed to Roman emperors. Perhaps the best demonstration of

this is apparent in the miraculous healings of the emperor Vespasian (Suet. Vesp. 7; Tac. Hist.

4.81; Dio. Cass. 65.8.1-2). These miracles have received great attention from historians, within

larger volumes (Takács 1995: 96–98; Levick 1999: 68-69; Jones 2000: 52-56) and within

articles (Derchain, Hubaux 1953; Henrichs 1968; Luke 2010). These discussions deal

exclusively with the political prominence of the healing miracles. For example, Luke examines

how the Vespasian healings were utilised by later Flavian emperors to promote themselves

(2010: 91). These discussions remain inherently political, in fact, Luke appears rather reluctant

to even refer to these events as miracles, as he consistently calls them wonders. 4 A similar

focus is apparent within the examinations of the weather miracles of the emperor Marcus

The title to his work includes ‘wonders’ rather than miracles, yet he makes no attempt to explain why he made
this choice, and again offers no discussion of defining miracles.

Aurelius (Rubin 1979; Fowden 1987; Israelowich 2008). Again, all offering detailed debates

of the political implications of these miraculous events. Whilst this research develops an

understanding of the emperor in question, they neglect that miracles were also religious events.

Healing miracles were primarily interactions between the divine and the mortal, and yet these

works disregard the religious aspect and distort miraculous events.

There is one final area of scholarship which has impacted the study of Greco-Roman

healing miracles, namely that of ancient medicine. Whilst ancient medicine is not directly

relevant to this research, it has undeniably contributed to the distortion which surrounds miracle

healings. Melinsky states that ‘any serious study of the healing miracles goes to the heart of

medicine’ (1968: ix). Yet, through comparing ancient medicine with healing miracles, scholars

have once again removed these events from their religious context. Indeed, Melinsky’s

approach demonstrates elements of modern rationality, through claiming that a ‘serious study’

is required. This argument features prominently within the discussions of the Asclepian

healings. Błaśkiewicz’s research asks whether the inscriptions of healing at Epidaurus are ‘tell-

tales or historical events?’ (2014: 56). This question is concerned with accuracy and legitimacy,

again returning to this notion of whether the healings were medically possible. Błaśkiewicz

claims that ‘it should be noted that some of them are too fantastic in nature to offer any

credence’ (2014: 57). Through attempting to rationalise these events, these works distance the

healings from their religious context and further judges them based on modern rationality and

medical practices, which is inaccurate. There is little to be gained from assessing these healings

by modern rationality, instead, the view put forward by Lecos and Pentogalos is preferable.

They claim that although miracles ‘seem to us difficult to explain is the way

miracles are supposed to be’ (1989: 21). Importantly, Lecos and Pentogalos appear aware of

the need to focus on contemporary understanding, rather than modern rationality. It is important

to remain cautious of scepticism, particularly regarding healing miracles, as it favours modern

interpretation over contemporary understanding.

It is clear that a variety of academic areas have influenced healing miracles. The

religious aspect of a healing miracle has been consistently neglected, in favour of political or

medical uses of the miraculous evidence. To understand how a miracle healing was regarded

by contemporaries and how they provided a religious experience, there is an apparent need for

a greater study.

1.4 Methodology

This paper is compiled into two major sections of research, firstly, there is an examination of

the Asclepian healing miracles. This examination will consider how Asclepius facilitated

healings, through assessing the location, temple, incubation and rituals associated with them.

An emphasis is granted towards senses and perception within this section, as it is intended to

demonstrate healing miracles as an important religious experience. In recent years there has

been a ‘sensual revolution’ within cultural studies (Howes 2004:1). This approach has placed

sensory reconstruction at the forefront of historical studies. In recent years, editions have been

published relating to ancient smells (Harvey 2006; Bradley 2014), ancient sight (Squire 2016)

and ancient taste (Rudolph 2017).

This approach has also been successfully employed in relation to religion, which has

produced interesting and stimulating discussions. One particularly successful example of this

approach was adopted by Platt (2016) in her research on Roman nymphs. Platt focuses her

whole discussion around a short Latin inscription which attests to the author seeing ‘the naked

nymphs’ (Platt 2016: 161). She develops her argument by introducing other evidence about

nymphs, but also evidence relating to seeing the divine. Her interest is predominantly

concerned with the sense of sight, yet she pays close attention to the interaction with the gods

as ‘sensory encounters’ (Platt 2016: 169). It is highly important that studies of Roman religion

acknowledge that ‘contact with the sacred was an intensely physical experience’ (Toner 2014:

8). Indeed, this is precisely what is omitted from discussions of miraculous healings.

Furthermore, elements of this approach will be incorporated throughout this examination of

healing miracles.

It is important to be aware of the limitations of a sensory approach, most immediate is

the issue of reconstructing experience through written word. Indeed, this is an issue which has

pertained other sensory research, which have asked ‘how is the sensory experience expressed

and ordered by language?’ (Classen 1993: 1). As miraculous healings are largely recorded in

written accounts, this concern is of particular prominence to this study. This research will

remain aware of the limitations which exist within sensory reconstruction, and further note the

restrictions throughout.

The second part of this research will attempt to situate these findings within Greco-

Roman religion. Asclepius was not the only god accredited with healing miracles, there are

various other religious figures with healing powers, such as Athena Hygiea (Plut. Per. 13.12–

13; Aristid. ST. 2. 80; 3. 22; 4. 16) and Apollo Medicus (Liv. 4. 25. 3). It is important to consider

how the miracles of Asclepius interacted with individuals and other divinities. Within this part

of the research, other healing gods and deities will be examined to gain an accurate

understanding of how miracles functioned within religious life. Finally, a discussion of Aelius

Aristides’ Sacred Tales will further offer an opportunity to examine religious choice. This

research relies heavily on anthropological scholarship, importantly that of religious market

theory. Shaped by scholars Berger (1969) and North (1976), the notion of a religious market

regards religion rather like a commodity, and the individual as a consumer. This approach

encourages scholars to consider the individual and how religious decisions were made. This

notion of a religious market is important to this research, and will be explained in greater depth

in the second half of this paper.

This methodology is not popular within the religious scholarship of the ancient world.

Religious research generally prefers to adopt an approach which relates to one religious figure.
Whilst this is useful for gaining intimate detail about the divinity, it restricts our

understanding of Greco-Roman religion. Nevertheless, in recent years, scholars have begun to

question such approaches. As Price explains ‘we shall never make progress if we remain locked

into particular specialisms’ (Price 2000: 760). Jamie Alvar (2008) has removed from ‘particular

specialisms’, in producing a work which examines collectively the gods Isis, Mithras and

Cybele in the Roman Empire. When outlining his methodology, Alvar makes the following


‘We must be allowed to discover whether studying a group of cults that bear an obvious

family resemblance to one another…helps in the task of understanding the shifts in

religious thought’

(Alvar 2008: 12)

Alvar’s statement is accurate, to fully understand religious life, how it altered and

adapted, and interacted with other religious figures, a wider approach is necessary. Thus, to

develop a more sophisticated understanding of religious life, this research incorporates a

discussion of how Asclepius interacts with other healing divinities, most importantly Serapis.

This paper exists in two parts, which are both important and necessary. Whilst the

discussion of the Asclepian corpus develops an understanding of healing miracles more

specifically, it is important to situate that within Greco-Roman religion. In light of Alvar’s

There are many examples of this, for example the Egyptian goddess Isis (Dunand (1973); Sharon and Heyob
(1975); Donalson (2003)), or Roman cult of Mithras (Vermaseren (1963); Beck (1998); Turcan (2000); Beck

approach, this research makes a conscious effort to incorporate a variety of religious figures

throughout, to gain the most accurate understanding of healing miracles and religious life.

Part 2- The Healing Miracles of Asclepius

2.1 Introduction and Background

Asclepius is of unique importance for this study on healing miracles, acclaimed by ancient

accounts as a ‘gentle craftsman who drove pain from the limbs’ (Pind. Pae. 3), and by modern

as the ‘the main representative of divine healing’ (Edelstein, Edelstein 1945: xxv). Mythology

holds that he was originally mortal and regarded later as a hero-god (Cic. Nat. D. 2. 24. 62).

The earliest reference to Asclepius appears in the Iliad, where he is described as a physician

from Tricca who had sent his two sons in the Trojan mission (Hom. Il. II. 729-733). Asclepius

held connections with divinity from birth, as the son of the god Apollo (Apollod. Bibl. 3. 10.

3-4). Yet, during the Classical era, Asclepius appears to have been granted immortality in his

own right, as the god of medicine (Edelstein, Edelstein 1945: 1). The skills possessed by

Asclepius are also a strong suggestive of his divine status, with his ability to bring the dead

back to life (Ov. Fast. 5. 743-62). Nevertheless, this distinguishable feature is precisely the

reason why Zeus strikes Asclepius with a thunder bolt, in fear that he will grant mortals the

knowledge of resurrection.6

There is a mass of evidence relating to Asclepius and his presence throughout the

Greco-Roman world. Nevertheless, there is a particular body of epigraphical evidence which

has received greater attention, namely the Epidaurian inscriptions (iamata) (Edelstein,

Edelstein 1945; LiDonnici 1995; Wickkiser 2003; Blaśkiewicz 2014). 7 At the sanctuary of

Asclepius in Epidaurus, the remains of four stelai which were erected in the fourth century BC,

hold around seventy testimonies of Asclepian miracles (LiDonnici 1995:1). For this study, the

iamata are of vast importance, not only do they provide an opportunity to examine

Note that the mythology is much more complex than this brief overview, see Edelstein, Edelstein (1945) 1-
76; Hart (2000) 4-17, for more details.
This was also mentioned in the introduction, see page 5-6.

contemporary accounts of Asclepian healing miracles, but, as they were displayed within the

temple complex, they contributed to the experience of other patients.

In terms of popularity, Asclepius’ worship increased throughout the Hellenistic era,

attracting many prominent figures, such as Alexander the Great (Paus. 8. 28.1; Arr. Anab. 2. 5.

8). Asclepius’ early entrance in Rome, also indicates his prevailing influence throughout this

period. Livy records the arrival of Asclepius in 292BC, following an epidemic within the city

of Rome, where the image of the god was sent for, in accordance with the sibylline books (Liv.

Per. 11). Upon arrival to Rome, it is said a snake, sacred to Asclepius, jumped out of the boat

into the Tiber and then landed on the island (Isola Tiberina) (Liv. 10 .47; Val. Max. 1.8.2). The

temple of Asclepius was built on the island, which appears on Roman coinage (see Figure 1).

It is clear that by the second century AD, the popularity of Asclepius was at its peak with over

three hundred known sanctuaries across the empire (Garland 1992: 16- 22).

It is important to note that Asclepius, more so than any other Greco-Roman deity,

represents the ultimate healing god. Aside from his father Apollo, there is no other divine

figures who had such prevailing medicinal influence as that of Asclepius. 8 The prominence of

Asclepius is perhaps one of the reasons why he has received so much scholarly attention, which

frequently reflect on his success. Hart has attributed his distinction to an ‘expansion of

civilization’, further increasing the need for a healing deity (2000: 19). However, this view

cannot be wholly correct. In earlier societies, there are deities who perform similar functions

to that of Asclepius, such as the Egyptian goddess Isis, who held influence over healing and

medical practices (Diod. Sic. 1. 21. 5-6). Her presence demonstrates that healing was part of

ancient life, tied to human nature rather than a result of a sudden growth in population. This

notion of societies requiring divine healing figures is central to the following discussions.

Apollo enters Rome in a similar manner to Asclepius, following an epidemic in 433BC (Liv. 4. 25. 3),
generally speaking Apollo features as a public healer more than Asclepius does.

This research will now thematically discuss the following aspects of healing miracles;

location, temple structure, ritual and incubation. Although these elements are not always

included in literary references to miraculous healings, they remain important for most of

Asclepius’ healing miracles. 9

This discussion will largely centre on reconstructing the

religious experience of miraculous healings, demonstrating that they were importantly catered

for ill supplicants. Given the lack of detail offered in many references to miraculous healings,

this research will incorporate a wide range of examples. Through adopting a widespread

chronological and geographical span, this research is able to establish representative findings.

Was location important for miraculous healings? How did temple structure affect the individual

experience? What rituals were involved? These are just a few of the questions which will be

approached within the following examination.

2.2 Location

The birth place of Asclepius was frequently debated by the ancients, some claiming it was

Tricca in Thessaly (Hom. Il. II. 729-32; Strab. 4. 1. 39), Messenia (Paus. 2. 26. 7) and Arcadia

(Paus. 8. 25. 11). Yet, the location most commonly denoted as his birthplace was certainly

Epidaurus (Paus. 2. 26.3-8). This location was also regarded as the birthplace of Asclepius by

the Romans, as their embassy, which was sent to acquire the image of Asclepius during the

epidemic in 291BC, was sent to Epidaurus (Liv. 10. 47. 7). These continued references to

Epidaurus, suggest that the site was of prominence throughout the Greco-Roman world. Indeed,

the most famous examples of Asclepian healing miracles are also found at Epidaurus, namely

the iamata (LiDonnici 1995:1). Thus, although other areas appear to stake a claim on the

Quite frequently references are made to healing miracles, with essentially no detail, such as a shrine to
Asclepius and his son Machaon in Gerenia, where Pausanias simply states that people find cures there (Paus. 3.
26. 9).

lineage of Asclepius, Epidaurus was certainly the most notorious. Petsalis-Diomidis notes this

phenomenon, of certain gods being closely affiliated with one location. She uses the term ’tied’

to express this affiliation (Petsalis-Diomidis 2005: 187). Thus, following this terminology, it

appears Asclepius was tied to Epidaurus.

But how did this affect the experience of supplicants? Given the prominence of these

locations, did the Epidaurian temple overshadow the other temples of Asclepius? Were ill

individuals expected to make pilgrimage to Epidaurus for the best opportunity of healing? And

if so, how did this affect their experience? Certainly many did, for example the iamata at

Epidaurus include many examples of individuals traveling to Epidaurus from Pellene (A2),

Athens (A4), Herakleia (B10 (30)), and Lampsacus (A15). 10 Some of these cities, such as

Athens, certainly had their own Asclepian temple, yet an Athenian had decided to make

pilgrimage to the famous institution at Epidaurus.

There is some evidence to suggest that Asclepian temples were specialised in healing

certain parts of the body. For example, at the Corinthian temple there appears to have been a

mass of anatomical votives found depicting breasts and limbs (Van Staten 1981: 123–24). This

has led scholars to believe that the sanctuary may have been specialised in treating breast and

limbs (Oberhelman 2014: 50). These arguments are persuasive, and it does appear plausible

that certain locations were better renowned for healing parts of the body. Nevertheless, it is just

as possible that Corinth was an anomaly, and there is not enough evidence of this specialisation

to argue that it was a widespread concept.

Indeed, the very issue of pilgrimage appears to have been one that the ancients

themselves contemplated;

All Stelae translations come from LiDonnici (1995: 84-131).

‘If we had bodily ailments and needed the help of the god [Asclepius], and he were

present here in his temple on the acropolis and revealed himself to the sick, as they say

he does, would we have to go to Tricca or sail to Epidaurus because of its ancient

renown, or could we be relieved of our ailment merely by taking a short walk [to your


Them. Or. 27. 333.

Just as Themistius is questioning the necessity for pilgrimage in the 4th century AD, it

is probable many did before him. There was a combination of locals and pilgrims at Epidaurus,

and many shrines throughout the Greco-Roman world, suggesting that pilgrimage was

undertaken, as was local worship. During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, Asclepius had

temples across the entire empire, such as Athens (Paus. 1. 21. 4), Corinth (Paus. 2. 2. 3; 2. 4.

5), at Messenia (Paus. 4. 30. 1) and Rome (Figure 1; Liv. 10.47.6-7). Therefore, whilst there

are recorded examples of pilgrimage, it was clearly not a necessity.

Nevertheless, in the instances where pilgrimage was taken, how did it affect their

experience? Long journeys undertaken by ill pilgrims seeking divine aid, would perhaps

suggest that pilgrimage was unpleasant and draining. Within the few extant ancient accounts

of healing pilgrimage, a similar presentation is evident. Perhaps the most famous account of

healing pilgrimage is Aelius Aristides’ Sacred Tales. Within this work, he recorded a decades-

long series of illnesses for which he sought relief by divine communion, through Asclepius,

but also Serapis and the Egyptian goddess Isis (Aristid. ST. 3.46). The account offers a first-

hand description of healing pilgrimage and is of enormous value to this research.11 Aristides’

first illness appears during a trip to Egypt in 141AD, but continues for many years. During

stages of his illness, Asclepius commanded him to go to his temple in Pergamum for incubation

As Hornblower and Spawforth accurately attest, it is ‘the fullest first-hand report of personal religious
experience’ (1996: 160-1).

(Aristid. ST. 4.1). During one episode, Aristides appears in quite a serious situation, during his

travels to Chius for a purgation (Aristd. ST. 2.12). The weather at sea is rough and many of the

passengers appear fearful for their lives, Aristides notes that they only just survived. This ordeal

is suggestive of the dangers that a pilgrim could face during a journey to another sanctuary.

Certainly, for Aristides pilgrimage appears a highly painful and emotive experience.

A similar sense of danger is associated with healing pilgrimage in Apuleius’

Metamorphosis. The work is a document of fictitious prose about the adventures of a man

called Lucius who, having been turned into an ass, required divine assistance (Apul. Met. 3.

24). Throughout his journey Lucius is exhausted and frequently subjected to hardships, during

one event Lucius is badly beaten and fears for his life (6. 25- 29). Whilst Lucius’ pilgrimage is

exceptional and fictional, the desperate and emotive journey described in this work reflects a

similar experience to that of Aristides.

The association between the writings of Apuleius and Aristides have been noted

extensively by scholars. Festugière was first to argue that the eleventh book of Apuleius'

Metamorphoses and the ST were evidence of personal religious experience (1954: 85–104).

Yet, more recently, scholars have been reluctant to use these texts as a testament of personal

devotion. Harrison, argues that Aristides’ ST, rather than a document from which scholars can

reconstruct individual religious devotion, should be regarded as a parody of Apuleius’

Metamorphosis (Harrison 2000: 2). However, even as a parody, these documents offer much

more than mere ‘satirical fun’ (Harrison 2000: 14). Rutherford has accurately stressed that for

the purposes of examining pilgrimage, Aristides’ account is of enormous value (Rutherford

2001: 51). Through demonstrating the link between physical suffering and healing pilgrimage,

these accounts offer valuable insights. Furthermore, these two accounts provide us with an

understanding of the dangers associated with pilgrimage, which could become a highly emotive


It is important to remember that ‘patients who went to the trouble of a pilgrimage to an

Asclepius shrine…may have been really desperate’ (Harris 2009: 261-262). Just as Aristides’

account demonstrates, the dangers of pilgrimage must only be heightened for an individual of

ill health. The location provided of these prominent shrines could impact the experience of the

pilgrim. Whilst pilgrimage was not a necessity, in the instances which it occurs, it certainly

affected the supplicants, perhaps even more so within a healing context.

2.3 Temple Location

As the previous chapter examined how geographical location contributed to the experience

before arriving at the temple, this chapter will now discuss how location affected the experience

upon arrival. This chapter is closely associated with the previous, yet here a closer

consideration is granted towards the natural resources in proximity to the temples and how this

impacted individual supplicants.

‘Natural consistency arises from the choice of such situations for temples as possess

the advantages of salubrious air and water; more especially in the case of temples

erected to Asclepius, to the Goddess of Health, and such other divinities as possess the

power of curing diseases. Thus, for the sick, changing the unwholesome air and water

to which they have been accustomed for those that are healthy’

(Vitr. De arch. 1. 2. 7)

This statement was made by the Roman architect Vitruvius, in the first century BC.

Vitruvius describes the ideal location of a healing temple as one close to both ‘salubrious air

and water’ (Vitr. De arch. 1. 2. 7). He further notes that the changing of air and water has a

direct impact on the health of the individual. Although his statement alludes to the strength of

natural healing, as opposed to the healing powers of Asclepius, it establishes that the locating

of Asclepian temples was deliberate, to provide a certain environment and experience.

To an extent, Vitruvius’ statement is truthful for other temples of Asclepius. Numerous

Asclepieia are referenced in relation to natural water sources, such as the temple at Pellana in

Laconia, which was located next to the spring Pellanis (Paus. 3. 21. 2), or the one in Gortyna

located next to a river (Paus. 4. 36. 7), the temple on Tiber Island (Liv. 10. 47), and many others

within proximity of a natural water source (Paus. 3. 24. 2; 4. 36. 7; 7. 5. 9; 7. 27. 22). Whilst it

is not possible to establish that these waters had salubrious effects on individuals, there is a

clear association with Asclepieia and water.

In some instances, rituals had to be carried out before an individual could enter a

healing temple, which often involved water. For example, the temple of Asclepius at

Pergamum, on the river Caicus, was only allowed to be entered by those who had bathed (Paus.

5. 13. 3). Remarkably, water appears here as part of the purification process. The duality of

water in relation to miraculous healings is something which occurs quite frequently, as it

features ‘not only in purification…but also as a healing agent’ (Vlahogiannias 2005: 186). It is

not clear if water always had a positive effect on health, nevertheless, it was incorporated in

the healing process and further a necessity in the locating of a temple.

The other requirement Vitruvius references is that of ‘salubrious air’. Interestingly,

Asclepius does appear associated with air in other sources. In a passage of Pausanias, a

conversation is recorded that he had with a local at the precinct of Asclepius near Eileithyia.

The local claims that the god ‘is air, bringing health to mankind and to all animals’ (Paus. 7.

23. 7). The man further explains that Asclepius, as he governs the changing of the seasons,

‘imparts to the air it’s healthiness’ (Paus. 7. 23. 7). This statement notes that air has a direct

impact on health, but that this is a process governed by Asclepius. The healthiness of the air is

something repeatedly mentioned within discussions on the location of settlements. For

example, Herculaneum in Italy is described as a ‘healthful place to live in’ because it looks out

to sea and catches the breezes of the southwest wind (Strab. 5. 4. 8). Here, both water and air

are the two factors which influence the health of a location, both features which are importantly

associated with Asclepius.

Finally, there are other restrictions made at temple locations which could have had an

effect on the air and water. The temples were often located within sacred boundaries, within

which no death or birth could take place (Paus. 2. 27. 1). Certainly, there was an attempt to

create a certain type of environment at these locations. These measures, and associations with

water and air, suggest that a conscious effort was made to select healthy environments for

Asclepius’ temples. Returning back to Vitruvius, there is a final comment which he makes in

relation to the locating of healing temples. He claims that, the proper choice of location for

healing sanctuaries can increase ‘a reliance upon the divinity’ (Vitr. De arch. 1. 2. 7). This

passage is particularly significant, as it appears to be alluding to religious competition. As

outlined in the methodology section, religious anthropologists have established the notion of

religious market choice. Vitruvius, by stating that the correct environment increases a reliance

on a deity, is alluding to religious competition, but also individual choice in the selection

process. This statement will be returned to within the following section of research.

It is worth noting that few scholars have attempted to reconstruct locations where

‘good’ air would be accessed. Barefoot, provides a figure demonstrating the micro-climate of

Corinth, which depicts cool air coming across from the sea and providing ‘thermal breeze’ to

parts of the temple (Barefoot 2005: 210). Barefoot makes another interesting comment about

the locating of these sanctuaries, he claims that the sites remain locations ‘pleasant to the

senses’ even within contemporary society (Barefoot 2005: 212). He adds that this is the reason

why Christian churches were sometimes built on, or close to, a previous healing shrine, such

as the Athenian temple at Corinth, later the location for a Byzantine church (Barefoot 2005:

212). A great amount of scholarly interest has been directed towards continuity from Greco-

Roman religion to Christianity, as the reuse of location is something which occurs a lot,

particularly with healing sites. The Tiber Island Asclepian temple has remained a location

associated with health directly into modern day, as it is now the location of one of the major

hospitals of Rome, namely Fatebenefratelli Hospital (Figure 2). Similarly, it has been argued

that the healing shrine of Juturna, located on the Roman Forum, also retained an element of

healing association, as the church Santa Maria Antiqua, which was built nearby, contained a

chapel dedicated to Christian physicians (Tea 1937; Osborne 1987; Burford 2017). Whilst the

reuse of location may have been partially due to the salubrious environment of these healing

shrines, it is important to note that this was not the only factor. Indeed, Christians sought to

appropriate ‘the physical and cultural environment’ of other religious activities (Busine 2015:

3). Perhaps exploiting the salubrious environments of previous healing sanctuaries was a part

of this appropriation.

Peter Barefoot has written extensively on the design of Asclepian temples, within which

he has coined the term ‘locotherapy’. He uses the term to describe the impact of the natural

environment in curing a sick individual (Barefoot 2005: 205). Whilst Barefoot was the first to

use this precise term, the understanding that environment can have salubrious effects on the

health of an individual is not a unique idea. Gesler, in his Therapeutic Landscape, explored

how cultural geography, humanistic geography and structuralist geography, contributed to a

holistic approach to health (Gesler 1993). His extensive research into environments and healing

clearly holds very similar ideas to that of Barefoot, concluding that ‘physical and built

environments, social conditions and human perceptions combine to produce an atmosphere

which is conducive to healing’ (Gesler, 1996: 96). Locotherapy is a term which accurately

sums up what this chapter has established, these temples of Asclepius were intentionally

located to provide salubrious environments.

2.4 Temple Interior

There are several central themes within this chapter: the temple complex, the imagery, offerings

and statues, which all contribute to the temple interior. It has already been mentioned that the

most renowned Asclepian temple was certainly that at Epidaurus, therefore, much of this

discussion will focus on this centre. However, attempts will be made to incorporate other

locations. This discussion demonstrates how the promotion of Asclepius and his healing

powers was incorporated into the temple interior. This chapter adds to the previous discussion,

demonstrating that the built environment at Asclepian temples was just as important as the

geographical location in regard to the effects on the individual experience.

Firstly, it is important to note that the temple complex at an Asclepian sanctuary was

much more than a simple temple structure. 12 The sanctuary at Epidaurus for example, had been

popular since the fifth century BC. Yet with the ever-increasing status of Asclepius, in the early

fourth century BC the site underwent a massive development which was not fully completed

until 250BC (Burford 1969: 53). It included a new altar, new cult-statue and a circular tholos

structure, containing sculpture and the testimonies of those healed (Paus. 2. 27. 3), which all

contributed to the ‘sheer spectacle’ of the Epidaurian sanctuary (Burford 1969: 53-63). The

Epidaurian sanctuary held both a theatre and a gymnasium, a bath house was then added in the

second half of the 2nd century AD by a Roman Senator (Paus. 2. 27. 6). These additional

structures demonstrate that the sanctuary was designed to encourage interaction with previous

It is also important to be aware that until the fourth century BC, Apollo was also very prominent at this
location (Edelstein, Edelstein 1945: 292).

supplicants, through the testimonies in the tholos. But the structure also encouraged interaction

with current supplicants, through the theatre and bath house complexes. There is no doubt that

Asclepian temple structure, certainly the one at Epidaurus, was designed to offer much more

than a simple place of worship. Thus, the temple complex at Epidaurus demonstrates that a

variety of activities were integral to the healing experience.

In addition, visualising the gods appears to be an important part of the interior at many

Asclepian temples. Not only images of Asclepius, but often statues depicting an array of divine

figures are found within the structure. At the sanctuary in Corinth, there are images of

personified sleep, of dream and Apollo (Paus. 2. 10. 2). Asclepius was frequently associated

with a family of healing figures, namely his wife Epione, his sons Machaon and Podalirius,

and most frequently his daughter Hygiea (Hom. Il. II. 729-32; Paean Erythraeus b-c). Within

sculpture and votives at Asclepian temples, Asclepius and Hygiea are frequently depicted

healing together (Figure 3-4). At the Epidaurian sanctuary the image of Asclepius is mentioned

by Pausanias (Paus. 2. 27. 2). Pausanias does not offer a great amount of detail about this statue,

other than that it was half the size of Olympian Zeus at Athens, and was made with both ivory

and gold. Clearly Pausanias thought the image was noteworthy, as he mentions it first,

nevertheless he offers little discussion of how the statue contributed to his visit. Indeed, the

majority of Asclepieia that Pausanias mentions hold images of Asclepius, the temple at Argos

holds a white marble statue of the seated god with health (Paus. 2. 23. 2), another in Abia,

Messenia, holds a variety of images all made from stone, including those of Asclepius (Paus.

4. 30.1- 31. 10). Pausanias does not offer any indication of how these statues made the

individual feel, or even how they impacted his own visit. Whilst the statues must have held

some sort of significance, it is very difficult to understand what impact they had.

Comparatively, there is evidence which suggests other statues made quite substantial

impressions on those viewing them. The famous statue of Zeus at Olympia appears to have had

a clear influence on those who viewed it:

‘men, whoever is sore distressed in soul, having in the course of his life drained the cup

of many misfortunes and griefs, nor winning sweet sleep — even this man, methinks,

if he stood before this image, would forget all the terrors and hardships that fall to our

human lot’

(D. Chr. 12. 51)

This passage explains that the sight of such a statue could influence the individual so

significantly that they would forget about their own troubles. Pausanias, who records in his

travels that he viewed this statue, claims that even though he knows the exact measurements

of the statue they ‘fall short of the impression made by the sight of the image’ (Paus. 5. 11. 9).

Indeed, there are few cases of Asclepian sculpture providing similar effects. Callistratus,

writing in the 3rd century AD, records that a statue of Asclepius was ‘not an image, but a

modelled presentiment of truth’, he adds that although it was shaped by hands of mortals ‘it

succeeds in doing what handicrafts cannot accomplish, in that it begets in a marvellous way

tokens’ (Callistratus, Ekphr. 10). This statement suggests that the statue, although made by

mortals, was under the influence of the god himself. Certainly, statues could have an impact

on the mortal world, as few notable statues have been attributed their own healing miracles

(Luc. Philops. 18-19; Paus. 6.11.6-9). Weddle has examined how cult statues operated within

the mortal sphere, and notes that healing statues ‘are amongst the best known and most prolific’

(Weddle 2010: 150). Perhaps upon viewing statues of Asclepius, particularly at a site as

celebrated as Epidaurus, the individual supplicant felt as though the god himself was present

in the images. Certainly, the viewing of images was important to the healing experience.

Sculpture was not the only visual decoration within Asclepian temples, indeed the

votive and other offerings were central to Asclepian worship. For example, there was the visual

impact of the iamata, which are recorded most notably at Epidaurus, but also at Tricca and Kos

(Strab. 8. 16. 15). The iamata were visual representations of previous healing miracle

experiences. At Epidaurus, Pausanias records that there were six stelai, and that they used to

be more (Paus. 2. 27. 3). Whilst not all relate to healing, a large amount of the extant iamata

do refer to healings which occurred within the Asclepian temple complex.

The Epidaurian iamata were full of successes, some of which were quite substantial

illnesses and injuries;

‘Antikrates of Knidos, eyes. This man had been stuck with a spear through both his

eyes in some battle, and he became blind and carried the spearhead with him, inside his


Stelae B 12 (32).

This example from Stelae B at Epidaurus demonstrates the severity of some of the

wounds which were healed at the temple. Antikrates arrived completely blind with part of a

spear in his eyes, and left cured. The extreme cases which are recorded demonstrate the strength

of Asclepius, whilst simultaneously representing to prospective supplicants that no matter how

grave their situation is the god can assist them. This example also reminds us of the condition

in which these supplicants might have been in, suffering painful and traumatic injuries, which

indubitably heightened the emotions which they might have felt viewing these sanctuaries.

Nevertheless, there has been great scholarly debate over the authorship of these iamata,

some arguing that they were created by priests, or at least heavily revised by them (Lidonnici

1995:49), and others arguing that some of them are real representations of healing miracles

(Edelstein, Edelstein 1945; Dillon 1994). It has been claimed that the iamata ‘present a fiction

of success’ (Naiden 2005: 87). The Epidaurian iamata were visible to supplicants, as Pausanias

records that he could view the them clearly upon his visit in the second century AD (Paus. 2.

27. 3). Clearly, in this location they were meant to be visible to supplicants. Perhaps, given that

the locating of these testimonies was deliberate, the contents of them may also have been

intentional. Nonetheless, the overwhelming presence of healing imagery and successful

testimonies, are suggestive of an intentional promotion of the god’s abilities, through which

they promote an Asclepian philosophy.

The iamata were not the only votive offerings found within Asclepian temples,

terracotta anatomical votive and other smaller offerings were frequently found at these sites. 13

Figure 5 demonstrates an anatomical votive, which represents the lower part of a leg. The

votive was found at the shrine of Asclepius in Melos (100-200 AD) and inscribed with thanks

to Asclepius and Hygieia. It is interesting that supplicants frequently decided to depict the ill

parts of their bodies as a thanks to the god. This issue is summarized splendidly by Petsalis-

Diomidis; ‘the very part of the body which had been perceived as the locus of illness and pain

was transformed into the miraculous’ (2005: 184). Votives, particularly anatomical ones, are

visually rather eye catching. They record the healing miracles of others, whilst remaining in

the temple structure to be viewed by future supplicants. The Asclepian votive offerings are

visual representations of the transitional curative powers of Asclepius and further provide

evidence of his influence.

Other votives are noted, essentially a supplicant could dedicate any item. For example,

at the Athenian Asclepian temple a variety of items were found, including jewellery, perfume,

pottery and even drinking cups (Aleshire 1989: 44). Indeed, the extent of the votives found at

Due to the restraints of this paper I am only able to provide a short overview of some of the interesting
examples of anatomical votives. To read more about this see Draycott, J. and Graham, E. J. (2017). But note that
no anatomical votives were found at the Asclepeion in Epidaurus, see LiDonnici (1995) 41-42.

the Athenian centre has led scholars to believe that the room containing the cult statue

resembled ‘the most jumbled and crowded antique store of museum storeroom that most of us

can imagine’ (Aleshire 1991: 46; see Figure 6). The reconstruction provided by Aleshire

demonstrates how this room might have appeared, with the cult statue surrounded with various

dedications and votive offerings. The reconstruction represents the room fully saturated with

offerings, which occurred quite frequently in other temples, with rooms so full of dedications

that the cult statue was barely visible (Paus. 2. 11. 6; 3. 26. 1). These dedications, on such a

great scale, stood as representations of Asclepius’ healing powers, and certainly were able to

‘heighten the suppliants’ expectations’ (LiDonnici 1995: 18). It is evident that dedications,

votives, iamata and even sculptural decoration were all designed to promote and encourage the

miraculous healings of the god. Whilst this chapter only provides an overview of Asclepian

temples, it demonstrates that there was a conscious effort to create a certain environment. 14

Imagery, votives and other dedications all formed part of the dialogue promoted within these


2.5 Ritual and Incubation

Many rituals were incorporated into Asclepian worship, the most renowned and prominent was

incubation. It should be noted that whilst there is a significant amount of extant evidence for

incubation, it is very difficult to reconstruct other rituals. There are elements of confusion

pertaining our understanding of Asclepian ritual, which poses as a great concern for a study

which seeks to understand the experience of a healing miracle. Furthermore, much of the

following discussion centres on incubation.

This chapter merely touches upon the evidence at Epidaurus, see Gesler (1993) for a closer look at how it
formed a therapeutic landscape, see also Burford (1969); Barefoot (2005).

It is clear from the previous chapters that theatre and performance were important for

the Asclepian healing process, as the sanctuaries could contain theatres. In written evidence,

there are few extant paeans which have survived, although many are fragmentary or without

authorship. One famous paean was composed sometime in the fifth century BC by the tragic
poet Sophocles, which survives through its inscription on the Sarapion monument. The

paean is rather fragmented and offers very little information, nevertheless it does mention the

phrase ‘accompanied by flutes’. Evidently part of Asclepian ritual was performance based, but

there is little else to reconstruct from this paean. In other hymns, such as the Erythraean Paean,

references are made to Asclepius’ family members, Epione and their children (Paean

Erythraeus b-c). These hymns are also filled with attestations of his powers, referring to him

as ‘the glorious’ ‘most renowned of the demi-gods’ (Paean Erythraeus c). These hymns appear

to present a similar dialogue to the imagery within the temple complex, representing the powers

of the god and showing him in relation to his mythology and family members. Interestingly,

the same Asclepian philosophy is apparent, both visually, in the temple interior and through

written word, in the form of a paean.

Nevertheless, not much else is known about the performative parts of Asclepian

worship, or how they might have altered from the 5th century BC through to the Roman

adoption of Asclepius. Festus’ De Verborum Significatu (55 BC – c. 20 AD) hints that the

rituals may have stayed the same, by claiming ‘these are performed according to the customs

of those from whom they were taken from’ (Fest. 237 M). Yet, there must have been elements

which affected these rituals historically and geographically. Edelstein and Edelstein suggested

that ‘the songs probably differed as did the sacrifice’ (1945: 203). Just as local shrines sought

This particular paean appears to have been popular, it is referenced extensively (Luc. Demon. Encom. 27;
Philostr. Vita Apollonii 3. 27) .

different mythology of Asclepius’ origins, it is likely some of these rituals had localised


There was of course the preliminary rituals and purification rites, which were

mentioned in the discussion of temple location. Yet, often rituals were either not recorded, or

at least not in a documentation which survived. For example, the tholos, a circular structure

found at Epidaurus, the purpose of which is not known. It has been argued, rather persuasively,

that the circular form of the building and the central location meant that it held an importance

ritually for the performance of paeans (Schultz, Wickkiser 2010). Other accounts of Asclepian

healings have noted the significance of singing paean, for Aristides, listening to lyric verse and

chorus removed some of his pain (Arist. ST. 4. 39). Thus, it is evident singing could play an

important part in the healing process. Nevertheless, the limited evidence makes it very difficult

to understand how a ritual was performed.

On the other hand, there is a large collection of extant evidence which relates to the

process of incubation and dreaming. This evidence varies in document type, but also drastically

in date. The iamata at Epidaurus, many of which reference dreams, were erected in the fourth

century BC (LiDonnici 1995:1). Yet, the accounts of Artemidorus and Aelius Aristides, who

discuss at length dreaming, appear much later in the 2nd century AD. Harris explains, in his

recent work on dreams in antiquity, that there were clear signs of continuity from Greek to

Roman dreaming (2009: 24-66). There are also elements of consistency from the modern

understanding of dreaming, and the ancient;

‘What would be the sense in the sick seeking relief from an interpreter of dreams rather

than from a physician? Or do you think that Asclepius and Serapis have the power to

prescribe a cure for our bodily ills through the medium of a dream and that Neptune

cannot aid pilots thru the same means… the basis of a belief in dreams is utterly


(Cic. Div. 2. 123)

The statement of Cicero, writing in the 1st century BC, questions the credibility of

dream healing. As dreams are so deeply personal, there can be no formal mode for others to

prove or disprove the content. Whether a dream is authentic remains a part of almost every

modern examination of dreaming; Błaśkiewicz claims that some of the Epidaurian iamata

dreams are ‘too fantastic’ (2014: 57). The Edelsteins proposed that only those lower in society,

lacking wealth and education, would have believed dreams were capable of healing (1945: 109).

There is clear continuity here from ancient thought, the authenticity of dreams remains an issue

within modern scholarship.

Specifically considering the Asclepian dreams, the act of incubation was a method of

communication with the divine, but it was also part of the healing process. The supplicant

entered the abaton, the incubation chamber, to dream about the god, but also to become well.

In Aristophanes’ comic play Wealth (c. 388 BC) there is a scene which recounts an incubation.

The personification of wealth is blind and therefore the other characters take him to the

Asclepeion (Ar. Plut. 410; 619). The attendants arrived to put out the candles and everyone in

the abaton was expected to sleep (659-660). A vital element of incubation was the night time

setting. Perhaps through limiting vision, dreams are encouraged. This is something Van Eynde

discusses extensively in his research focusing on the Asclepian complex at Pergamum. He

notes that the extensive tunnel complex was designed with certain slots for light, which he

argues added a mystical feeling to the process (Van Eynde 1977: 187-189). Evidently the use

of light and dark in this ritual was an important aspect for creating a certain environment.

Then Asclepius appears with two of his daughters to attend to the supplicants and heal

them whilst they sleep (Ar. Plut. 700). The notion that the god appeared directly above those

sleeping is something also recognised in written documents which attest to the same imagery;

in Aristides accounts of his dreams, he mentions that Asclepius, alongside Isis and Serapis,

appeared at the end of his bed (ST. 3.46). Indeed, there are various mentions of Asclepius

appearing directly to supplicants in their dreams, appearing to provide medicine (A4; A9; A19),

perform surgery (A12; A13; B2 (22) and even via snake or dog forms (A17; A20; B 6 (26)). In

some circumstances, no contact was made with the supplicant, the god was visualised only (C

5 (48); C 21 (64)). Harris has commented on epiphany dreams, in which he claims that their

origin is likely Asclepian sculpture (2009: 38). This accounts for the anthropomorphic form of

which the god appears in within Aristophanes’ account. There are also extant examples of

images depicting the same scene, for example, a votive relief from the fifth century BC. The

relief depicts Asclepius and his daughter Hygiea standing over a sleeping supplicant, both in

anthropological forms and rather like the scene Aristophanes describes (see Figure 3). Given

the overwhelming imagery of Asclepius and his family members which are found in his

temples, it is unsurprising that so many supplicants found themselves dreaming of the healing

god. Whilst Aristophanes was clearly writing for a comic audience, the similarities between

his imagery of incubation and that on sculpture, suggests at least an element of accuracy.

Nevertheless, individual elements and experiences certainly held influence on dreaming,

and each dream is only fully appreciated by the dreamer himself. And yet, it is also important

to note that the dream ritual could become a spectacle. The iamata represent dreams which

were then published for all to see, they were celebrated, as were all votive offerings. The

aftermath of a healing dream, if successful was widely celebrated, this is clear in Aristophanes

account, where a huge crowd gathered to see the healed supplicant (Ar. Plut. 750). Ahearne-

Kroll has published extensively on this issue, claiming that dreams could become ‘part of the

sacred landscape’ (2013: 103). Ahearne-Kroll also notes the presence of Mnemosyne,

personified memory, at few sanctuaries of Asclepius, claiming that she demonstrates the

importance of remembering and further sharing these miracle healings (2013: 110-113).

Certainly, the aftermath of these successful stories promoted the sanctuaries of Asclepius, as

did the images and dedications to him. The miracles became publicly visible and much more

than personal religious encounters. Incubation and dreaming feature elements of the temple

imagery and demonstrates how the aftermath of dreaming became part of the temple complex.

Consistently, the temples of Asclepius were tailored to provide salubrious environments and

promote the healing powers of the god.

2.6 Conclusion

This research has considered the impact of location, temple, incubation and ritual on the

individual healing experience. This examination has demonstrated that healing miracles

offered a religiously important experience, throughout the Greco-Roman world. It is no longer

accurate to consider miracles as a Christian entity, or as a means to promote political figures,

they offer an insight into lived religious experiences. Through focusing on sensory impact,

this research has refocused the study of miracles on the individual. Furthermore, it is clear that

the process was designed to provide a salubrious environment, which in turn promoted the

powers of the god.

Examining the location of these healing miracles offered an insight into the

considerable impact that travel could have on an ill supplicant. But also, how location could be

used effectively as a treatment, to create a salubrious environment. Thus, the fulfilment of the

individual needs was central to the very locating of the temple. This demonstrates the notion

of locotherapy, through a conscious effort to create a sort of environment and impact on the

individual (Barefoot 2005: 205).

The interior also demonstrates how the experience was clearly designed to provide a

certain environment. The imagery, the sculpture and dedications, all noticeably visible to the

supplicants, promoted the god through a dialogue of his successes. Asclepian philosophy is

further represented in his rituals and paeans, which are filled with references to his divine status

and healing powers. The extant dreams also appear to contain references to this promotion,

again establishing the healing powers of the god.

Every element of these healing miracles was used as a platform to promote Asclepian

philosophy. The temples and experiences associated with them were designed to be salubrious,

but also to simulate further dependence on the god. Here it is fitting to return to the terminology

outlined by the OCC at the start of this research; ‘Miracles (healing, punitive, and other) are

now explicitly pictured as divine instruments to exact worship, obedience and submission’

(Hornblower, Spawforth 1996: 989).

Part 3- Implications for Greco-Roman Religion

3.1 Introduction

Having examined the experience offered in Asclepian healing miracles, it is now important to

discuss how this relates to our understanding of Greco-Roman religion. To fully understand

why these healing miracles were designed in such a manner, their role within Greco-Roman

religion needs some attention. In the introduction, religious market theory was briefly defined,

here a deeper discussion of this theory is set out. Firstly, healing miracles are discussed in

relation to anthropological models of religion, before examining the relationship between

Serapis and Asclepius. This discussion will establish that Serapis appears to be operating in a

very similar manner to Asclepius, with an obvious resemblance to each other. Further, through

an analysis of Aelius Aristides’ ST, a deeper understanding of how religious decisions were

made will be attained. Ultimately, this research will demonstrate that the promotional healing

miracles allowed Asclepius to function competitively within Greco-Roman religion.

3.2 Religious Market Theory and Greco-Roman Religion

This chapter will briefly outline the origin of religious market theory, before demonstrating

how it has been applied successfully in relation to Greco-Roman religion. Religious market

theory relates that religion should be regarded like a commodity and therefore suited to the

individual needs of civilisation. This view originates in anthropology, shaped by scholars such

as Berger (1967; 1969) and North (1976). Nevertheless, elements of these views are traceable

to much earlier works, such as Smith’s Wealth of Nations, which contains an awareness of

religious commodities (1776: 1062). 16

Iannaccone (1991) successfully argues that The Wealth of Nations contains many references to religious
market theory.

Considering Peter Berger’s research more closely, few things are apparent. Central to

Berger’s theory is the notion of externalization, which is the process whereby societies

construct their own culture in an attempt to provide meaning to their experiences (Berger 1967:

5). The relationship between the human world and religion is that religion provides a means of

legitimising human behaviours (Berger 1967: 3–28). Importantly, religion, as socially

constructed, is ultimately designed to fulfil the needs of humankind. Further, within a

polytheistic society, secularisation of religion means that different deities are able to provide

different fulfilment. Ultimately, religious market theory determines that the individual should

be at the centre of understanding religious life.

This notion has since been adapted into other anthropological approaches to religious

markets, yet the fundamental elements of the theory remain the same. In recent years, the

interest in this anthropological approach has increased, and now classical scholarship has begun

to recognise its value. Perhaps the most successful application of this approach appears in the

research of Frederick Naerebout. Naerebout utilises the notion of religious market choice in

relation to the goddess Isis, in response to the finds from the Galjub Hoard (2010: 72).

Naerebout looks at polytheist societies, and questions how religious decisions were made,

concluding that they were made based on needs (2010: 72). Through his approach Naerebout

produces some interesting interpretations of diverse and complex evidence, and further

develops Berger’s theory. The fulfilment of societies needs remain the central concern of

Naerebout’s research.

Applying this methodology to the previous discussion of Asclepian healing miracles,

few things are clear. The deliberate efforts to create a salubrious environment within the temple

structure, is an action to ensure not only successful healing and future supplicants, but to ensure

competitiveness. Reverting back to Vitruvius’ statement, a good choice of location for healing

sanctuaries can increase ‘a reliance upon the divinity’ (Vitr. De arch. 1. 2. 7). His statement is

clearly alluding to this rivalry for supplicants within Greco-Roman religion. The experience

offered at Asclepian temples was designed to be salubrious, but also to simulate further

dependence on the god. This is also achieved through the promotion of Asclepian philosophy

throughout the temple interior and rituals. In light of religious market theory, this promotional

use of healing miracles is suggestive of their use in relation to religious rivalry. And so, this

model encourages the consideration of other deities who healed; were there other Greco-

Roman deities acting within a similar manner to Asclepius? Was his position rivalled? Were

there any other divine figures providing similar experiences?

3.3 Asclepius and Serapis

‘We must be allowed to discover whether studying a group of cults that bear an obvious

family resemblance to one another…helps in the task of understanding the shifts in

religious thought’

(Alvar 2008:12)

This paper has already mentioned the research of Jamie Alvar, who made the above statement.

This section will apply his methodology to the healing miracles of Asclepius, establishing first

that Asclepius and Serapis operated with an obvious resemblance to one another. There were

indeed a variety of other deities attributed healing miracles, these include: Athena Hygiea (Plut.

Per. 13.12–13), Apollo Medicus (Liv. 4. 25. 3), Amphiaraus (Paus. 1.34.1-5) and Isis (Diod.

Sic. 1. 25. 2-4). Whilst all these figures held some prominence in relation to healing, none of

them rivalled those of Asclepius as expressively as Serapis.

It is first important to note that the origin of Serapis was very different to that of

Asclepius. Due to variations in the extant evidence, scholars continue to discuss the origin of

Serapis. Plutarch ascribes the creation of Serapis to Ptolemy Soter (305-283BC), founder of

the Ptolemaic dynasty (Plut. Is. and Osir. 5.28). Plutarch explains how Ptolemy followed a

message he had received in a dream by ordering the statue of Pluto in Sinope to be brought to

Alexandria. When the statue arrived, Timotheus and Manetho convinced Ptolemy that the

statue represented Serapis and not Pluto. Timotheus was an Athenian priest (Tac. Hist. 4.83),

yet Manetho was an Egyptian priest. The involvement of these priests demonstrates how Greek

and Egyptian religion was connected to at least one version of the founding of Serapis.

Nevertheless, this is not the only form of Serapis’ origins. Tacitus, a historian

contemporary to Plutarch, confirms Plutarch’s version of the foundation, but adds that there

were other theories about his origin (Tac. Hist. 4.83-4). He mentions that some believe Serapis

was moved from Seleucia in Syria, and others from Memphis. It is also noteworthy that

Manetho is not mentioned in Tacticus’ account, this is a detail only recorded by Plutarch.

It is also important to note that Serapis is referenced earlier than the Ptolemies, his

temple is referenced in relation to the death of Alexander the Great (326BC) (Arr. Anab. 26.

2). These variations demonstrate an element of uncertainty surrounding Serapis, confusion

which has translated into scholarship. Fraser explains that the common view is that the

introduction of Serapis originated in the actions of Ptolemy, who deliberately wanted to extend

Egyptian culture, thus used Serapis to unite Greeks and Egyptians (Fraser 1960: 18).

Nevertheless, this view is outdated, it is too simplistic to describe Serapis’ origins as a matter

of deliberate policy by the Ptolemies. Serapis’ identification with a variety of other gods, such

as Asclepius, Jupiter and Osiris, suggests that Serapis’ origin was much more complex (Tac.

Hist. 4. 84). Recent scholarship seems to adopt a view which regards Serapis as a divine figure

with a range of influences, as ‘either a Hades or Zeus…either as an Asclepius or and infernal

Dionysus’ (Bricault 2014: 99). It is perhaps more accurate to regard his origin a result of the

cultural melting pot of Ptolemaic Egypt, assimilating elements from both Greek and Egyptian


It is important to remain aware of these origins, which are very different to those of

Asclepius, who had a much longer history and greater ties to Greek mythology. Thus, it is not

accurate to regard them as entirely similar. Nevertheless, there are still clear notions that

Serapis and Asclepius were connected in some form. Diodorus Siculus, writing in the 1st

century BC, records one version of mythology, in which Isis was the mother of Apollo (Diod.

Sic. 25. 7). He explains that Apollo was trained in the art of medicine and divination by the

Egyptian goddess Isis. As the father of Asclepius, Apollo’s association with Isis, further

connects him with Serapis, who was commonly regarded as the consort to Isis in the Hellenistic

and Roman periods.

There is further evidence which connects Serapis with Asclepius; Pausanias notes a

temple in a town near Achaia, a region of Greece, in which statues of Isis and Serapis, are

together with one of Asclepius (Paus. 7. 26. 7). This does not necessarily mean that they were

directly worshipped together, but it is suggestive of some element of correspondence between

them. Whilst it is vital to remain aware that Serapis and Asclepius were distinctive religious

individuals, with very different origins, this evidence does allude to some form of connection.

These two figures also provided similar fulfilment of individual religious needs, as they

were both connected closely with healing and incubation. Tacitus explains that the very process

of incubation is strongly associated with Serapis, as he often appears to supplicants in dreams

(Tac. Hist. 4. 84). Aristides’ ST records that both Serapis and Asclepius appear in in his dreams

and offer him guidance (Arist. ST. 3. 45). This clearly demonstrates Serapis within the same

context as Asclepius.

Serapis was most renowned for his healing powers at his centres in Alexandria and

Canopus (Strab. 17. 13-17). The healings performed by Vespasian, which were only ever

recorded in Alexandria, after receiving dreams from Serapis (Tac. Hist. 4.81; Dio. Cass. 65.8.1-

2; Suet. Vesp. 7). Indeed, Egypt appears associated with many high-profile healing miracles

attributed to Serapis. There are earlier examples, such as Demetrius of Phalerum who was born

in the 3rd century BC and supposedly healed of his blindness by Serapis in Alexandria (Diog.

Laert. 5. 57). Diogenes Laertius (180 AD- 240 AD) also records that the healing of Demetrius

was commemorated with paeans that were still sung in his day. These high-profile healings

demonstrate that the miraculous healing powers of Serapis were tied to Alexandria, as

Asclepius was tied to Epidaurus. Rather like the Epidaurian sanctuary of Asclepius, these two

locations were noted for their ‘great reverence’ and ‘crowd of revellers’ who would travel to

the sanctuaries for healing miracles (Strab. 17. 17). Like the Asclepian temple at Epidaurus,

sometimes these sites retained such providence that many pilgrims visited them.

Tacitus also recorded that the associations between Serapis and Asclepius were so

strong, that many contemporaries regarded them as identical (Tac. Hist. 4. 84). Indeed, there

are a few physical representations in which the imagery of Serapis and Asclepius resemble one

another, this is particularly prominent in Roman sculpture. For example, in Figures 7 and 8,

the statues presented are Roman, in which the two figures appear starkly alike. Serapis and

Asclepius are seated, with their left arms outstretched onto staffs. The images also demonstrate

similar facial features, both gods have thick curly hair and beards. There are of course

differences between them, such as Asclepius’ statement coiled snake features on his staff. Yet,

the similarities are rather visible and certainly suggesting some element of relation.

Likenesses within religious figures is not necessarily an anomaly, particularly with two

figures from different cultures, here being Greek and Egyptian. The process of assimilation

was rather prominent in Greco-Roman religion, whereby Egyptian gods were adopted into

Greek, or Roman customs and vice versa. For example, Herodotus, writing in the fifth century

BC, assimilates the Egyptian Isis to the Greek goddess Io (Hdt. 2.41). Nevertheless, Serapis

and Asclepius operated slightly differently in that their religious centres functioned within the

same cities. Rome provides a good example of this, where Tiber Island held a temple to

Asclepius and less than a few miles away the Serapeum on the Campus Martius was located

(Iseum et Serapeum see Eutr. 7. 23). In this proximity, both providing similar treatments and

imagery, Serapis and Asclepius appear like competitors, rather than assimilated figures.

Few scholars have noted the similarities between these two figures. Namely, Panayotis

Pachis, who discuses at length the rituals associated with Isis, Serapis and Asclepius (2014).

His research provides an overview of how incubation and the gods attributions are similar,

particularly in the Imperial period (2014: 54-60). Harris’ publication on dreaming in antiquity

has also noted similarities in relation to their use of incubation (Harris 2009: 31; 58). Whilst

these scholars note their comparisons, they do not examine this association or consider how

this affects understanding of Greco-Roman religion. Certainly, this is something which could

be researched further.

This discussion has demonstrated that the two religious figures appear starkly similar,

acting both through the mode of incubation to fulfil healing needs. Whilst this examination has

remained very aware of their differences, most notably in their origins, their alikeness is still

significant. Certainly, within this understanding, the healing miracles appear a necessary tool

to promote Asclepius in relation to his closest competitor, Serapis.

3.4 Aristides’ Case Study

This section will use Aelius Aristides’ ST as a case study, to further assess the role of Asclepius

and Serapis, with an actual account of a religious decision. Aristides’ work carries great

relevance to religious choice, as it accounts his own personal religious decisions, made

throughout the entirety of his illness. This discussion will further demonstrate that Asclepius

and Serapis held similar positions in Greco-Roman religion, through which their roles were

essentially in competition. The ST demonstrate that religious market theory was clearly present

within the polytheistic Greco-Roman religion, but further observable through both Asclepius

and Serapis’ healing.

Aelius Aristides was born in 118AD in Mysia, Asia Minor, and although his family had

acquired Roman citizenship Aristides ‘sentimentally regarded himself as a Greek’ (Behr 1968:

5). His account is an autobiography of twenty-six years of his life, specifically relating to his

ongoing illnesses within this time. This work is frequently acclaimed for being a report of

personal religious experience (Festugiére 1954: 97; Behr 1968: xiii; Hornblower, Spawforth

1996: 161). This is due to the seemingly close relations that Aristides develops with Asclepius

during these many years of illness.

Despite this seemingly close relationship with Asclepius, Aristides continues to

sacrifice to Zeus (ST. 5. 48), Isis appears to him in his dreams (ST. 3. 45), Athena is also

mentioned (ST. 2. 41), as is Hygieia (ST. 2. 80; 3. 22; 4. 16) and Apollo (ST. 3.12; 4. 32). The

entire spectrum of gods which appear important to Aristides at different episodes in his life

demonstrate that each god offered different fulfilment. This secularisation relates back to

Berger and his theory of socially constructed religion, Aristides utilises each divine figure as

he sees fit.

Despite his seemingly close relations with Asclepius, Aristides does, at certain times

within his life, grant Serapis ‘a more important place in his life and belief ‘(Behr 1968: 149).

There are two episodes which best exemplify the importance of Serapis to Aristides. Firstly,

Serapis’ influence after the death of Zosimus (ST. 3. 47-50). Serapis, was of the upmost

importance to Aristides, following the loss of his friend. Now, both Serapis and Asclepius held

some association with the underworld; Asclepius was able to bring the dead back to life (Ov.

Fast. 5. 743-62) and Serapis, through relations to Isis, was connected to the Egyptian god Osiris,

who was himself a resurrected god (Plut. Is. and Osir. 28). In theory, either Serapis or Asclepius

could provide Aristides with the divine consolation he sought, yet he importantly turned to

Serapis. Behr has argued that the reason for Serapis’ importance is because Asclepius’ religion

‘gave way to the Egyptian deities’ through their shared belief in the underworld (Behr 1968:

73). But their shared beliefs in the underworld make them both suitable figures for this position.

Rather, it appears here that Aristides has made a religious decision, one which reflects a rivalry

between Asclepius and Serapis.

Asclepius and Serapis both appear prominent in Aristides’ life, when they are required

to fulfil his current needs. Behr has argued that Aristides’ decisions were based on his ‘eclectic

polytheism’, decisions which were made on an ‘impulse’ (1968: 148). Behr attempts to

differentiate the role of Asclepius, to that of the other deities he requires throughout his life,

claiming that Asclepius was a god Aristides truly believed in. Yet, there is not one moment

when Asclepius appears in Aristides’ document, without a direct need on behalf of Aristides.

Behr forces this notion of genuine belief on this document, which really demonstrates religious

choice theory, rather than genuine commitment to only Asclepius.

This point is demonstrated finely in the following episode, in which Aristides himself

regards Serapis and Asclepius as deeply connected, not just in the association with the

underworld, but in appearance and perception;

‘There was also a light from Isis and other unspeakable things which pertained to my

salvation. Serapis also appeared on the same night, both he himself and Asclepius. They

were marvellous in beauty and magnitude, and in some way alike each other’

(ST. 3. 27)

Aristides records a dream in which Isis, Serapis and Asclepius all appear within the

same evening. Most notably, Serapis and Asclepius are identified together, both appearing ‘in

beauty and magnitude’ and importantly caring a clear resemblance. This point refers to a

similar observation made in the previous chapter, in which Asclepius and Serapis appear in

Roman sculpture in stark alikeness (see Figure 7-8). This statement is suggestive of a deeper

association between the roles of Serapis and Asclepius, and perhaps even with Isis. 17 Behr has

also tried to explain that Aristides’ belief in the Egyptian gods ‘occupied a separate space’

(Behr 1968: 149). Yet, this is not substantiated in the ST, particularly given how the above

statement depicts both divinities.

Aristides’ use of divine assistance demonstrates religious choice based upon his

immediate needs. The previous discussion outlined how both figures appear to resemble one

another, and this case study demonstrates how they were, at least for Aristides, capable of

providing similar experiences. Within this framework, the healing miracles of Asclepius were

required to be competitive and to provide the best healing opportunities to ensure supplicants.

This short chapter provides a mere overview of the value of utilising anthropological methods

in relation to Greco-Roman religion, there is much more scope for further study, perhaps

incorporating other religious figures, such as Isis.

I would argue that there is much more to be gained from a discussion of Isis and Asclepius.


This examination has demonstrated that it is no longer adequate to regard healing miracles as

merely a Christian entity. Whilst previous studies have forced miraculous research into an

interpretive gridlock, this paper has established that they are an important mode for examining

Greco-Roman religion, and lived religious experiences.

The first section of this research discussed what sensory impact the experience of

Asclepian healing miracles had on the individual. Through examining location, temple, ritual

and incubation, it is clear that they were designed to offer specific religious experiences. It

concluded that these healing miracles not only promoted the god, but also offered salubrious

locations for the fulfilment of healing. Healing and Asclepian philosophy was promoted within

the temple interior and the rituals performed there. His imagery created a dialogue of power

and divine health within all aspects of the healing experience.

The second part of this study asked how these healing miracles interacted with other

religious figures. This section incorporated an interdisciplinary approach, through focusing on

anthropological models of religion. The central benefit of utilising this methodology, was that

it encouraged consideration of other religious figures. Thus, this research differs from those

who ‘remain locked into particular specialisms’ (Price 2000: 760). Through the examination

of Serapis and Asclepius, it is apparent that there are elements of stark alikeness. Their

communication with individuals, similar imagery and religious experiences all relate to each


This was further discussed in reference to the Sacred Tales, where the two figures

operated again with a clear resemblance. Similarities within religious figures is not necessarily

an anomaly, particularly with two figures from different cultures. Yet, the relationship

presented in the Sacred Tales is much more complex than that of a mere alikeness. For

Aristides, the gods provided salvation, both medical and other, but importantly they appear in

positions of rivalry. Furthermore, this research has developed a more sophisticated

understanding of miraculous healings as a tool used to promote the god, within the competitive

Greco-Roman religion.

It appears clear that, regardless of their previous scholarly dismissal, miraculous

healings offer a window into ancient religion. Religious rivalry was very apparent within divine

healing, optimized with the direct promotion of healing miracles. In light of these discussions,

there can be little doubt that healing miracles were ‘divine instruments to exact worship,

obedience and submission’ (Hornblower, Spawforth 1996: 989).

Figure 1; Coin depicting Antonius Pius bust, on reverse a serpent and the Tiber. Image.
Baldwin's Auctions Ltd, New York Sale XXV, lot 185. [Accessed online].
26/NYS25%20001%20Ancient.pdf. [23/07/2017].

Figure 2: Image depicting Tiber Island, with hospital Fatebenefratelli. Rome, Italy. [Accessed
D2wC3LUpAF3CLfUijrp-S35x-hGzbo%3Dw203-h152-k-no!7i3968!8i2976. [17/ 08/ 2017].

Figure 3: Votive relief depicting Asclepius and Hygiea. Circa 400 BC. Piraeus Asclepeion.
Piraeus Museum 405. Greece.

Figure 4: Asclepius and Hygeia, Attic Relief. 4th Century BC. Pergamon Museum/Staatliche
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Figure 5: Anatomical Votive Offering. 100-200 AD. Melos Sanctuary of Asclepius. British
Museum No. 1867,0508.117. Image [online]
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Figure 6: Interior Reconstruction of the Temple of Asclepius at Athens. Image found in
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ectId=459994&partId=1&searchText=Serapis+&page=5. [25/ 07/ 2017].

Figure 8: Asclepius seated. 5019: Roman statue, Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen. Image
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