Epidaurus

Hospital Center of Greece

Epidaurus is in proportion the most equipped Medical Center the world has ever seen; with sacred temples, areas for practicing medical science, a gymnasium for the transmission of medical scientific knowledge, but also a kind of physiotherapy facility, bathhouses, an auditorium, theater, wrestling ring, sports center, guesthouses, lodges possibly for walks, discussions on medical issues etc. in a free space with the dimensions of circa 2.000×1.000 m. south of mount Arachnaio, therefore protected from the north winds; with branches all over Greece, like that of the Amphiareion of Oropos, which tended to famous clients like Croesus of Lydia, Lysimachus of Thrace, Mardonius of Persia, the Roman Brutus and later on the cruel Sulla. But others beyond Boeotia in most cities, like those of the island Kos and Pergamon.

We can conclude whether the Asclepions offered good services or not to the population, from the fact that the worship of Asclepius adapted to the new worship of Christianity, without it being abolished, as far as the services provided to man are concerned. We can observe that the Asclepions were an important part of the Greek civilization in image XI, where the medical center of the island Kos is found on the basic axis Necromanteion – Delos. But also Epidaurus is located on the axis Samothrace – Amyclae.
The Asclepions generally covered a large variety of ailments, such as paralysis, blindness, bile sickness, dropsy, parasites, pediculosis, headaches, pyorrhea, sterility, as well as pregnancy problems, stomachic, but also psychological disturbances. Of course we should not rule out the possibility of surgical procedures. The patients came from the entire Greek world, both within and outside of Greece. Many of the doctors originating in the Asclepions, found themselves in the kingdoms of the world, like Democedes (6th – 5th century B.C.) in the court of the Persian king Darius I.

image XVII

The Theater of Epidaurus, where the various Festivals are held in the summer, is a branch of the Asclepion with the capacity of 15.000 viewers. 500 of them used to stay in the guesthouse as visitors. Given that the capacity of the theater built by Polykleitos followed the specifications of large festivals and based on the building function of the site, we can safely assume that the Asclepion could tend to at least 4.000 patients. We may then conclude that the service staff should have been at least 2,000 people. Observing, however, the building facilities in image XVII, we may say that the number of the staff was at least twice as large. Namely in a ratio of 2:2, given that in current care centers, of the same luxury, it is inversely, 2:1, but the medical facility is much smaller. All of these people to be hospitalized or part of them were going back and forth from Palea Epidaurus at a distance of 22 km., which would logically take a minimum of 5 hours on foot to travel. Those more severely ill would camp around the area in specially prepared wagons or tents.
The investment that had been made in the site of Epidaurus was huge; suffice it to mention that the gargantuan statue of the god was made out of gold and ivory. Its maintenance was costly, because in contrast to other religious centers, the visitor did not only admire its exterior; in this case the facilities were in everyday use and cleanliness was mandatory. Such expenses can not be covered solely by the contributions of the patients, if there is no volunteer work by the apprentice doctors and the clerical staff, who offered their work out of love for their fellow man. Each of us may not agree with the polytheistic worship, but we can not believe that these people, with all their philosophical infrastructure, were trying to harm others. If that was the case, the Asclepions would not exist, because people would simply not gather there. There were always volunteers in Greece, and the will not cease to exist. If the Asklepieion of Epidaurus had economic benefits the first to rush there would be the Athenians, as they did with Eleusis and Delos. As a matter of fact in Athens the cult of Asclepius was established in 420 BC, during the period of the plague. But again the Asklepion of Athens, west of theater of Dionysus, on the south slope of the Acropolis, was an insignificant unit compared to that of Epidaurus (image XVII), which was oriented towards Ephesus where the Medical Games were held.

According then with what we mentioned above, a great philanthropist raised in an Asclepion, that of the island of Kos, was Hippocrates (460-377 BC) whose “Oath” confirms his ethos, but also the ethos of the Asclepions for the provision of services to the helpless man. Hippocrates came into conflict with the establishment of his time, regarding the theory of medical science. Namely, while the priesthood maintained that the nature of illnesses was god sent, he insisted that illnesses come from the human body and the environment. In fact he rejected the proposition of Pericles, who asked him to join the Asclepion of Athens.
As it is logical for an Asclepion like that of Epidaurus to function properly, there was a hierarchy which operated like that of modern hospitals, but based on religion and the structure of the priesthood. This hierarchy included women like the modern day nurses.
The afflicted, having bathed in the waters of the spring, would go to sleep in the “inaccessible” area of the sanctuary, waiting to see the god in their dream, who would indicate their treatment modalities. Through this process the Asklepiads would reach some conclusions and continue recommending diet and herbs. However medical tools were discovered, indicating that surgery was also performed. The remarkable thing is that 70 plates were discovered with narrations of patients who were cured, written in the form of miracles, which were misinterpreted in the Christian period as the way of expression of the patient, where the doctor was also a priest, was not taken into consideration. In addition, through the logic of the intervention of god, the patient psychologically participated in his therapy.

Asclepius is a mythical god, the son of Apollo and the daughter of the Thessalian king Phlegyas, Coronis. With his wife Epione he had the daughters Aceso, Iaso, Panacea, Aglaea, Hygieia and two sons, Podaleirios and Machaon. The worship of Asclepius started from the city Trikke of Thessaly. From there it spread to Epidaurus and to the whole of the Peloponnese.
The period of the celebration of Asclepius was combined with the Eleusinean Mysteries and started towards the end of the month Bohedromion (September-October). It was during the period when Apollo (Sun) transitioned to the sign of Libra. To the North, there was the constellation of Serpens which is linked to the constellation of Ophiuchus (image 5). Ophiuchus was Asclepius holding the sacred snake, namely the constellation of Serpens. The entire process is associated with the myth of Asclepius who raised the dead, a fact that caused trouble for Hades, because the people were not dying. Thus Hades complained to Zeus who struck Asclepius down with a lightning bolt. But because Asclepius was the son of Apollo, after the demand of the god, Zeus placed his body among the stars as the constellation of Ophiuchus.

image 5

Land of the Dead

ROUTE INFORMATION – T.B.D. : Spring 2019

Central Greece

Historic Landmarks

  • Eleusis
  • Sanctuary of Cabeiri
  • Delphi
  • Necromanteion

5/5 Culture Shock

Total Length 1050 km

7 Riding Days

Intermediate Skills Level

45% Offroad

Hotels and (1) Camping

National Forest of Parnassus, Oiti

Middle May – Middle October

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Acropolis of Athens

Route in Spacetime

Route in Spacetime

As the rhetorician and satirist Lucian wrote  “… ascending to the Acropolis I flew over the cliff …” towards the land of Hades, the Necromanteion of Acheron, with the help of the psychopomp Hermes. On our right we saw the Agora of Athens and on our left the Pnyx, where the assembly of the citizens took place (Ecclesia). After a while we were passing over the temple of Artemis Aristovouli, that was discovered accidentally in June 1958 during the construction of a small private house at the junction of Nileos Street and Irakleidon Street at Thission. In front of the small Greek temple, an engraved column was discovered dedicating the temple to goddess Artemis Aristovouli, the foundation of which was personally insured by Themistocles. Exiting the walls of Athens, we pass over the Gate of Piraeus, leaving to our right the Double Gate and the Graveyard of the Kerameikos.

Further down we came across the Sacred Lake (Lake Koumoundourou), to the right of the Reidi (salty sacred lakes used for cleansing), where during the celebration of the Mysteries of Eleusis the honor guard of Athens awaited wearing black tunics. Leaving behind Mount Aigaleo, where Xerxes watched, to our left, the Battle of Salamis. And behold, Hermes showed me the vast ritual center of Eleusis bellow us.
It was during the month of Hekatombaion (July- August) of 415 B.C. and as we found out Alcibiades along with Nicias and Lamachus already were on board the Athenian ships alongside the troops on their way to Sicily. When the men boarded the ship, the usual prayers and toasts were performed with gold and silver cups, with the participation of the citizens. After the hymns were chanted, the ships reached the open sea. They descended along the eastern Peloponnese and bypassing the Cape of Maleas, just outside of Cythera, after having circled around Laconia and Messenia, ascended to the western Peloponnese, passing between Zakynthos and Cephalonia and Lefkada, heading to the north of Corfu, to reach across, Southern Italy.

Eleusis

Ritual Center of Greece

Ritual Center of Greece

A lot of people started gathering from the surrounding area for the great celebration of the Eleusinian Mysteries in the month Boedromion (September-October), when the sign of Virgo appeared which symbolized Persephone. The celebration would end when the sign of Libra appeared, which symbolized the decision of Zeus for Persephone to return to the palace of Hades; thus nature deadened.

Constellation of Hydra, Corvus and Crater

Constellation of Hydra, Corvus and Crater

The mystics arrived in a ritual procession and no uninitiated were allowed to cross the courtyard. In Athens Alcibiades and nine more were denounced , for the amputation of the Hermai and for the parody of the Eleusinian mysteries and were called to be tried. Thus Alcibiades , abandoning Nicias and Lamachus in Italy, fled to Sparta of King Agis II. The Athenian court, as I was informed later, sentenced Alcibiades and his accomplices in absentia to death.

After this short tour in the Shrine of Eleusis, I was forced to resume the journey to the Necromanteion under the obtrusive pressure of Hermes. The Messenger of Zeus also had other orders from the father of the gods and men and was in a hurry to take my soul to Hades to be tried.

So, following the course, we passed over Erenia where the grave of Autonoe, the daughter of Cadmus, was located, who had come here from Thebes as soon as she found out about the death of her son Actaeon by the hand of Artemis, because he beheld her naked bathing in a spring. Further along the way we came across Aigosthena, where there is the shrine of the seer Melampus,the son of Amythaon  and Eidomene. Melampus was called this way because when he was born, his mother forgot out of oversight to put his feet in the shade.

Further along the way we flew over the mountain of Cithaeron, which took its name from the king of Plataeae and we saw it on our right. They used to say that Cithaeron advised Zeus , when Hera did not give into his embrace, to construct a female statue and wrap it in an overcoat. Then Cithaeron dispersed that Zeus had kidnapped Plataea, the daughter of Asopus, to make her his wife. The jealous Hera rushed and grabbed the overcoat and saw the statue. Then she laughed and reconciled with the god. So every year in Plataeae they celebrated the marriage of Hera to Zeus.

After a short  while, we found ourselves in mount Helicon, the mountain of medicinal herbs, which was the home of the Muses (Valley of the Muses). Here there was a shrine of Zeus and the spring Hippocrene, which was struck open in the rock of the mountain by the hoof of the winged steed Pegasus. Between Cithaeron and Helicon, to the right in a distance of 17 kilometers from our course and to the northwest of Thebes, in a distance of roughly 6 kilometers, there was the town of Cabeiri. They say that from the army of Xerxes, those who remained with Mardonius and enter the sanctuary of the Cabeiri, out of disrespect and to loot, were driven mad and were killed in the sea and precipices. The wrath of the Cabeiri was unmerciful for the uninitiated and the irreverent.

Sanctuary of Cabeiri

Religious Center of Thrace

Religious Center of Thrace

We have already arrived on the mountain Parnassus, which took its name from the hero of the area, the son of the nymph Kleodora and Kleopompus, through the intervention of the god Poseidon. Parnassus had founded there the Oracle of Pythos, which was later taken over by Apollo.

We found ourselves here during the period when the god Apollo was preparing for his journey to the Hyperboreans, mythical people who lived “beyond the North Wind“. During his absence, his place would be occupied by Dionysus, the celebrations of whom start with the harvest of the vine in the month Metageitnion (August-September); namely during the period, when the constellation of Crater appeared in the sky, which was used for the mixing of wine with water (Constellation of Hydra, Corvus and Crater).

Delphi

Administrative and Religious Center of Greece

Administrative and Religious Center of Greece

Leaving Delphi behind us, we entered the lands of the Locres Ozales and passed over Amfissa, which took its name from the daughter of Macareas, son of Aeolus, who incestuously joined his sister Canace. Then Aeolus threw their child to the dogs and ordered his daughter to commit suicide. But also Macareas killed himself when his passion became known. The first inhabitants of Amfissa were the Cyclopes. During the Peloponnesian War it joined the coalition of Sparta. Its inhabitants perform some mysteries which are said to be about the Cabeiri.
Bellow us was the river Daphnos (Mornus), which took its name from Daphne, a demigod of Sicily, who was son of Hermes and had died at the prime of his youth; that is why the god was quite moved. The cause of his demise was his love for the Nymph Nomea, who never forgave his relationship with the daughter of the king, who deceitfully seduced him, after intoxicating him. Nomea enraged blinded him and the now blind Daphne sang mournful songs, until he fell from a rock and was killed. His father then took him with him to the Heavens.
On our left, bellow Amfissa, lies Mounea, the inhabitants of which offer sacrifices to the meek gods after sunset and eat meat before the sunrise. Moreover on our left, towards the sea, lies Nafpactos which takes its name from some Nymph. There is a shrine of Aphrodite there, where the widows ask the goddess for a second husband. Near the sea the shrine of Poseidon was located and a little further that of Asclepius.
There is the river Evinos which was previously called Lykormas and took the name of the son of Ares, who fell in war trying to capture Idas, who had kidnapped his daughter. That is where Heracles killed the ferryman centaur Nessus who attempted to rape his wife Deianira. Heracles ended his life at the springs of Evinos, on the mountain Oeta near the peak, falling into the fire which Philoctetes had lit for the hero (Pyra of Herakles). The reason was because Heracles, after his victory against Eurytus, asked his wife for a new tunic, to establish a celebration for Zeus. However the tunic worn by the hero was drenched in the blood of Nessus and it afflicted his skin without him being able to take it off. Thus his wife, who had been tricked by Nessus, when she realized what she had done, killed herself and Heracles decided to throw himself into the fire. But a thunder was heard and the hero ascended to the Heavens on a cloud.
Aetolia, up to the river Achelous, is an isolated region, mountainous and with poor roads. Its antediluvian inhabitants were the Pelasgians and the Courites, who were identified as the Dactyl of Crete and the Korybantes, who were the first men born from Gaia. It took its name from the son of Endymion, Aetolus, who fled here from the Peloponnese because he had killed king Apis. The Athenians claimed that this tribe of the Aetolians was barbarous, spoke an incomprehensible language and ate raw meat, but was the largest in population. Despite this, they would create in Thermo the Aetolian Leauge and seize control of Delphi. Thermo is on our left in a distance of 15 kilometers, near lake Trichonida; the location of the temple of Apollo and Artemis. The town was filled with artistic treasures; most of which was a product of looting by the Aetolians, who had reached as far as Dion and Dodoni.
In front of us we can see the raging Acheloous, whom Heracles fought for the sake of Deianira. This river god is an untamed beast, son of chthonic gods, Oceanus and Tethys. Once, enraged because some Nymphs forgot him in their sacrifice near the banks, he suddenly flooded and drove them into the sea, creating the islands of the Echinades.
Further down we entered the land of the Amphilochians, who founded their city near the Gulf of Ambracia. Its name is taken from Amphilochus, the son of Amphiaraus, who was one of the suitors of Helen of Troy, that is why he participated in the campaign. After a while to the right we come across the great Corinthian colony of Ambracia (Arta), which was founded in 625 B.C. by Gorgus, an illegitimate son of the tyrant of Corinth, Cypselus. It takes its name from Ambracia, a daughter of Melaneus, who was a son of Apollo. The town was near the river Aracthus – who was a brother of the firstborn Achelous – whose springs were in Pindos, the great mountain range which includes the Athamanic mountains (Tzoumerka), on the peaks of which the ark of Deucalion landed, in the period of the deluge (the flood of Deucalion ended the First Bronze Age). It laid there on an altitude of 2.429 meters, 40 km to our right.
In a while we would reach the Necromanteion, in a sudden rainstorm which made us shiver even more than the course towards the unknown we were about to embark on. Hermes noticed this and, before we entered the entrance to Hades, he tried to encourage us. He is a good god, sweet tempered and we listened with devotion.

What is life, he told us, but a dream that you will relive in another body. If you were good, you will ascend and might even be reborn as a king. So do not shiver and try to understand the cycle of life. Down there you will see many good and evil people, but before all this you will meet your own, whom you loved and departed before you did, waiting for you.

However I have to deliver you to Charon and leave to bring more souls, this is my job. So here, take a drachma and give it to the ferryman to take you across, to the land of the dead.

Necromanteion

West Gate of the Mortal

West Gate of the Mortal

Among many others we also passed to the Palace under the gaze of Cerberus, feeling the invisible hand of Hades pushing us. Before we entered the dark tunnel, we took with us the sweet smile of Persephone which gave us courage. It was impossible to forget this slender lady with the long black dress, which fluttered like a wraith, without any air.

Leaving the palace of Persephone in the Necromanteion, we headed for Olympus, greeting the good lady. Persephone had great renown in the space of the chthonic gods, but the celestial gods respected her as well because she was a daughter of Demeter, as an intermediate union of the celestial and chthonic space. Hermes on the other hand, tirelessly made the trip Olympus (Dion), Delphi and Necromanteion, carrying the orders of Zeus.