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

113th Olympic Games

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

Central Greece

Historic Landmarks

  • Delos
  • Epidaurus
  • Olympia

4/5 Culture Shock

Total Length TBD km

7 Riding Days

Intermediate Skills Level

45% Offroad

Hotels and (1) Camping

National Forest of TBD

Middle May – Middle October

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Lodging

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Service

Brochure (coming soon)

We were learning about the news of Alexander from the Olympian Zeus, without Hera knowing. 2.000 Indians had been killed, the two sons of Porus among them. Porus riding his richly decorated elephant continued to issue commands and Alexander was admiring him, trying to save his life, but his old horse Bucephalus collapses in fatigue. Afterward Alexander treated Porus like royalty and gave him his kingdom back to rule and while he was ready to march to the depths of India, his army was unwilling to follow him.
Father Zeus himself had faced similar circumstances when Hera, Athena and Poseidon tried to chain him. Thankfully the goddess Thetis sent Aegaeon (Aegaeon and his brothers Gyges and Cottus are described as huge monsters with a hundred arms, also named Hecatoncheires) to rescue him. Of course Zeus does not intervene in the case of Alexander, pretty much like in the case of Heracles, because he has to solve his problem on his own, otherwise what kind of demigod would he be?
All this is fine, but look we was seeing Syros again and then Kea, on our right side this time around, while on our left we could see the island of Thermia or Ophiussa Thiramnia (Kythnos), known for its healing springs. It was the prehistoric home of the Dryopes. When their land, Dryopis, which was a region of Oeta and Parnassus, was taken over by the Dorians, they fled to Euboea, Argolis, Thermia and Asia Minor. This island too was an ally of Athens.

There the temple of Poseidon emerges on our right; that is why there were so many dolphins in the area. They say that this temple is turned in such a way that it faces towards Atlantis, where the god had a great altar. Plato used to talk about this lost island and then everybody tried to find it. I know a verse about the son of Poseidon, Atlas, whom he had with Cleito.

And the tall pillars on which the earth
he lifts
reach the starry dome and support the spheres
and support the spheres.

But there we are finally in Argolis, which was named after the son of Zeus and Niobe, Argos. It was the prehistoric residence of the Dryopes. Nearby, a mere seven kilometers from the Saronic Gulf, is the Sanctuary of Asclepius.

Epidaurus

Hospital Center of Greece

So we entered the temple of Asclepius, a work by Theodotus, in 380-375 B.C. The god, made out of gold and ivory, was sitting on a throne, with his trusted dog on his right and the snake on the left. Leaving the richly decorated temple, a work by Thrasymedes, Hectorides and Timotheus, we arrived to the Tholos or Thymele, which had three circular zones at its base under the floor. A white stone in the center covered the entrance to the crypt. This was a work by Polykleitos, the nephew of the sculptor Polykleitos and it took him 30 years to complete it (360-330 B.C.). A very beautiful project! We stood there and admired it for a while. In the meanwhile we went in the crypt of the labyrinth, where the tomb of Asclepius was.
We departed leaving behind us (on the right) mount Arachnaio, through the Phryctoria of which the Myceneans were informed about the fall of Troy. This route to Olympia was a totally different route because we was passing over cities lying between Myth and History.
We were passing over Tiryns, the most ancient acropolis of Myceneans which Homer calls it “Walled”, with its cyclopean walls, built from boulders of ten tons or more; like lifting an elephant and placing it on top of another one. Placed on the top of the acropolis was the palace of the anax, who held worldly and priestly offices, with the typical throne room where the hearth was in the middle of four pillars representing the elements of matter.
Further to the right there was Midea, which was built by Perseus and was the homeland of Alcmene, the mother of Heracles. We were passing over Argos on our left, the Homeland of Perseus who was its hero and the son of Zeus and Danae, the daughter of the king of Argos Acrisius. Danae was impregnated by the god, who had transformed into golden rain. What an imagination this god has, we thought. Argos, which means “plain”, was the most ancient city in Greece, and was inhabited by the Pelasgians, with its acropolis being Larissa. This city had lost its prestige when Tiryns and Mycenae were built, which were located 14 kilometers to my right.
Mycenae was the most famous city of prehistoric Greece. Homer calls it “rich” and it was a pioneer in the financial and cultural life of Greece, mainly in the 13th century B.C. Their king was the well-known Agamemnon, the leader of the campaign against Troy, whose daughter had to be sacrificed in Aulis, but was rescued by Artemis who made her a priestess in Tauris.
From the left we had passed Lerna, where Heracles performed his second labor, killing the Lernaean Hydra, a spawn of Typhoon and Echidna. Just a few kilometers away from Lerna, lies Nauplia (Nafplio), which was founded by the son of Amymone and Poseidon, Nauplius. Passing by mount Artemision, where there was a temple of Artemis, we were now entering Arcadia, the inhabitants of which, whom we meet constantly, were called Pelasgians.
I had been through Oenoe, the city of Oeneus, who met his doom there by his brother Agrius, and we were passing by Mantineia which was founded by Mantineus, the son of the king of the Arcadians, Lycaon. Lycaon was the son of Pelasgus and the Oceanid Meliboea or the Nymph Cyllene according to others, who succeeded his father on the throne. In a distance of about 10 kilometers to the right there was another city founded by another son of Lycaon, Orchomenus, while on our left, in a distance of 15 km we could see Tegea , a rival of Mantineia, which was founded by Aleus, son of Apheidas, who established in the area the worship of Alea Athena, thus uniting the inhabitants of his region.
After we left the sacred mountain of Pan, Hermes, Dionysus, the Maenads, Artemis, Atalanta and the Dryads, and mount Mainalo, we entered among the cities; Methydrio, a bit further Orchomenos and to the left the town of Schinus, where Atalanta used to put anyone who wanted to marry her, through a race as a test, Hippomenes won with the aid of Aphrodite. After passing from the ancient locations of Theisoa, Teuthis, Melenai,Heraia and Frixa, crossing the rivers of Ladon and Eurymathus, we reached Pisa.
Pisa is located east of Olympia and was in the forefront of the performance of the Olympic games. Its inhabitants founded Pisa (Pisa) of Italy. It is the place where Pelops and Hippodamea, the daughter of the king of Pisa Oenomaus, who was the son of Ares and one of the daughters of Asopus, Harpina, ruled. Oenomaus who was negotiating about his daughter’s wedding, would compete with the aspiring grooms in chariot racing. But he always won and took the life of the suitors, until the time when his daughter fell in love with Pelops. With the help of Hippodamea and malicious intent the axis of her fathers chariot broke and he died. So Pelops married Hippodamea.
Pelops was the son of Tantalus who ruled over Phrygia. Tantalus was the son of Zeus and the daughter of Cronus, Plouto. He killed his son Pelops, cut him in small pieces, cooked him and offered his meat to the gods. The gods realized it and restored him to life, Tantalus on the other hand was sent to Hades by Zeus and was sentenced to suffer from eternal hunger and thirst. Pelops was the one who organized the Olympic games. When he died, his remains were transported from Pisa to Troy, during the Trojan War. Later when the games were in decline, Heracles came along, delimited the precinct of “Altis” (Grove) and dedicated it to his father Zeus: he even built 6 altars for the twelve gods of Olympus and a shrine for Pelops. I learned about all this before I sat on the roof of the temple of Zeus.

Olympia

Sports Center of Greece

We would have stayed longer in Olympia, if I hadn’t received a new order from Zeus, a pretty sad one this time around. It said that Alexander would die in the 13th of June of 323 B.C., and that we should receive him from the Psychron Cave (Diktaio Andro), where his soul would be delivered by the primordial eagle of Zeus. Zeus knew everything before it happened, but he loved Alexander very much and wanted him by his side in Olympus, to gaze from above his beloved Macedonians. The life of Alexander grew even shorter, as time moved on, in the age of 33 years old.
So we drove south, by the Bouleuterion. In a while we would leave Alfeios behind us and found ourselves at mount Aphrodision, where Demeter had her sanctuary. We were descending towards the mountain range of Alivaina (Minthi) and suddenly we was on mount Lykaion, after we reached the temple of Apollo in Bassae.