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

Mountain of the Gods

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

Central Greece

Historic Landmarks

  • Necromanteion
  • Dodoni
  • Dion

4/5 Culture Shock

Total Length 1050 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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Necromanteion

West Gate of the Mortal

West Gate of the Mortal

On the way to mount Olympus, we learned many different things. For starters, Alcibiades, was murdered in 404 B.C. and our opinion of him changed when we found out how much he had harmed his homeland, Athens. We found out about the destruction of the campaign in Sicily in 413 B.C., the death of Nicias and the annihilation of the 50.000 men, many of whom lived as prisoners in the quarries in Syracuse; about the surrender of the Athenians and the Thirty Tyrants imposed by the Spartans; about the march of the Ten Thousand in 401 B.C. and the death of Socrates, in 399 B.C.; about the hegemony of Thebes and the battles in Leuctra in 371 B.C. as well as Mantineia in 362 B.C., where Epaminondas was killed. Namely the whole collapse of the city-states, which was leading the country to a financial and sociopolitical crisis.
And yet, as things seemed dark in the Greek region, Philip II, the king of Macedonia appears since 356 B.C., defeating in Chaeronea in 338 B.C. the coalition of the Athenians and Thebians and thus putting things in order.
We were over the Athamanika (Tzoumerka) when Hermes reminded us about the murder of Philip II in 336 B.C. He then reassured us that everything will be fine, since – in his words – “Father Zeus has provided for the future of Greece. Alexander, the son of Philip II, will follow the advise of Isocrates, even though he died two years after that, in 338 B.C. The Greeks will unite under his scepter.” How strange a race are these Greeks, we thought, one moment they kill one another and the next they become brothers.

But there it is, the spot where the ArK of Deucalion landed (Ancient Greek flood myths), which I could see on my way to the Necromanteion, on top of the Athamanika.
Athamas was a son of Aeolus and grandson of Hellen, who was a son of Deucalion who was a son of Prometheus, namely of the cousin of Zeus. Athamas was the king of Boeotia and agreed to raise the young Dionysus, but Hera in her anger drove him mad and he killed his son Learchus, from his second marriage. It was he who in his first marriage with Nephele, fathered Phrixus and Helle. Helle drowned in Hellespont and Phrixus reached Colchis, creating the myth of the golden fleece.

After the murder of his son, Athamas was driven out of Boeotia and, following the oracle given to him in Delphi, he settled on this mountain giving it his name. It is the second most important mountain after Olympus. Euripides and Sophocles wrote their tragedies based on his myth.
The spot where the Ark of Deucalion landed, lies on the course from the Necromanteion to Olympus (point Δ); Jason, the relative of Phrixus passed from that exact spot, coming from Iolcos, to reach the Oracle of Dodoni. From Iolcos he embarked on the Argonautic Campaign, having first built the prow of Argo from oak wood he took from the Oracle of Dodona.
It is the next tallest mountain of Thessaly, after Olympus, and, as it seems, the waters of the deluge receded through the Necromanteion to Hades and from then to the Ocean of the Ancients which surrounds the Earth.

There, the ancient Metropolis (“Μήτρα” is Greek for Womb + “Πόλη” is Greek for City) which along with Trikke, Pelinnaioi, Gomfoi and Ithome, constituted the fortified square of the Thessalians. Metropolis was the center of the Thessalian Leauge with a powerful acropolis. This city took its name from Thessalus, who was a son of Haemon, who was the hero of the region which was initially called Haemonia. Haemon arrived here from Thesprotia.
At a distance of 116 kilometers from the spot where the Ark of Deucalion landed, to the right of my route, lies Iolcos, the inhabitants of which were Pelasgians just like the first inhabitants of Epirus, which was called Pelasgia, that is why Homer names the Dodonian Zeus Pelasgic. His sanctuary is located on the left of our route, at a distance of 20 kilometers.

Dodoni

Religious Center of Epirus

Religious Center of Epirus

We had traveled a fair distance from the spot of the Ark and we were still thinking about the creation of the human race by Deucalion and Pyrrha, who threw stones over their shoulders to create the humans. We were passing over the river Lethaeus and Lethaea came to my mind, the wife of Olenus, who were turned to stone because Lethaea was bragging that she was fairer than the goddesses. However I felt that this must have been the spot where Deucalion and Pyrrha were throwing the stones, because it is strange for the river to be called that, just a few kilometers from the spot where the Ark landed. Moreover just next to us is the location of the Meteora, the standing rocks up to 400 meters in height, that span in an area with a surface of 30 square kilometers.
This was the land of the Perrhaebians, a prehistoric people of Thessaly, which took part in the Trojan War. One of them Guneus, the son of Ocytus, was the leader of the Aenianes and the Rerrhaebians army, but also a suitor of Helen of Troy, that is the reason he joined the campaign. The Aenianes were also a prehistoric people residing in Dodona. They were part of the conference of the Greeks, namely the Delphic Amphictyony, founded by Amphictyon, the son of Pyrrha and deucalion, who lived in Phtiotis.

We were thinking about all of this while getting very close to Mount Olympus and suddenly we saw before us a huge mountain over the clouds covered in snow. It was the residence of Zeus and from there the god decided for the fate of Gods and men. We had already passed from the river Titaresius, where the Lapith Mopsus was born.
Mopsus was the son of Ampyx and Chloris, and joined the Argonautic campaign as a seer alongside Idmon, where they both died. Idmon was killed in Mariandyni, on the way to Colchis, by a boar and Mopsus died in Libya bitten by a venomous snake. The Lapiths were a prehistoric people of Thessaly and were related to the Centaurs, who initially lived in Perrhaebia. The Centaurs were monstrous hybrids, human from the waist up with the lower half of a horse, most of whom were driven away by the Lapiths, that is why we did not meet any Centaurs.
The further we distanced ourselves from the son of Macedon, Pindus, after whom the whole mountain range from Grammos to the Corinthian gulf was named; maybe it was the death of that lad which darkened this side of our homeland. Because to the west is where the wild and mysterious side of Greece could be found.

Olympus is the most beautiful mountain and we love exploring it. It is a volume rising steeply from the surrounding areas, with 1.600 species of plants many trees, but also animals and birds, that is why the Muses, born from Zeus, gather here. It has plenty of waters, from the snow on its peaks, which when the sunlight falls make the area shine. That is why it was called Olympus which means “Full of Light” (Ολόφωτος). Down bellow on its base, in the area of Pieria, there is the Sanctuary of Zeus, founded by the first king of Thessaly, after he was saved from the deluge. Up there, on the altar of Zeus, every new year the kings of Macedonia offered sacrifices, in their month of Hyperberetaiaos (September-October) according to their own customs; when the sign of Libra appeared in the sky, which symbolized the justice of Zeus towards gods and men.

Dion

Religious Center of Macedonia

Religious Center of Macedonia

Roaming Olympus through the mountains and plains, we understood that the “present” was every moment we could feel the beats of our heart, because there the gods are eternal and time loses its meaning. Only down bellow did Alexander struggled with it, advancing rapidly to Asia Minor of the state of Darius. His victory in Issus in 333 B.C. made the Olympian Zeus very happy for his son, because Alexander won without his help. On the other hand the merciful god was very sad about the degradation of Darius. Fate played an ugly game with him.
We was ordered to secretly leave for Delos, because the celebration of Apollo was to be held there and the jealous Hera would not let Zeus go. Leto, the darling of Zeus, found sanctuary on the barren island of Delos, which flowed endlessly on the sea. As a reward, the god stabilized it on four pillars forever and changed its name to Delos (bright, overt) from Ortygia, because it was the place that the god of light Apollo (Sun) was to be born.
We started traveling again in the company of Hermes who had to transport other souls to Hades, that is why he would pass again from Delphi, to ask Dionysus, who was replacing Apollo, if he had any orders from the god of light, before he would depart again for the hyperborean people.
Dionysus was a very peculiar god, because he had a difficult childhood, having Zeus for a father. The jealous Hera was trying to kill him. His mother was Semele, the daughter of Cadmus and Harmony, who was thundered by Zeus when she asked him to show himself to her with all of his might.
He was the god who discovered the vine, but Hera drove him mad and he roamed in many places in this state, like Egypt, Syria and Thrace. From there he left and reached as far as India, conquering many peoples. I did not forget that the god and my traveling companion had received soothsaying lessons from Apollo, that is why I believed him.
Through these and other hardships Dionysus decided to remain close to the humans, that is why he was a beloved god and was celebrated everywhere. So the god created the theater and, where comedies, tragedies but also the satyrical drama were performed.