“Men believe only that it (epilepsy) is a divine disease because of their ignorance and amazement.”

~ Hippocrates of Cos

#5. Asclepios

Asclepios, the Greek God of healing and medicine had his temple in the Isle of Cos in Greece. He is believed to be son of Apollo. Many however believe that Asclepios is none but a varied version of the Egyptian cult physician Imhotep. As a God, he would have remained in the footnotes of medical history if not for three remarkable things associated to his name.

According to Greek Mythology, he was originally called Hepius but received his popular name of Asclepius after he cured Ascles, ruler of Epidaurus who suffered an incurable ailment in his eyes

One, that his temple was the seat of learning of Medical Science in Greece. Yes, Medical Science. For though some teachings of the Egyptian healing based on divine powers and curses had trickled down to Greece, the masters of Greece medicine freed medicine from divine bondage. For the first time, diseases were connected to dysfunctions of the body caused by natural causes.

Hippocrates, a student of this Temple famously had said “Men believe only that it (epilepsy) is a divine disease because of their ignorance and amazement.”

Two, for the Rod that he carried “Rod of Asclepios”. A stick with a snake coiled around it. A snake perhaps because of two reasons. One that snake venom otherwise fatal was used in small portions to treat and second, a symbolic gesture. A snake sheds its skins to reappear in a new form and feature much as a diseased person sheds of her or his disease to reappear fine and fresh.

Whatever be the reason, the Rod of Asclepios, has remained with its serpent and staff a symbol of medicine and healing arts.

The third reason for Asclepios’s fame is for his two daughters (among his five daughters and four sons): Hygieia and Panacea. Hygieia for Hygiene and Panacea the goddess of all universal cure-all.

Reference: A Short History of Medicine by Steve Parker

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