Aesculapius

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Ancient Roman Gods for Kids - Aesculapius

The myths and legends surrounding Aesculapius, the Roman god of healing and medicine

Aesculapius for kids
Discover the myths surrounding Aesculapius, the Roman god of healing and medicine. He was a the son of the mortal woman Coronis and the god Apollo who, amongst his other roles, was associated with medicine. According to ancient Roman mythology Aesculapius was raised and mentored by the Centaur Chiron who taught him the art of healing. His symbol is the Rod of Aesculapius a physician's staff, or healing scepter, entwined with a non-venomous snake.

Aesculapius, the Roman god of healing and medicine
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Picture of Aesculapius with his symbols

Who was Aesculapius?
Aesculapius was the Roman god of healing and medicine and strongly associated with his father, the Roman god Apollo as the god of medicine. His mother was Coronis, one of the numerous lovers of Apollo. The god sent a white raven to watch over her and the raven informed Apollo that she had been unfaithful to him. His sister, the goddess Diana shot and killed Coronis and in her rage turned the raven black for being the bearer of bad news. Also refer to The Myth of Asclepius, god of Healing.

Facts about Aesculapius
The following information, facts and profile provides a fast overview of Aesculapius:

Aesculapius Profile & Fact File


Roman Name: Aesculapius

Role & Function: The function of Aesculapius is described as being the god of healing and medicine

Status: Minor Roman god

Symbols: The Rod of Aesculapius, a bowl, a bunch of herbs, a pineapple, a dog, and a snake. The cockerel or rooster was also sacred to the god and was the bird they sacrificed as his altar.

Gender: Male

Greek Counterpart: The Greek name for Aesculapius was Asclepius

Father: Apollo

Mother: Coronis

Name of Consort: Epione

Names of Children: Six daughters called Aceso, Meditrina, Iaso, Panacea, Aglaea and Hygieia. Three sons called Machaon and Podalirius and Telesphoros. Aesculapius also had another son, Aratus, with Aristodama

Aesculapius (Roman Counterpart was Aesculapius or Vediovis)
When the Roman Empire conquered the Greeks in 146BC, the Romans assimilated various elements from other cultures and civilisations, including the gods that were worshipped in Ancient Rome. Many of the Greek gods were therefore adopted by the Greeks but were given Latin names. His Greek counterpart was Asclepius. Another counterpart was Imhotep the Egyptian god of Healing and Medicine.

The Rod of Aesculapius - The Medical Profession
The Rod of Aesculapius or the Caduceus have been used as the symbol of the American medical profession for over 100 years. The use of these symbols have created considerable confusion. The famous Hippocratic Oath originally began with the line:

 “I swear by Apollo the Physician and by Aesculapius and by Hygieia and Panacea and by all the gods…”

So, presumably, the Rod of Aesculapius was the symbol that should be used by the medical profession. The Rod of Aesculapius and the Caduceus are two different symbols and two different objects.

Hermes holding the caduceus and Asclepius the physician with his staff

Mercury holding the caduceus and Aesculapius the physician with his staff

One survey suggests that 62% of professional healthcare organisations use the Rod of Aesculapius as their symbol whereas 76% of commercial healthcare organisations use the Caduceus as their symbol.

  • The Caduceus means “herald’s staff of office” in Roman and is associated with Mercury, the Roman messenger of the gods. The caduceus can be described as two snakes criss-crossed around a staff that is topped by a round knob and flanked by wings. The caduceus has been used as a symbol by printers because it was the staff of Mercury who was the messenger god and the deliverer of information
Hermes and the Caduceus

Mercury and the Caduceus - two snakes or serpents with wings on the staff

  • The Rod of Aesculapius is a physician's staff, or healing scepter, entwined with a single, large, non-venomous snake
  • The Aesculapian snake depicted on the Rod of Aesculapius belongs to the family Colubridae & classified as Elaphe longissima and are indigenous to Southern Europe. These harmless Aesculapian snakes were kept in the temples dedicated to Aesculapius, which also served as an ancient form of hospital
  • The snake symbolized rejuvenation and healing to many ancient cultures
The rod of Asclepius Aesculapian snake

A non-venomous Aesculapian snake belonging to the family Colubridae & classified as Elaphe longissima

The Temples of Aesculapius
There were many temples dedicated to Aesculapius in both Greece and later in the Roman empire. These temples also served as ancient hospitals, called asclepieion, in which orders of priest physicians, called the Asclepiadae, controlled the sacred secrets of healing, which were passed from father to son. Those seeking healing would make pilgrimages to the temples and sanctuaries offering prayers and sacrifices and making monetary gifts to the temples. The temples and sanctuaries were places of healing with sanatoria, dream therapy, regimes of diet and exercise and baths. The shrine area of the biggest temples were inhabited by thousands of non-poisonous snakes (the Aesculapian snakes) that were believed to bring healing to those who were touched by them. These snakes roamed freely and encouraged in the dormitories that held the sick.

Temple of Asclepius

Temple of Aesculapius

Aesculapius and other Gods of Healing
There were other Roman gods of healing, medicine and well being. All of the daughters of Aesculapius, Aceso, Meditrina, Iaso, Panacea, Aglaea and Hygieia, were associated with medicine and were gods of healing:

Aesculapius

  • Aesculapius, the Roman god of healing and medicine
  • Interesting information and Facts about the Roman god Aesculapius
  • Aesculapius, the Roman god of healing and medicine
  • tories and Legends in Roman Mythology associated with Aesculapius
  • Facts and information about the Gods and Deities of the Ancient World for schools and kids
  • The Roman god of healing and medicine
 

 
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