Epidavros – Snakes and Suspicious Cures

dscf2548Each summer the Hellenic Music Festival takes place in the ancient Roman theatre of Epidavros. Up to 14,000 people can be seated to watch performances of Greek classical plays in a technically perfect setting where you can literally hear a pin drop. The stone seats are as uncomfortable today as they were in the 4th century BC, but the theatre is not the main reason that pilgrims arrived at Epidavros.

dscf2523The sanctuary at Epidavros was dedicated to Asklepios, son of Apollo, and was renowned for its healing powers. There were hospitals and hostels, baths and spas, temples and stadiums. Some restoration of these ancient buildings is underway with the Corinthian and Doric columns of the Tholos being repaired and erected, a jigsaw puzzle of ancient and modern pieces. Whilst others are being swallowed up by the vegetation, such as the bath houses in the north west corner.

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dscf2510The Tholos was perhaps one of the key places for pilgrims, where snakes were used as a kind of shock therapy. Close by, in the Abaton (a dormitory for patients), harmless snakes were released at night to assist in the various treatments and cures. Inside, I find a rather interesting photo of a marble frieze with accompanying text from a Roman visitor to Epidavros.

 

 

 

Andromache of Epirus came to the sanctuary for the sake of offspring. She slept in the Abaton and saw a dream. It seemed to her that a handsome boy lifted up her dress, and after that the god touched her belly with his hand. After the dream a son was born to Andromache from her husband Arybbas.

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In my opinion, the dream sounds suspiciously like modern day date rape. But if she was happy and her husband was happy, I guess the cure was a success.

 

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