Ancient City of Epidaurus (World Heritage)

By | August 13, 2021

The ancient healing and cult site shines with one of the most beautiful and best preserved Greek theaters from the 3rd century BC. BC, which had about 12,000 visitors and is considered to be the most impressive example of classical Greek architecture. Epidaurus was the center of the cult of Asclepius. In addition to the Temple of Asclepius, the most important architectural monuments are the Temple of Artemis, the Tholos, the Enkoimeterion and the Propylaea.

Ancient city of Epidaurus: facts

Official title: Ancient city of Epidaurus
Cultural monument: Sanctuary and “ancient Lourdes”; Place of the Asklepieia, sporting competitions that were always overshadowed by the Olympic and Delphic Games; the sanctuary includes, among others. the theater with a capacity of 12,000 spectators, the sanctuary of the Maleatas, the square guest house measuring 76.3×76.3 m, the bath, the gymnasium, the palaestra (wrestling school), the Temple of Artemis measuring 13.3×9, 4 m, the Themis Temple, the Asclepios Temple with surrounding rows of Doric columns, the Abaton, a 70×9.5 m columned hall with Ionic columns, the thermal baths and the 196.4×23 m stadium with a 181.3 m long running track
Continent: Europe
Country: Greece, Peloponnese
Location: Epidaurus, southeast of Corinth
Appointment: 1988
Meaning: Cradle of worship to the god Asclepius

Ancient city of Epidaurus: history

6th century BC Chr. Plant of the sanctuary
3rd century BC Chr. Construction of the theater
267 Invasion of the Goths, destruction of the sanctuary
426 Closure of the sanctuary by Emperor Theodosius II.
1948-51 Excavations
present Reconstruction of the tholos

Recovery in healing sleep – ancient city of Epidaurus

“When you enter God’s house, which is filled with fragrant herbs, you must be pure, and your disposition is pure when you approach in awe.” These greetings, engraved on a stone slab, awaited pilgrims when they arrived at the sanctuary of Epidaurus.

Already in Mycenaean times, in the second millennium BC, those seeking recovery had come to the east coast of the Peloponnese to worship Maleatas. With the emerging cult of Apollo, this god merged with Apollon to form the local deity Apollon Maleatas. After the Peloponnesian Wars not only left behind heavy destruction, but also partially removed the old order in many places, the desire for a powerful new healing god increased. Asklepios, according to legend, the son of Apollon and Koronis, the daughter of King Phlegyas of Orchomenos, has since held an important place in the world of gods and was venerated throughout the Greek world.

The successes in curing diseases in Epidaurus must have been great, as preserved inscriptions tell. There are reports of the blind who regained their eyesight and of sterile women who were able to have children. Since more and more sick people came to Epidaurus from near and far, the sanctuary had to be expanded considerably, especially in the 4th century BC, including the construction of a large guest house with 160 rooms for those seeking advice.

The actual treatment took place in large halls on the northern flank of the cult area, in the so-called Abaton. In his darkened basement, those seeking help underwent a cultic healing sleep, during which Asklepios was supposed to bring rescue and help in a dream. It seems that the sanctuary was some kind of ancient psychosomatic clinic.

The most important cult buildings of the complex are only a few meters apart: the Tholos, a round building with a circular cella surrounded by columns, and the Temple of Asclepius. This temple, which dates from the 4th century BC, must once have been lavishly furnished: with doors, interspersed with gold nails, made of fine woods and ivory, and adorned with marble sculptures. Inside it originally contained a cult image of Asclepius made of gold and ivory. The figure was shown seated, holding the famous Asclepius staff in one hand and touching the head of the Asclepius snake with the other.

The function of the tholos in cultic events is still unclear and the subject of various theories. But the uniqueness of this round building with its six concentric wall rings is undisputed. 26 Doric columns formed an outer ring, 14 Corinthian inner columns surrounded the cella, the windowless interior of this cult building. While stuccoed tuff columns were used for the outer ring, the Corinthian columns were made of the finest marble. Capitals, friezes, and ceilings were lavishly decorated; primarily motifs from the plant world were used. According to politicsezine, this emphasis on decorative elements also meant that the functional elements of architecture were pushed back and represented a turning point in Greek building history.

In the middle of the building there are three sunken wall rings, the narrow corridors of which formed a kind of labyrinth. Possibly this was a place where snakes of the Asclepius cult were kept, or a place of mysterious rites or the worship of heroes. Since this building was called »Thymele«, which means »sacrificial site«, it is reasonable to assume that sacrifices were made here.

The games that took place every four years in honor of Asklepios and which included the sporting and musical competition were associated with the cult site of Epidaurus. The gymnasium and stadium bear witness to this competition to this day. A large theater that could seat up to 12,000 people was also built for this purpose. Even today you can hear the whispering in the stage area in the upper tiers, an acoustic phenomenon that has not yet been clarified.

Ancient City of Epidaurus