The sanctuary of Asclepios (Asclepieion)

The Asclepieion of Kos is built upon the slopes of hill clothed in lush flora and graced with beautiful views of the sea and the Turkish coast. It is the most important monument of the island and of the most important temples of its kind of antiquity. In the ancient times it was the place of worship of the god Asclepius, healing grounds for the ill and a school for the study of medicine. Hippocrates, one of the greatest exemplars of the medical profession taught in the school that he instituted within the sanctuary's area . In contrast to the more arcane sanctum of Asclepius in Epidaurus, its counterpart in Kos Island cultivated scientific medicine.

The Asclepieion of Kos, whose surviving ruins are dated to the 4th century B.C, is located 3.4 kilometers northwest of the city. The three successive terraces are dated to the Hellenistic years; their specific oriental style was probably adopted after Alexander’s conquests.

During the reign of the Ptolemys’ in 260 B.C a critical event marked the history of the monument. The Asclepieion was recognized as a Pan-Hellenic asylum for the preparation of the celebration of the Asclepieia. The pursuit of the islanders to offer asylum to those prosecuted, is a clear sign of how proud they were for their temple which they considered to be the center of their city.

The discovery of the Asclepieion took place in 1902 by the German archeologist Rudolf Herzog and the local history buff, Iakovos Zaraftis. The search for the site was strongly motivated by the fourth mime of Herondas “Women with dedications and sacrifices to the Asclepieion” in which he speaks with apparent admiration to Kos and describes images and statues from the temple. The excavations were carried on by Laurenzi (1930) and Morricone (1937-38) along with restoration works. It should be noted that many objects from the digs were poached away to Rome and Constantinople.

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