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Asklepios, Medicine, and the Politics of Healing in Fifth-Century Greece

Between Craft and Cult

Bronwen L. Wickkiser

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Delving deeply into ancient medical history, Bronwen L. Wickkiser explores the early development and later spread of the cult of Asklepios, one of the most popular healing gods in the ancient Mediterranean. Though Asklepios had been known as a healer since the time of Homer, evidence suggests that large numbers of people began to flock to the cult during the fifth century BCE, just as practitioners of Hippocratic medicine were gaining dominance.

Drawing on close readings of period medical texts, literary sources, archaeological evidence, and earlier studies, Wickkiser finds two primary causes…

Delving deeply into ancient medical history, Bronwen L. Wickkiser explores the early development and later spread of the cult of Asklepios, one of the most popular healing gods in the ancient Mediterranean. Though Asklepios had been known as a healer since the time of Homer, evidence suggests that large numbers of people began to flock to the cult during the fifth century BCE, just as practitioners of Hippocratic medicine were gaining dominance.

Drawing on close readings of period medical texts, literary sources, archaeological evidence, and earlier studies, Wickkiser finds two primary causes for the cult’s ascendance: it filled a gap in the market created by the refusal of Hippocratic physicians to treat difficult chronic ailments and it abetted Athenian political needs. Wickkiser supports these challenging theories with side-by-side examinations of the medical practices at Asklepios' sanctuaries and those espoused in Hippocratic medical treatises. She also explores how Athens' aspirations to empire influenced its decision to open the city to the healer-god's cult.

In focusing on the fifth century and by considering the medical, political, and religious dimensions of the cult of Asklepios, Wickkiser presents a complex, nuanced picture of Asklepios' rise in popularity, Athenian society, and ancient Mediterranean culture. The intriguing and sometimes surprising information she presents will be valued by historians of medicine and classicists alike.

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Asklepios, Medicine, and the Politics of Healing in Fifth-Century Greece

Bronwen L. Wickkiser

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Reviews

Reviews

Wickkiser, by focusing on a single historical event of some significance, has inserted an intriguing new angle to an old debate... In this respect, the present study provides the basis for further research into the significant questions which it raises.

Elegantly written, and with a sound command of the original Greek, it provides an excellent introduction to the rise of Asclepius' cult in Athens. It also promotes a clear and challenging thesis.

This book will be very useful to students and scholars (especially chapters four and five) of medical history, as it is a very clear introduction to the subject and somewhat renews our perspective on the origins of the cult of Asclepios in Athens.

Wickkiser freshly appraises our best evidence for the importation of the cult—namely, the Telemachus monument—in order to embed the event in both the space of the city and the local dynamics of power.

I have enjoyed reading this work enormously, and would recommend it to anyone seeking a short introduction to Asklepios, or to anyone teaching a course on ancient medicine or ancient 'religion'.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
192
ISBN
9780801889783
Illustration Description
7 halftones, 3 line drawings
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Translations and Abbreviations
Introduction
Common Perceptions of Asklepios and His Cult
The Current Project
1. From Practice to Profession: The Development of Greek Medicine from the

Acknowledgments
Translations and Abbreviations
Introduction
Common Perceptions of Asklepios and His Cult
The Current Project
1. From Practice to Profession: The Development of Greek Medicine from the Bronze Age to the Fifth Century BC
The Bronze Age and Homer
Between Homer and Hippocrates
Tradition and Change in Fifth-Century Medicine
Medicine as a Techne
Medicine and Its Limits
2. Searching for a Cure: The Limits of Medicine and the Development of Asklepios' Cult
Alternatives to Medicine: What Doctors Condoned
Healing Gods
The Early Development of Asklepios' Cult
The Popularity of Asklepios and His Healing
3. Asklepios and His Colleagues: Doctors and Divine Healers
Asklepios as Doctor in Myth and Cult
Other Healing Gods and Heroes
Doctors and Their Patron God
Asklepios' Specialization: Chronic Ailments
4. Documenting Asklepios' Arrival in Athens
Sources
Desccription, Text, and Translation of Telemachos Moument
Reading between the Lines
The Eleusinian Cult of Demeter and Kore
The Location of Asklepios' Sanctuary
5. Asklepios and the Topography of Athenian Cult
The Acropolis and the Greater Panathenaia
Dionysos and Demeter
Dionysos Eleuthereus and the City Dionysia
The Sanctuary of Dionysos Eleuthereus
The City Dionysia
Eleusinian Demeter and the Mysteries
6. Asklepios and Athenian Empire
Epidauros and Athens in the Peloponnesian Wars
The Peace of Nicias and Epidaurian Asklepios
Athens, Cults, and Politics in the Fifth Century
Negotiating Empire
Asklepios and the Kerykes in 418 BC
Mapping Meaning: The Epidauria Procession
Conclusion
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio