Medical practice applied in the ancient Asclepeion in Kos island

Medical practice applied in the ancient Asclepeion in Kos island

By Maria Mironidou-Tzouveleki and Panagiotis M. Tzitzis

Hellenic Journal of Nuclear Medicine (2014)

Abtstract: Asclepius was called“a great doctor for every disease”. Asclepius was born in Trikala, Thessaly, in the middle of Greece, where the first Asclepeion was established. Patients coming to the Asclepeia were first taking cleaning baths and then entered the main Asclepeion, where they were examined by priests-therapists and were accommodated in certain areas-rooms of the Asclepeion. Inscriptions found in marble plaques describe treatment of some diseases and the sum of money paid for every treatment. These were the first medical records and fees in ancient Greece. Patients were considered as a unique psychosomatic entity. Patients followed many instructions in order to relax and rest, submitted daily baths, exercises, massages, entertainment attending theatrical or poetic or athletic races, reading special books, promenades, special diets or were kept fasting and were instructed to take many kinds of medicine per os, suppositories, ointments, eye drops etc.

The main diseases treated in the Asclepeia were: chronic neuropsychological disorders, skin diseases and chronic lung diseases. Other diseases gynaecological, ophthalmic and surgical were also treated. Today, like in the ancient Asclepeia, the psychology of patients is important and certain preparatory drugs are administered before the actual main treatment of surgery or of some psychic disorders.

In Aalborg, Denmark, a large prototype medical university hospital, is scheduled to be built in an area of 350acres within the next 15 years. The psychosomatic dogma and principals of a “green building”will be well respected. The Asclepeion of the island of Kos, where as we know Hippocrates was born, was built on the 5th century B.C. and functioned till the 4th century A.D. and had three floors. The Asclepeion had many dedications, of which many parts of the human body in marble: an ear, a damaged penis and two breasts. Surgical tools were also found and are now exhibited in the Dion Museum. After the 4th century A.D. the Asclepeion was destructed and/or destroyed by religious groups, more earthquakes, conflagrations, the SaintJohn’s Knights of Jerusalem and the Turks.

Ancient History magazine

Recent excavations in the area in order to find and restore the old Asclepeion started in 1902. Now Asclepeion is partly restored. In conclusion, it is suggested that Hippocratic medicine, as practiced in the Asclepeion of the island of Kos, using psychosomatic means of treatment in a green natural environment was effective for many diseases at that time but also inspired modern medicine and as an example a large university institution is now under constructions based on the above ideals.

Click here to read this article from the Hellenic Journal of Nuclear Medicine

Asklepieion in Kos – Image by Franck devedjian / Wikimedia Commons

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