Asklepion – Kos – Zia



Just 4 kilometers west from the town of Kos you will find the ancient Asklepion, which encapsulates Kos’ most famous contribution to western history and global civilization. The Asklepion of Kos is where the art of medicine was first introduced to the world and the magnificent structure that still remains today undoubtedly warrants a visit!

The Asklepion is built on the slopes of a low hillside boasting a green landscape combined with the beautiful view of the sea and the coast of Asia Minor. Although it has forever been the most prominent monument of Kos, the reasons for the Asklepion’s significance shifted massively through the ages.

Initially the Asklepion was a sanctuary for public worship and a therapeutic center, dedicated to Asclepius. According to Greek mythology, Asclepius was the Greek god of medicine, the son of Apollo (the god of healing, truth and prophecy) and the mortal princess Coronis.The traditional form of therapy in those times was based on divine intervention, when god would appear in the dreams of patients and show them their treatment while they slept in a special area of the Asklepion.

Asclepius was always depicted as a middle-aged man holding a rod with a snake wrapped around it, symbolizing the snake bite. This rod is known as the Rod of Asclepius and is the well known symbol of physicians and pharmaceuticals worldwide.

It was not until the time of Hippocrates (460-377BC) that the sanctuary’s medical aspect would cease to be substantially intertwined with religious faith. Hippocrates assimilated all the existent knowledge of the era regarding medical science and involved himself in scientific exploration, condemning the prophecies that were being used as forms of therapy. Hippocrates studied the functions of the human body, researched and created the methods of observation and treatment that are the very basis of medicine today, demolishing the aforementioned theories of god being the one that sent sickness and evil to the people.

His most famous contribution to medicine is the Hippocratic Oath, still taken by physicians in medical schools worldwide, and thus, set the basic ethical  principles  one needed to become a physician. The oath is one of the oldest binding documents in history and requires a new physician to swear to uphold specific ethical standards; to treat the ill to the best of one’s ability, to preserve a patient’s privacy and to teach the secrets of medicine to the next generation, amongst others.

After the period of great prosperity the Asklepion of Kos witnessed during the life of Hippocrates, it continued to be used until it was abandoned due to the earthquakes that occurred in 469 and 554 AD. The sanctuary was discovered in the first decade of the 20th c. by the German archaeologist R. Herzog with assistance from the Greek historian from Kos, Iakovos Zaraftis. During the period of Italian occupation, archaeologists extended excavations and restored the remaining monuments giving the Asklepion the form in which you see it today.


Epigraphic Museum at the Asklepion


At the eastern side of the archaeological site there is an epigraphic museum where all the epigraphs found at the excavation of the Asklipion are exhibited, portraying the grandeur of the historical monument and the continuous legacy it has offered to western history and civilization.