A Sick Child brought into the Temple of Aescul...
A Sick Child brought into the Temple of Aesculapius 1877 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Aesculapius was the god of medicine and healing in ancient Greek myth. Some believe he was a Greek citizen around 1200 BCE who, like Heracles, became deified.

In Homer‘s Illiad he is described as “the blameless physician.” His cult was centered in Epidaurus and emphasized cure through a prototype of contemporary psychoanalysis.

The poets Hesiod and Pindar speak of Aesculapius as the son of Zeus and Corona. In Epiduarian myth, his mother Corona dies while he is an infant. A Messenian variant, however, says Aesculapius’ mother is Arsinoe and other accounts claim that he is the son of Apollo.

Regardless of his ambiguous parentage, Aesculapius’ fame grew until he became the god of medicine and healing.

According to Greek legend, he was educated by the centaur Chiron. And while in hell he raised a dead person, Hippolytus, to life. This vexed Zeus who retaliated by killing Aesculapius with a thunderbolt.

Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although illness in ancient Greece was often attributed to the displeasure of the gods and goddesses, it could nevertheless be cured by divine mercy. The afflicted entered a sacred chamber and allowed visionary or “incubated” dreams to guide them towards health.

The postmodern thinker Michel Foucault saw this type of dream incubation as an ancient precursor the psychoanalytic couch.

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