Sanctuary at Epidaurus, Greece
When it comes to the ways of medicine, the ancient Greeks may have been on to something. Their curative methods revolved around two things: water and sleep.
True, they thought that the gods visited the ill in their dreams and healed them with divine powers. But, nonetheless, they understood the restorative power in a good rest and proper hydration.
In the settlement of Epidaurus, in the south of the country, they built a sanctuary for the ill. It was the 6th century BC when the work began on what was to become known as the cradle of medicine.
The sick would be purified in waters from a sacred spring, before they would go to sleep to meet with the gods in their subconscious. The deities would either cure them or give them instructions on the treatment they should follow.
Archaeologists have discovered a large number of medical instruments at the site, which suggests the gods preferred to leave the hard work of healing to man, rather than always do it themselves.
Still, temples around the complex at Epidaurus show how much weight the ancient Greeks placed in the spiritual guidance.
Asklepios was the main idol of attention, and it was his reputation as a curative god that brought most people to the sanctuary (and brought much wealth to those who administered the care). But there were also temples to Artemis, Aphrodite and Themis.
You can visit Epidaurus as a day trip from Athens – and I would recommend either this private tour or this small group tour.
In the ruins of Epidaurus today, you can see residences, a library, baths and accommodation buildings. Business was once booming here. So much so that there was also once a stadium, athletes’ quarters and a large theatre.
The theatre of Epidaurus, Greece
Thousands of years later, it’s the theatre that takes centre stage. Virtually undamaged, it still hosts performances and concerts during the summer months.
In the days of the ancient Greeks, it could fit about 14,000 people. These days comfort (and presumably health and safety regulations) keeps the numbers lower.
The theatre is considered to be one of the purest masterpieces of Greek architecture. To see it in person is to have your breath taken away.
It rises above you, the benches stretching upwards, narrow stone steps leading towards the top. Once you reach the highest level, you’re rewarded with the views out over the countryside.
People – actors, singers, tourists – down on the stage seem tiny. Although they are so far away, the artistic achievement of the theatre means the acoustics are almost perfect from any seat.
What better way to heal the body and the soul than with some theatre, lots of water and plenty of rest?
Getting to Epidaurus with public transport can be a little tricky and you’ll save a lot of time visiting as part of a tour – especially one that also visits Mycenae.
If there are a few of you, the best option might be this private tour from Athens.
Otherwise, there are some other good options here:
Of course, there are lots of things to see in Athens itself, but I really think it’s worth getting out for the day to see some of these other nearby archaeological sites.
10 thoughts on “Healing of the gods”
What a beautiful site! I’ve never heard of it before. I actually don’t know much about Greece, but I love the theatre, so I think it’d be interesting to visit the country and specifically Ancient Greece theatre-related sites.
It’s not a common stop of the Greek ‘tourist trail’ but it’s definitely worth going out of your way to see it. The theatre, in particular, is one of the most stunning things you’ll see from the ancient times.
The greek history its incredible, that reminds me of pompeii in italy, I didn’t realize just how massive these ancient towns were until I saw it in person. Thank you for finding something hidden. These are the things I look for when I travel.
Yeah, some of the ruin sites are really big! I guess they used to be the centre of activity for a lot of people, so it’s not that surprising. But it’s still often unexpected.
That is remarkably in good condition. I saw you left a comment on another site that you were planning to come to Turkey. If you do, then visit Ephesus on the Aegean coast. This place reminds me a lot of it. Ephesus used to be the second largest city of the Roman empire.
Yeah, hoping to get to Turkey next month. Although my plans keep changing and the time I’ll have there keeps shrinking 🙁 Hopefully I get to the west coast.
Wow this is so fascinating, Greece has been very high on my list for some time, I really need to plan a trip there.
There’s so much to see and it’s fascinating! A lot of people just pop in and head to the islands, but the mainland has some amazing sites that are definitely worth visiting!
Wow, I can’t believe how much of this is still in tact. It looks amazing. It must feel like really stepping back in time!
It’s not hard to imagine what it would have been like in ancient times. I would love to see a reconstructed one at some point – to truly understand it!