Giving an Arm and a Leg:  Votives, Gods, and Pathologies

Adina J. Stone

Sheffield High School/University of Florida

Numerous archaeological sites have proven to be rich in votive artifacts.  Each votive was designed to show gratitude to a god; each was a special form of remuneration for a service or a fulfillment of a prayer or request.  In the study of classical civilizations, much information about the societies can be learned through art, tools, weapons, and certainly, votives.

The focus of the research is to explore the anatomical gifts of remuneration which the ancients dedicated to their deities and to attempt to shed light on some of the ailments, diseases, and possible factors which influenced these offerings of thanks, or votives.  Of particular interest is the branch of religion which deals with those precursors to modern medicine, namely gods of healing such as Asclepius and Apollo.

In many of the healing temples, such as the Asclepieia, votives were hung on walls or placed on altars in order that those who were seeking aid from the god may gain confidence via bearing witness to the votives of those who had previously been healed, and which acted as "positive reinforcement" in the treatment of their own ailments.  Many of these gifts were in the shape of the limb, organ, or area of the anatomy which was in need of divine healing.  In certain areas there were numerous votives of the same types.  The question to be considered is "why?"


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