Sharing the Sanctuary: Supplication, Healing and the Divine Partners of Asklepios

Meagan Ayer (University at Buffalo, SUNY)

The cult of Asklepios has been of great interest to scholars attempting to understand the relationship between the god and his mythological father Apollo, also a god of healing. However, little consideration has been given to why Asklepios rarely appears alone, instead sharing his cult with either his father or one of his children, usually Hygieia, While Greek gods often shared space in the same sanctuary, Asklepios seems to be a unique case in that worship is never offered to him alone. This paper will examine the question of duality in the worship of Asklepios, specifically whether the personal relationship between the supplicant and Asklepios necessitated a partner deity to maintain general good health in the community.

Unsurprisingly, archaeology has discovered numerous instances in which the cult of Asklepios has been assimilated to or succeeded older cults of Apollo; examples include the sanctuary of Apollo Maleates incorporated into the Epidaurian Asklepieion, the sixth century BCE cult of Apollo at Corinth, later incorporated in the sanctuary of Asklepios and the third century BCE sanctuary of Asklepios and Apollo Kyparissios on Kos, A third century BCE cultic calendar recording sacrifices to Asklepios and Hygieia jointly has also been found at Isthmus on Kos. Literary evidence includes Pausanias and inscriptions regarding the founding of Asklepios cults in various cities. Pausanias records temples dedicated to Asklepios and Hygieia in Titane, Argos and Boeae; additionally he recounts seeing paired cult statues of Asklepios and his sons in Athens and Messene. Finally, an inscription from Athens states that Asklepios was brought to Eleusis by Telemachos and “at the same time came Hygieia”. No instances can be found of worship offered to Asklepios by himself, perhaps due to the god’s focus on individual illnesses and injuries rather than the general health of the community at large.

This site is maintained by Samuel J. Huskey ( | ©2008 CAMWS