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Model of the Asklepion at Epidaurus, Greece, 1936

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You’re a prizewinning athlete in ancient Greece, but your foot hasn’t been right since a heavy cart went over it a month ago. Where can you seek help? You could visit the local Asklepion, a shrine to the Greek god of healing, Asklepios. Most towns had an Asklepion, but this one just outside the city of Epidaurus is especially grand. What will you do there? It’s a big site with plenty of opportunities for rest and relaxation, all shaded by trees. You could swim in the baths, watch games in the stadium and pray in the temple of Asklepios. You might even do some gentle exercise in the gymnasium. But how will this help your foot? A visit was more than just a leisure activity – it was about putting your faith in Asklepios. Your prayers in the temple were to give worship and ask for help. You’d then sleep in a special chamber called the abaton. While you slept, it was believed you’d be visited and cured by Asklepios himself, or by his daughters Panacea and Hygeia. If you had dream visions, a priest of Asklepios could interpret them and suggest a treatment. Did it work? Look closely at the model – can you see the stones in front of the temple? They have inscriptions from grateful patients, suggesting that they believed it worked. If your foot was healed, and you were back on a winning streak, there was another way to give thanks – by leaving a votive offering at the Asklepion – a stone, plaster or wooden carving of your foot.

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Glossary: model - representation

Use for a scaled representation of an object or structure, usually three-dimensional. The item is often idealised or modified to make it conceptually easier to understand.