Saturday, September 8, 2012

Asclepius, a mortal who became god of medicine.

Asclepius was said to be the son of god Apollo and a mortal woman from Trikala, Thessaly, named Coronis. While Coronis was pregnant, she fell in love with Ischys, another mortal man. When Apollo learned their secret affair, he sent his sister Artemis to kill Coronis. Indeed, Artemis burned Coronis on a funeral pyre. Meanwhile, Apollo, who was watching this scene and felt guilty of killing his unborn child, rescued the baby by cutting open the womb of the burning Coronis. This is thought to have been the first "Cesarean section" in human history. Apollo entrusted the baby to centaur Chiron,a strange yet wise creature, half-human half-horse, who was famous for his skills in medicine. Chiron then brought Asclepius up and became his mentor.
While Asclepius was growing up, he was becoming even more famous as a highly-regarded healer with exceptional skills. Aside from the art of surgery, Chiron had also taught him the effective use of drugs, incantations and aphrodisiacs as aids to healing. Asclepius was also said to have been given from goddess Athena a small bottle of Gorgon blood with magical properties. The Gorgons were mythical female monsters that had snakes for hair, wings, bronze claws and eyes that could turn a human into stone.
Therefore, a bottle of such blood was a powerful remedy in the hands of Asclepius, who used to go from town to town and heal people from pain and diseases.
Only a few things are known about the private life of Asclepius. We only know that he was married to Epione and had nine children, three sons and six daughters, who also had leaned some healing practices. According to some accounts, Asclepius fought during the Trojan War, on the Greek side, and there he healed Phyloctetes,a famous hero, from snake bite.
Asclepius was reputed to have preformed many miraculous cures, including the bringing back to life of many dead people. Reviving the dead people and making them immortal was a practice that outraged Hades, the god of the Underworld, who thought that the dead souls rightfully belonged to him. This practice also worried Zeus because Asclepius, in his way, was disturbing the normality of things and Nature. It is not normal for people not to die and live forever.
That is why Zeus, at the instigation of Hades, decided to punish Aslcepius for the abnormalities he caused. One day, he struck Asclepius down with a thunderbolt and gave him a tragic end. This punishment meant that a mortal man can reach only one certain limit in the natural order of things and it is forbidden to him to exceed this limit.
However, Zeus was fair enough to recognize the great service that Asclepius had offered to humanity and decided to turn him into a constellation to live forever in the sky.
Asclepius, in the ancient times, was almost always depicted as a middle-aged man holding a rod with a snake rapped around it. The snake symbolizes the snake bite, which was the worst kind of disease someone could have in the antiquity and very difficult to cure. However, Asclepius had the power to heal even the snake bite. This rod with the snake is known as the “Rod of Asclepius” and is today its the symbol of the physicians throughout the world.

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