Introduction: The origin of the worship of Asklepios as a healing God is unclear, but it seems to have arisen after the time of Homer, who only spoke of him as a mortal physician. Later on, legends concerning his divine origin appeared (his father being considered to have been Apollo), and the central cult temple for his healing activity was Epidauros on the Adriatic Sea, although there were many others. It was the custom for the person healed to record the basic facts of his case on a marble plaque, and leave this at the temple as a memorial. The following accounts are taken from just such plaques, found in the temple at Epidauros. These were inscribed mostly during the fourth century B.C.
Cleo was pregnant five years. She, already five years pregnant, was brought prostrate in bed to the God as a supplicant. Immediately as she came from him and from the temple, she bore a boy; as soon as he was born, he washed himself in the spring and walked around with the mother. After she had accomplished this, she wrote about it on the votive offering. One should be amazed not at the greatness of the tablet, but at the God. Five years Cleo bore the burden in her womb until she slept in the temple and she became healthy.
A man who had the fingers of the hand crippled except one came to the God as a supplicant. But seeing the tablets in the temple, he disbelieved in the healings and he sneered at the inscriptions. While sleeping he saw a vision. It seemed he was casting the bones (in the crypt) under the temple1 and as he was about to cast the bones, the God appeared and seized upon the hand and stretched out its fingers. As it turned out, he seemed to bend the hand to stretch out the fingers one by one. When he straightened all of them, the God asked him if he still disbelieved the inscriptions upon the tablets of the temple. He said, “No.” Asklepios replied, “Because formerly you did not believe those things which are not unbelievable, may you henceforth be named ‘Unbeliever.’” When it was day, he came out, healthy.
Ambrosia from Athens had one good eye. She came, a supplicant, to the God. But, as she walked around the temple of healings, she mocked some
1. I.e., throwing the sacred dice to gain a favorable omen that he would be healed.