Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Feneos, one of the many sanctuaries of Asclepius

Feneos lies close to Corinth at the foot of Mount Cyllene, the mythical birthplace of Hermes. Yet the village’s reputation was made when a temple as part of an Asclepion was discovered in the 1950’s. Now a good fifty years later, new excavations have confirmed the importance of Asclepius’ presence at this site.

The original sanctuary seems to date from the end of the fourth century BC and the town reached its peak about 200 years later when the main hall was rebuilt and new statues were added. Archaeologists have found a pedestal carrying an inscription referring to the statues of Asclepius and his daughter Hygeia made by the sculptor Attalus. Asclepius, the god of medicine, was depicted three times larger than life and seated next to the standing Hygeia represented only twice life size. The center of the hall was covered with a mosaic floor in geometric patterns. In the room behind this hall the base for two bronze statues was found and it seems these statues were replaced by stone ones at a later date. In front of these now vanished effigies stood a marble sacrificial table. At the entrance, a ramp led to a courtyard that once was lavishly decorated and plastered with colorful mortar.

So far, we don’t know what really happened here but supposedly the healing sanctuary was destroyed by an earthquake at some time during the first century AD and rebuilt to serve Roman imperial worship instead.

Isn’t it striking that beyond the renown Asclepion of Epidaurus with important branches on the island of Cos and at Pergamon in modern Turkey (see: Pergamon is simply huge), there are also several smaller sanctuaries where Asclepius was venerated like for instance in Trikka or Trikala, Gortyn, Tegea, Messene, Athens, Piraeus and Titani in Greece or Cnidos in Turkey (see: What did Alexander the Great know of Cnidos?) or Butrint in modern Albania (see: The surprise of Butrint, ancient Buthrotum in Epirus), and there probably are many more. The cult also moved to the Italian mainland in early antiquity, but we know for sure that in 293 BC the sacred snake was taken from Epidaurus to the Tiber Island to cure a plague.

All these sanctuaries were erected in places of great natural beauty, where the physician-priests practiced a healing ritual centered around a dream therapy. After a preliminary treatment, the patient underwent a series of cleansing baths and purgations, and had to follow a special diet for several days. When entering the inner sanctuary the patient had to make some kind of offering (gold, silver or a marble statue) after which the priest would put him in the right frame of mind, probably using some narcotics like opium made from the poppy seeds. He was then ready to receive a healing dream from Asclepius.

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