Feneos lies close to
at the foot of , 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. Mount
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
to cure a plague. Tiber Island
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.