Asclepius, a Greek hero who later became the Greek God of medicine and healing was the son of Apollo and Coronis. He was worshipped throughout the Greek world.
The main attribute of Asclepius is a physician's staff with an Asclepian snake wrapped around it. This is how he was distinguished in the art of healing, and his attribute still survives to this day as the symbol of the modern medical profession.
Chiron taught Asclepius the art of healing. According to Pindar (Pythian Odes), Asclepius also acquired the knowledge of surgery, the use of drugs, love potions and incantations, and according to Apollodorus (the Library), Athena gave Asclepius a magic potion made from the blood of the Gorgon. Legend tells that the blood of the Gorgon has a different effect depending from which side the blood was taken. If taken from the right side of the Gorgon, it has a miraculous effect and is said to be able to bring the dead back to life, but taken from the left side it is a deadly poison.
Mercury (Hermes) & merchant approach disapproving Asclepius (Physician) and the naked Graces ( Meditrine , Hygeia and Panacea )
[Engraved from an original in the then Museum Pio Clemens in Rome
Galerie Mythologique, Recueil de Monuments by Aubin Louis Millin, Paris 1811.]
The cult of Asclepius became very popular during the 300s BC and the cult centers (known as an Asclepieion) were used by priests to cure the sick. Invalids also came to the shrines of Asclepius to find cures for their ailments (in the same fashion pilgrims visit Lourdes today.) The process of healing was known as incubation. The patient would spend the night in a dormitory. During the night they would supposedly be visited by the god in a dream. Priests would interpret the dreams and then recommend a remedy or give advice on how they could be cured with perhaps a recommended visit to the baths and gymnasiums.
Asclepius' most famous sanctuary was in Epidaurus in Northeastern Peloponnese. Another famous "asclepieion" was on the island of Kos, where Hippocrates, the legendary doctor, may have begun his career. Other asclepieions were situated in Trikala, Gortys (in Arcadia), and Pergamum in Asia.
Asclepius' powers were not appreciated by all, and his ability to revive the dead soon drew the ire of Zeus. In the eyes of Zeus, Asclepius' action upset the natural order of the universe -a mere mortal helping man evade death. According to some, Zeus was angered, specifically, by Asclepius' acceptance of money in exchange for resurrection. Others say that Zeus killed Asclepius after he agreed to resurrect Hippolytus at the behest of Artemis.
With one swift action, the great Zeus sent down a thunderbolt killing Asclepius. However, realizing the good Asclepius had brought to man, the great Zeus made him into a god, placing him among the stars, transforming Asclepius into the constellation Ophiuchus (the serpent-bearer) .