Omicron’s mythical musings: the birth of Asklepios

The Birth of Asklepios

Hello everyone!

As you will have seen on Facebook and Twitter, I haven’t been well at all for about a week. Thank you for your nice messages! I’m feeling a little bit better now and realised this morning that it is time for another Musing.

It makes sense to follow a medical theme, I think, so here’s a bit about the Birth of Asklepios. I hope you enjoy it! (By the way, before we start, this is a picture of me earlier this week…..I was really ill!)

Apollo was the god of an awful lot of things, including medicine and healing. He had an affair with a mortal woman called Coronis, who got pregnant. Apollo really liked her, so it was a real shock to find out that she had also been sleeping with a mortal. She didn’t tell him herself – a white crow came and told him. Apollo was so upset that he turned the crow black. I like this image – it’s on a very famous kylix in the museum in Delphi, Apollo’s amazing sanctuary.

You can see Apollo sitting down here, wearing his signature laurel wreath. He is holding a lyre because he was also the god of music and culture. Then behind him you can see the black crow.

Apollo, in a jealous fury, killed Coronis. But as she was burning on the funeral pyre, he took pity on the unborn baby and rescued him from her womb. The child was Asklepios. Apollo handed his son over to Chiron the centaur to be brought up and trained in medicine and in the arts of healing.

The cult of Asklepios was based in Epidavros in the Peloponnese, which you probably know as the site of the famous theatre. People would come here from all over Greece – not only to study in the school of medicine, but to have treatment for their illnesses.

Asklepios’ symbols were twin snakes entwined around a rod. You can see them here, in the picture of me with a bronze statuette of Asklepios at the shop.

Sometimes he was shown with pine-cones (there are lovely pine trees in Epidavros) and a crown of laurel (like his father Apollo).

Extra interesting bits I found out!

1. Chiron was a popular choice for bringing up infant boys! Achilles, Jason , Theseus and Herakles were brought up by him. The centaurs in general were an unruly mob who got drunk quite a lot and used to cart off women from wedding receptions etc…..but Chiron was a bit different: he was very civilised. This is a picture of Chiron with baby Achilles.

2. Asklepios had a daughter called Hygieia, who became the goddess of health and wellbeing. This is a picture of me with one of our replicas of Hygieia at the shop. She’s lovely and calming!

3. The twin serpent image is the logo for the British Medical Association : I found this out because a customer had a credit card with it on!

Anyway, that’s it for now. I hope you all have a nice weekend. I’m going to take it easy I think – if they’ll let me!


Omicron x

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