Greeks first had temples of healing under Apollo, and when Apollo as the god of healing was displaced by Asclepius, these temples ended up as asclepeion. The Romans adopted this idea of temples for healing and also developed the military hospital (valetudinarium) which were stationed in their military forts.

For someone who was sick and accessed a temple of healing, what kind of service would they receive? And who had access to these services? The rich? The poor? Everyone? Did they have to pay? It's evident that one certainly had to be rich to have access to a physician, but I'm not sure how this played out in the Asclepeion.

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    Related: Was there a time when it was easier for slaves than citizens to access state-sponsored medical facilities in Ancient Rome? Which seems to cover parts of your inquiry. Could you edit to make sure this isn't a duplicate? Jan 3, 2020 at 16:30
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    – MCW
    Jan 3, 2020 at 18:12
  • @LаngLаngС I've added a note to my answer to clarify it a bit. That answer explains that the poor definitely had no access to physicians or the valetudinaria, but it says nothing of the asclepeion. Also Mark C. Wallace I went over the Wiki page and found a very detailed explanation of what happened in Vivien Nutton's Ancient Medicine then the Wiki gives so I decided to answer my own question.
    – arara
    Jan 4, 2020 at 0:20

1 Answer 1


Vivian Nutton provides a detailed account for the workings for a Greek/Roman temple like the Asclepeion in his book Ancient Medicine pp. 109-110.

At the shrine suppliants would purify themselves at a sacred spring, before offering an appropriate sacrifice, and then, wearing white robes, undergo a second purification before entering the abaton or an adyton, ‘the inaccessible’, words that stress that it is a building barred to the normal visitor. Only those prepared to meet the god or to serve him as a priest were allowed to enter or to find out what actually took place within. A man called Aeschines, who climbed a tree to see if he could see what was happening when the suppliants were asleep, was punished by falling on to a fence and nearly losing his sight. The abaton itself was a long porticoed edifice with distinctive individual rooms: when no such building existed, as in the early years at Athens, it was enough to sleep within the temple itself or perhaps even its precinct. If the suppliants were fortunate, while asleep they would receive a vision from Asclepius. In it sometimes the god himself appeared and healed them by acting as a physician or surgeon; sometimes it was one of the sacred snakes or dogs who appeared to lick or enter the person; sometimes the dream itself was a mere riddle and required further assistance to be understood. On waking, the sufferer might be completely recovered, all paralysis or swellings gone, but sometimes the god had given instructions which needed to be interpreted by a priest or temple guardian and then followed up before a cure was secured. Many of the treatments find parallels within contemporary medicine, but others were perhaps selected for public display precisely because of their striking divergences from it. But to think of the healing encounter solely in terms of medical techniques is to miss the context in which it takes place – the physical setting, the sacred spring, the sacred grove (even if, as at the Asclepieion at Athens, it could have hardly amounted to more than three or four trees), the sacrifices, and the reassurance offered by the memorials, whether inscriptions or cultic recitations, that this was a place where healing was available.

Source: Ancient Medicine (2004), pp.109-110.

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