Whatever we may think of myths, miracles or even unconventional medicine nowadays, the cult of Asclepius must have borne results or it would have fizzled out. On the contrary, his cult spread and some 300 Asclepia sprouted all over Greece. In the museum, you will see inscriptions of improbable cures, such as that of a woman named Cleo who gave birth to a son after being pregnant for five years. There are surgical instruments too; though doubtless some of the healing was based on herbal remedies and a deep understanding of human nature.
An essential element of the cure was to spend the night in a building called the Enkoimitirion (dormitory), where patients would have a ‘consultation’ with the doctor-god in their dreams, sometimes assisted by friendly snakes who would lick them. Even today, the symbol of many medical societies is a staff entwined with a snake, the rod of Asclepius.
But this was a place of healing mind, body and soul, so there were also many temples, a library, a ‘shopping centre’, a luxury hotel with 160 rooms, plus athletic facilities—a stadium, wrestling area, gymnasium/banquet hall—and baths. Patients, pilgrims and relatives could listen to poetry or music, meditate, exercise, and every four years, attend a drama festival and ritual games.