Temple of Apollo
Temple of Asklepios
The Large Temple
View from the Third Level
View from the First Level
Pan Detail on Fountain Head
Staircase to Sacred Forest
During the 6th century BCE, after giving birth to her son Asklepios at Epidaurus, Koronis the daughter of the King of Thessaly, abandoned him in shame. He was brought up by his father, the God Apollo, who taught him the skills of medicine and sent him to the Centaur Cheiron to be educated.
He became so skilled in the art of medicine that Zeus became jealous of his fame and importance, and struck him down with a thunder bolt. Following his death however Asklepios attained the rank of a God, and his work was carried on by his children at hospitals, called Asklepions, which were built across the Greek territories.
The ritual of healing comprised of offering a sacrifice and purification followed by a sleep where Asklepios appeared in the patients dream either curing them using a snake or suggesting a treatment to be administered by his priests.
Although the imposing site near the foot of Mount Oromedon, overlooking Kos town and the Turkish mainland only a few miles away, had been used by the Mycenaeans since the 2nd millennium BCE, the building of the Asklepion of Kos was started during the 5th century BCE, and it is one of the three most important Asklepieia, ranking with those at Epidaurus and Trikke, and having the further distinction of being the hospital at which Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, worked and taught.
Built in a sacred forest, in an area fed by many springs, the Kos Asklepion comprised of three large terraces which appear to have been built in turn during the 5th, 4th, and 3rd centuries BCE respectively, with enormous staircases leading up to each level.
The first staircase, of twenty four stairs, lead up to the anderum enclosed on three sides by galleries with chambers behind which held a medical school, and anatomy and pathology museums. In two underground chambers were a temple to Aphrodite (Aphrodisiacs) thought to have contained the famous statue of the Goddess by Praxiteles. There were many votive items found, when the site was excavated in 1902, each representing diseased or injured body parts offered to the Goddess in a hope of a cure. on the facing wall a series of niches contain spas. One to the left of the stairs has a representation of a seated Pan with a flute on its fountain head. At the eastern end are the later ruins of a Roman Thermae. On this level festivals and athletic contests were held.
The second staircase, of thirty stairs, leads up to the second anderum where centrally placed is the altar of Kyparissios Apollo dated 4th century BCE. To its right is the 3rd century Ionian temple of Apollo behind which was a Roman house built on Greek foundations, which was probably the high priests chambers, alongside the sacred well. To its left a 2nd century Corinthian style temple to Apollo.
A third staircase of sixty stairs leads up to the third level where stood the great temple of Asclepius. Built in the peripteral Doric style it measured 100 by 60 feet and had 104 columns. During later xtian times the temple was converted for the use as a church. This upper level was surrounded on three sides by accommodation for the patients, the forth side leading into the sacred forest.