Asklepios was the Greek god of healing. He was believed to be the son of Apollo and to have learned medicine from Chiron the centaur. He is usually portrayed with a beard, holding a staff with a snake entwined round it, called the rod of Asklepios. The caduceus, a short staff with wings and two snakes entwined (a symbol of Hermes), has been adopted as the modern symbol of medicine in some parts of the world, perhaps in the (mistaken) belief that it is linked to Asklepios.

Patients wishing to be cured by the god visited his temple site, called an Asklepion. It was believed that Asklepios cured patients by visiting them in their sleep at the Asklepion. Sometimes the patient was cured by Asklepios’s daughters, Panacea and Hygeia, who were often helped by snakes. Alternatively, patients would describe their dreams to a priest of Asklepios, who would interpret the dreams and suggest a treatment.

The cult of Asklepios continued to flourish in Roman times, although he was known to the Romans as ‘Aesculapius’.