Epidaurus

Epidaurus was a small city (polis) in ancient Greece, on the Argolid Peninsula in the Peloponnese. A sanctuary to Asklepios, the god of medicine and healing, developed as the official cult of the city-state and became an important sacred centre of healing. The prosperity brought by the Asklepieion enabled Epidaurus to construct some of the purest masterpieces of Greek architecture, including the huge theatre that delighted Pausanias for its symmetry and beauty. The site is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Coordinates: 37°35’44.9″N 23°04’46.7″E

Long before the cult of Asklepios was established, the area around Epidaurus was the site of ceremonial healing practices, later associated with the worship of the deity Apollo Maleatas. The sanctuary was located on a low hill on Mount Kynortion, above the later Asklepieion. Asklepios, whom the Epidaurians claimed to be from their city (although the cult began in Thessaly), took precedence from the 6th century BC when the sanctuary was developed into the most important therapeutic centre of the ancient world where ill people went in the hope of being cured. Inscribed slabs recorded that the sick undertook ritual sleep in the sanctuary, during which the god appeared to them in dreams.

Statue of Asklepios found in Epidaurus.

Asklepios, son of Apollo (god of healing, truth, and prophecy) and the mortal princess Koronis, learned medicine and the art of healing from the centaur Chiron. Credited with possessing great healing powers, Asklepios brought prosperity to the sanctuary and reach its peak in the 4th and 3 rd centuries BC when the Epidaurians launched a lavish building programme. The new facilities included healing cults and rituals, a library, temples to Artemis and Asklepios, baths, a stadium, a hospital and a theatre. The sporting and artistic buildings were used in the Asklepieia festival, founded around 400 BC and held every four years to celebrate theatre, sport and music.

The Epidaurian cult was exported throughout the ancient world so that more than 200 new Asklepieia were built, the most notable being in Athens, Kos, Pergamon, and in Rome, all under the patronage of the sanctuary in Epidauros.

Hadrian visited Epidaurus during his first trip to Greece in the year AD 124. His visit had a definite effect upon the sanctuary as the emperor enforced new regulations concerning the appointment of religious ministers and the recurrence of the Asklepieia. Most of the Epidaurian coins minted after Hadrian’s visit had Asklepieia as part of the reverse legend. Hadrian’s visit is attested in at least three inscriptions (IG IV²,1 606, IG IV²,1 607, AE 1974, 611) in which he is called “saviour and benefactor”. The city erected a statue of him in AD 124 and a new era in the local calendar began from this year (IG IV²,1 384).

A portrait-head and a loricated torso have been identified as belonging to a statue of Hadrian.

The sanctuary enjoyed a new flowering in the mid-2nd century AD when Sextus Iulius Maior Antoninus Phytodorus, an aristocrat from Nysa in Asia Minor, funded a rebuilding programme. New gods were also introduced into the sanctuary: Ammon, Sarapis, and Isis, as evidenced by the discoveries of dedicatory inscriptions. In AD 395 the Goths under Alaric raided the sanctuary. Emperor Theodosius II definitively ended the sanctuary’s rites in AD 426, but even after the introduction of Christianity and the silencing of the oracles, Epidaurus was still known as late as the mid 5th century as a Christian healing centre. A five-aisled early Christian basilica was built at the end of the 4th century AD, making it one of the earliest churches known in Greece.

Excavations at the ancient site were first begun in 1881 under the auspices of the Greek Archaeological Society and continue to the present day. Today, the magnificent theatre, renowned for its exceptional acoustics, is still used for performances in an annual traditional theatre festival.

PORTFOLIO

The theatre is one of the best-preserved in Greece. It was celebrated in antiquity for its beauty and harmonious proportions.
The 55 rows of seats of the theatre, taking about 14,000 spectators, rest on a natural slope, except at the north-west end where they are held up by artificial fill.
The elliptical cavea, the entrances to the paradoi, the proskenion, and scene-building and the orchestra in the form of a full circle were built of local limestone in the second half of the 4th century BC.
The remains of the Gymnasium, a square building with an inner peristyled court and porticoes and rooms along the four sides. An odeum was constructed in Roman times on the site of the gymnasium.
The monumental propylon which served as the main entrance of the Gymnasium.

The 181 m long stadium, built ca. 480 BC – 338 BC, it held athletic games every four years at the sanctuary of Asklepios.
The foundations (overgrown) of the Temple of Asklepios.
The oblong Αbaton or Enkoimeterion was the centre stage in the healing process. It was used as a dormitory for those awaiting Asklepios’ advice.
The Stoa of the Abaton (or Enkoimeterion) had 29 Ionic columns on the southern face and 13 inner columns.
A stone balustrade filled the openings between the Ionic columns of the upper level.

The circular foundations of the Tholos, ca. 360 BC – ca. 320 BC. The activities of the cult of the Hero Asklepios took place here. It also may have held Asclepius’ sacred snakes, symbols of rebirth and rejuvenation.
The Roman baths had a therapeutic function.
The Roman baths.
A Hellenistic cistern.
The foundations of a Propylon outside the central Sanctuary of Asklepios.

Links:

Gortyn

The archaeological site of Gortyn (or Gortyna), 45 km away from Heraklion, is the largest in Crete and one of the most fascinating. The ancient city was an important settlement throughout antiquity and became the capital of the Roman Province Creta et Cyrenaica in the late 1st century BC. Gortyn is located in the middle of the Mesara plain in south central Crete. According to tradition, it is where Zeus, in the guise of a bull, brought the princess Europa from her home in Phoenicia. Homer mentions Gortyn in the Iliad as “having walls” and in the Odyssey as the place where Menelaus and his fleet of ships, returning home from the Trojan War, were blown off course to the Cretan coastline. Nowadays, Gortyn is particularly well known for its Law Code, the longest extant ancient Greek stone inscription in Greece.

Coordinates: 35° 3′ 45.46″ N, 24° 56′ 48.52″ E

gortyn

The region of Gortyn has been continuously occupied from the Neolithic era (5000-3300 BC) to this day. During the Minoan period, a small settlement established itself under the control of the Minoan palace of nearby Phaistos. Gortyn later developed around a fortified acropolis surrounding the Temple of Athena Poliouchos (city protector), as shown on a clay idol of the armed goddess found on the site. From the 8th century BC, the city expanded towards the south and began to spread to the foot of the hill and along the banks of the Lethaios river where, in the 6th century BC, the agora was laid down. At the same time, other small settlements started to appear further down the plain like the site of the Temple of Apollo Pythios. In the Archaic era, a second centre was added to the city around the Temple of Apollo which became the new official temple of the town.

During the Classical period, Gortyn continued to grew and to prosper but very little remains of this period except for the twelve stone blocks carrying the famous law code discovered in 1884. The 600 lines written in a Dorian dialect and dating to the first half of the 5th century BC were the earliest law code in the Greek world. The inscription, inscribed in the boustrophedon system of writing (alternate lines in opposite directions), provides important information on the laws of the city and specifically its civil law. The code deals with matters surrounding the family and inheritance laws, adoptions, divorces as well as with crimes against morals (rapes, adultery) and the rights of women and slaves.

When the Romans invaded Crete, Gortyn sided with the conquerors and the city became the island’s capital. It enjoyed great prosperity and was endowed with lavish public buildings including a majestic praetorium, an amphitheatre, a hippodrome (unique in Greece), a third agora, baths and temples. At its peak, over 100,000 people are believed to have lived here.

From the 3rd century AD, during the early Christian years, Gortyn was the first Cretan city to welcome the new religion. The nearby village of Agii Deka (Ten Saints) was named after the ten Christian martyrs who were killed in the amphitheatre in AD 249. One of the first Christian churches was built at Gortyn, and the remains of an important 6th-century Byzantine church can still be seen today. It was dedicated to St. Titus, the first Bishop of Crete who was appointed by the Apostle Paul and who undertook the task of disseminating the Christian religion throughout the island. The city was finally destroyed by the Saracens in AD 824.

The ruins of Gortyn occupy a two-kilometre long square area, making this archaeological site the largest in Crete and one of the biggest in the whole of Greece. Sadly most of the buildings are not easily explored and have been fenced off. The only structure fully accessible is the Odeum with the Law Code. Finds from the site are on display in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum and the Sculpture Gallery at the site.

PORTFOLIO

he Acropolis of Gortyn was inhabited from the Neolithic to the Early Byzantine period when the large fortress was built.
The Acropolis of Gortyn was inhabited from the Neolithic to the Early Byzantine period when the large fortress was built.
The remains of the Temple of Athena on the Acropolis of Gortyn. The temple was built in the 7th century BC and converted to a basilica in the 6th century AD.
The remains of the Temple of Athena on the Acropolis of Gortyn. The temple was built in the 7th century BC and converted into a basilica in the 6th century AD.
View of the site of Gortyn and the Mesara Plain from the Acropolis.
View of the site of Gortyn and the Mesara Plain from the Acropolis.
The Roman Odeum. The famous Law Code was covered by a brick built vaulted stoa a few years after its discovery.
The Roman Odeum. It was built in the 1st century BC and after being damaged by an earthquake, was restored by Trajan. The Odeum was a roofed building used for musical and theatrical performances. It is one of the best preserved of its kind in Crete.
The Roman Odeum, built in the 1st century BC and after being damaged by an earthquake, was restored by Trajan, Gortyna, Crete
The Scene and Orchestra of the Roman Odeum. The scene had three entrances and rectangular niches where marble statues stood. The orchestra had a diameter of 8.5m and was covered with blue and white marble paving.
The cavea of the Odeum with carved stone seats which was supported by a vaulted arcade sheltering the Laws of Gortyn.
The cavea of the Odeum with carved stone seats. The cavea was supported by a vaulted arcade which sheltered the Laws of Gortyn.
The Law Code of Gortyn dated to the early 5th century BC. It is housed in a small vaulted brick structure built by the Archaeological Service in 1889.
The Law Code of Gortyn, dated to the early 5th century BC. It is housed in a small vaulted brick structure built by the Archaeological Service in 1889.
The Law Code of Gortyn dated to the early 5th century BC.
The Law Code of Gortyn, inscribed in the boustrophedon system of writing (alternate lines in opposite directions), provides important information on the laws of the city and civil law.
The Great North Theatre built at the foot of the acropolis. It is the oldest theatre of Gortyn. The proscenium (front of the scene) was decorated with statues and reliefs among which a statue of Europe on the Bull was found. This marble group is now kept in the British Museum and is dated to the 2nd century BC (see image here).
The Great North Theatre was built at the foot of the acropolis. It is the oldest theatre of Gortyn. The proscenium (front of the scene) was decorated with statues and reliefs among which a statue of Europe on the Bull was found. This marble group is now kept in the British Museum and is dated to the 2nd century BC (see image here).
The Temple of Apollo Pythios, the main sanctuary of pre-Roman Gortyn built in the 7th century BC.
The Temple of Apollo Pythios was the main sanctuary of pre-Roman Gortyn. It was built in the 7th century BC, and was restored and enlarged during the Hellenistic period whilst alterations and additions were made during the Roman period.
The stepped altar of the Temple of Apollo Pythios which stood before the pronaos and was built during the Roman period.
The stepped altar of the Temple of Apollo Pythios which stood before the pronaos. It was built during the Roman period.
Overview of the Temple of Apollo Pythios.
Overview of the Temple of Apollo Pythios.
The Praetorium built at the beginning of the 2d century AD during the reign of Trajan, it was the residence of the governor of the province.
The ruins of the Praetorium was built at the beginning of the 2nd century AD during the reign of Trajan. It was the residence of the governor of the province and also served as an administrative building.
The Praetorium consisted of a peristyle court covering an area of 1000 square metres and large halls.
The Praetorium consisted of a peristyle court covering an area of 1000 square metres with large halls.
The fenced area of the Praetorium.
The fenced area of the Praetorium.
The Temple of the Egyptian Gods dedicated to the Egyptian gods Isis, Serapis and Anubis. The sanctuary consists of quadrilateral nave, arcade on the west, underground crypt in the south and a cistern outside east of nave. In the central alcove stood the statue of Serapis and the side statues of Isis and Anubis.
The Temple of the Egyptian Gods was dedicated to Isis, Serapis and Anubis. The sanctuary consisted of a quadrilateral nave with an arcade on the west, an underground crypt in the south and a cistern. The final construction phase of the temple dates to the 1st / 2nd century. AD.
The Church of Haghios Titus. It was built in the 6th century AD, but much of what survives certainly belongs to later repairs and additions.
The Church of Agios Titus. It was built in the 6th century AD, but much of what survives certainly belongs to later repairs and additions.

SCULPTURES found at gortyn

Headless statue of emperor Hadrian. He is shown as a triumphant army commander wearing the military cuirass.
Headless statue of emperor Hadrian. He is shown as a triumphant army commander wearing the military cuirass.
Statue group of Persephone (as Isis) and Pluto (as Serapis), from the Sanctuary of the Egyptian Gods at Gortyna, mid-2nd century AD.
Statue group of Persephone (as Isis) and Pluto (as Serapis), from the Sanctuary of the Egyptian Gods at Gortyna, mid-2nd century AD.
Statue of emperor Antoninus Pius (original head in the Heraklion Museum).
Statue of emperor Antoninus Pius (original head in the Heraklion Museum).

Links: