The Cult of Asklepios as a Link between Research and Urban Development

The evolution of medicine in the course of time from the belief in supernatural acts to a scientific approach started in ancient times. An important part of this evolution was the cult of the ancient healing god Asklepios in whose sanctuaries healers and physicians treated and studied the suffering of patients. In addition to working with the patients, they had access to written research which was stored in ancient libraries. These libraries and sanctuaries needed to grow in order to make progress in the field of medicine (and progress made growth necessary), while at the same time the affiliated cities grew with these institutions. Thus, both developments may have accelerated instead of just advancing naturally.
This PhD project aims to prove the hypothesis that the healing god Asklepios can be seen as a link between ancient medical research and the development of cities. To achieve this, the study will mainly make use of literary and epigraphical sources and supplement these with archaeological and numismatic findings from selected locations around the Mediterranean Sea. All findings will be used to generate a database and “archive” of Asklepios-themed sources, which will also be assembled in a catalogue to be used for further research.

Asklepieion of Cos. Digital reconstruction by Franck Devedjian (source:; Licence: CC-BY-SA), edited by Sascha Boelcke.

Project by Sascha Boelcke


Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions