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406. Cures of women's diseases, from the shrine of Asclepius in Epidaurus. First half of 4th cent. B.C. (IG IV.2. 121-22, exc. G)

From an inscription listing cures by Apollo and Asclepius, brought about as the result of 'incubation', or sleeping in the sanctuary.[1]

1. Cleo was pregnant for five years. After she had been pregnant for five years she came as a suppliant to the god and slept in the sanctuary. As soon as she came out of the inner sanctuary and was outside the temple the enclosure she gave birth to a son. This son as soon as he was born washed himself in the spring and walked around with his mother. After this experience she put up a votive offering: 'Wonder not at the greatness of this tablet but of the god, because he healed Cleo, after she had been pregnant and had carried the burden in her womb for five years, until she slept in the sanctuary.

2. A three-year pregnancy. Ithmonica of Pellene came to the sanctuary in order to have children. She fell asleep and saw a dream. She seemed to be asking the god that she become pregnant with a girl child, and that Asclepius said that she would become pregnant and told her that if she had any other request, he would grant it to her, but she said that she did not need anything. She conceived and was pregnant for three years, until she returned to the god as a suppliant, in order to give birth. After she went to sleep, she saw a dream. She thought that the god had asked if everything had not happened as she had asked and if she had not become pregnant. But she had not made any specific request about childbirth, and when he had inquired about this, and asked if she needed anything else, to say so, so that he could do that as well. But since she had come to him now about this matter, he said to tell him her request.[2]

And after this when she went out of the sanctuary and left the temple enclosure, she gave birth to a daughter.

21. Arata, a Spartan, suffering from dropsy. On her behalf her mother slept in the sanctuary while she stayed in Sparta. It seemed to her that the god cut off her daughter's head and hung her body with the neck downwards. After a considerable amount of water had flowed out, he released the body and put the head back on her neck. after she saw this dream she returned to Sparta and found that her daughter had recovered and had seen the same dream.

23. Aristagora of Troezen. When she had a tapeworm in her stomach she slept in the sanctuary of Asclepius in Troezen and had a dream. She thought that since the god was not present, but rather in Epidaurus, his three sons cut off her head, but since they were not able to put it back again they sent a messenger to get Asclepius to come. Meanwhile daylight intervened and the priest saw her head removed from her body. The next night Aristagora had a dream. The god seemed to come from Epidaurus and replace her head on her neck, and after that he cut open her stomach and took out the tapeworm and sewed her up again, and after this she was cured.

25. Sostrata of Pherae was pregnant with worms. When she was absolutely too weak to walk, she was brought into the sanctuary and slept there. When she did not see any clear dream, she went back home again. After that near Cornoi someone seemed to appear to her and her escort, a distinguished-looking man, who inquired about their misfortune; he told them to put down the litter on which they were carrying Sostrata. Then he cut open her stomach and removed a large multitude of worms, two washbasins full. Then he sewed up her stomach, and once he had cured her, Asclepius showed that it was he who had appeared, and ordered her to send votive offerings to Epidaurus.

31. Andromache, from Epirus, for children. She fell asleep and saw a dream. It seemed to her that a handsome youth uncovered her, and after that the god touched her with his hand.[3]

After this a son was born to Andromache, whose father was Arrybas.

34. An anonymous woman from Troezen, for children. She fell asleep and saw a dream. The god seemed to say that she would bear children and asked her whether she wanted a boy or a girl. She said that she wanted a boy and after that within a year a son was born to her.

39. Agameda of Ceos. She slept in the sanctuary, in order to have children and saw a dream. She thought that a snake lay on her stomach while she slept. After this five children were born to her.[4]

40. Nicasiboula, a Messenian, slept in the sanctuary in order to have children and saw a dream. The god seemed to come to her carrying a snake that went towards her and that she had intercourse with the snake. After this she bore two male children within the year.Return to the top


Notes:

1. Cf. Edelstein 1945, no. 423.

2. A demonstration of the god's superior understanding, since mortals and even gods do not always know what they need to ask for; in the myth the goddess Dawn asks Zeus to grant immortality to her mortal lover Tithonus, but forgets to ask for eternal youth; Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 217-38.

3. In the myth, Zeus restores Io's sanity by touching her with his hand (Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 847-8).

4. The god's sacred snakes were kept in the sanctuary and effected many different kinds of cures.