Dr. Tarbell delivered an interesting lecture last evening in the Jefferson Physical Laboratory on Epidauros and the Worship of Asklepios. The subject he declared, is of special interest to us on account of the connection of the worship of Asklepios with the real or supposed art of healing among the Greeks. The worship of Asklepios as the god from whom men derived power to cure wounds and diseases seems to have originated in Thessaly, but in prehistoric times had spread widely over Greece. The god's most important sanctuary was the Epidauros, and his greatest shrines throughout Greece were the offshoots of the Epidaurian. Games in honor of Asklepios, consisting of gymnastics, music and the representation of plays were established at Epidauros in very early times. A great many fanciful theories have been propounded as to a connection between these games and the art of healing.
All our accounts of the temple at Epidauros are of a comparatively late date, and come mainly from Liny, Strabo and Pausanias. Sulla plundered it in 87 B. C., to get money to pay his soldiers, and the temple never entirely recovered from his raid, although in the second century of our era enjoyed the favor of Antoninus Pius, who built baths within its precincts. After that the darkness of the middle ages settled upon Epidauros, and we do not hear of it again until the latter part of the last century, when it was visited first by Richard Chandler, and afterwards by many travelers both English and French. All agreed that it was a promising place for excavating, and work was begun in 1881 by the Greek Archaeological society. The excavations were continued until 1885, and have proved to be among the most successful ever carried on in Greece. Two temples have been discovered, and one circular structure, of unknown purpose, but great architectural merit. The debris has been cleared away from the theatre, and the stage structure thus revealed has led to a revolution in our ideas as to the manner of the production of a Greek play. Many sculptures have been found of over average merit, though none of the highest. But most important has been the harvest of interesting inscriptions. One inscription gives the account of the building of the temple, another is a hymn to Asklepios, and still others record remarkable cures experienced by his favor. Temples of Asklepois on the side of the Acropolis in Athens and in the Piraeus have also been uncrated.
It has been sometimes said that the practice of medicine originated in connection with the worship of Asklepios, and the cures recorded on the style at Epidauros formed the basis of the system of medicine of the first physicians. But the evidence we have does not at all bear out this supposition, for the records on the style show absolutely no trace of medical practice. The cures were simple miracles. The whole matter is very well illustrated by the present annual pilgrimages of sick people to the island of Tenos, to be healed at the shrine of the Madonna. A plan of Epidauros and a number of bas-reliefs were shown to the audience by means of the stereopticon.