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Ἀσκληπιὸν. In the Iliad Asclepius is a mortal, an “ἀμύμων ἰητήρ” living in western Thessaly, whose two sons, the physicians Podaleirius and Machaon, go thence to Troy. But Sophocles here thinks of Asclepius as a god, whom Heracles is to send from heaven. Prosaic objections have been made to this passage, on the ground that in 1333 it was said that Ph. was to be healed by the Asclepiadae. But it might be replied that those were merely the words of Neoptolemus, who was giving his own interpretation to a vague prediction of Helenus that Ph. would be healed. Even, however, if the oracle itself spoke of the Asclepiadae, there is no poetical unfitness in this further promise—that the healing god himself should visit Troy, to direct and inspire their skill.

Tradition placed Sophocles in a near relation to the cult of Asclepius. The poet is said to have been invested with the ‘priesthood’ (“ἱερωσύνη”, Vit. Soph. § 6) of the hero Alcon, a healing-god akin to Asclepius; indeed, the name “Ἄλκ-ων” is cognate, if “Ἀσκληπιός” be “Ἀλεξ-ήπιος”, by metathesis of “σκ”=“ξ”: cp. Preller I. 423 n. 2. A paean to Asclepius by Sophocles was extant in antiquity (Lucian Enc. Dem. 27 etc.), and legend declared that the god had visited the poet's hearth ( Plut. Num. 4§ 6).

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    • Plutarch, Numa, 4
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