territory joins that of Epidaurus
. But before you reach Epidaurus
itself you will come to the sanctuary of Asclepius. Who dwelt in this land before Epidaurus
came to it I do not know, nor could I discover from the natives the descendants of Epidaurus
either. But the last king before the Dorians arrived in the Peloponnesus
was, they say, Pityreus, a descendant of Ion, son of Xuthus, and they relate that he handed over the land to Deiphontes and the Argives without a struggle.
He went to Athens
with his people and dwelt there, while Deiphontes and the Argives took possession of Epidauria. These on the death of Temenus seceded from the other Argives; Deiphontes and Hyrnetho through hatred of the sons of Temenus, and the army with them, because it respected Deiphontes and Hyrnetho more than Ceisus and his brothers. Epidaurus, who gave the land its name, was, the Eleans say, a son of Pelops but, according to Argive
opinion and the poem the Great Eoeae
the father of Epidaurus
was Argus, son of Zeus, while the Epidaurians maintain that Epidaurus
was the child of Apollo.
That the land is especially sacred to Asclepius is due to the following reason. The Epidaurians say that Phlegyas came to the Peloponnesus
, ostensibly to see the land, but really to spy out the number of the inhabitants, and whether the greater part of them was warlike. For Phlegyas was the greatest soldier of his time, and making forays in all directions he carried off the crops and lifted the cattle.
When he went to the Peloponnesus
, he was accompanied by his daughter, who all along had kept hidden from her father that she was with child by Apollo. In the country of the Epidaurians she bore a son, and exposed him on the mountain called Nipple at the present day, but then named Myrtium. As the child lay exposed he was given milk by one of the goats that pastured about the mountain, and was guarded by the watch-dog of the herd. And when Aresthanas （for this was the herdsman's name）
discovered that the tale of the goats was not full, and that the watch-dog also was absent from the herd, he left, they say, no stone unturned, and on finding the child desired to take him up. As he drew near he saw lightning that flashed from the child, and, thinking that it was something divine, as in fact it was, he turned away. Presently it was reported over every land and sea that Asclepius was discovering everything he wished to heal the sick, and that he was raising dead men to life.
There is also another tradition concerning him. Coronis, they say, when with child with Asclepius, had intercourse with Ischys, son of Elatus. She was killed by Artemis to punish her for the insult done to Apollo, but when the pyre was already lighted Hermes is said to have snatched the child from the flames.
The third account is, in my opinion, the farthest from the truth; it makes Asclepius to be the son of Arsinoe
, the daughter of Leucippus. For when Apollophanes the Arcadian, came to Delphi
and asked the god if Asclepius was the son of Arsinoe
and therefore a Messenian, the Pythian priestess gave this response:—“0 Asclepius, born to bestow great joy upon mortals,
Pledge of the mutual love I enjoyed with Phlegyas' daughter,
Lovely Coronis, who bare thee in rugged land Epidaurus
. This oracle makes it quite certain that Asclepius was not a son of Arsinoe
, and that the story was a fiction invented by Hesiod, or by one of Hesiod's interpolators, just to please the Messenians.
There is other evidence that the god was born in Epidaurus
for I find that the most famous sanctuaries of Asclepius had their origin from Epidaurus
. In the first place, the Athenians, who say that they gave a share of their mystic rites to Asclepius, call this day of the festival Epidauria, and they allege that their worship of Asclepius dates from then. Again, when Archias, son of Aristaechmus, was healed in Epidauria after spraining himself while hunting about Pindasus, he brought the cult to Pergamus
From the one at Pergamus
has been built in our own day the sanctuary of Asclepius by the sea at Smyrna
. Further, at Balagrae of the Cyreneans there is an Asclepius called Healer, who like the others came from Epidaurus
. From the one at Cyrene
was founded the sanctuary of Asclepius at Lebene, in Crete
. There is this difference between the Cyreneans and the Epidaurians, that whereas the former sacrifice goats, it is against the custom of the Epidaurians to do so.
That Asclepius was considered a god from the first, and did not receive the title only in course of time, I infer from several signs, including the evidence of Homer, who makes Agamemnon say about Machaon:—“Talthybius, with all speed go summon me hither Machaon,
Mortal son of Asclepius.
”Hom. Il. 4.193
As who should say, “human son of a god.”