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EPIDAURUS

EPIDAURUS (Ἐπίδαυρος: Eth. Ἐπιδαύριος), a town on the eastern coast of Peloponnesus, in the district called Argolis under the Romans. Throughout the flourishing period of Grecian history it was an independent state, possessing a small territory (Ἐπιδαυρία), bounded on the west by the Argeia, on the north by the Corinthia, on the south by the Troezenia, and on the east by the Saronic gulf. Epidaurus is situated on a small peninsula, which projects from a narrow plain, surrounded on the land side by mountains. In this plain the vine is chiefly cultivated, as it was in the time of Homer (ἀμπελόεντ̓ Ἐπίδαυρον, Hom. Il. 2.561). North of the peninsula is a well protected harbour; south of it, an open roadstead. The original town was confined to the peninsula, which is 15 stadia in circumference. (Strab. viii. p.374.) The town also extended upon the shore both north and south of the peninsula, and embraced the small promontory which forms the southern extremity of the northern harbour. Epidaurus is accurately described by Strabo (l.c.) as situated in a recess of the Saronic gulf, looking towards the NE., and shut in by high mountains.

Epidaurus possessed only a small territory; but various circumstances contributed to make it a place of importance at an early period. Of these the principal was its temple of Asclepius, situated at the distance of five miles from the city, of which we shall speak presently. Epidaurus lay near Aegina and the other islands in the Saronic gulf, and nearly opposite the harbours of Athens, from which it was distant only a six hours' sail. It was likewise nearly due east of Argos, from which there was a highway to Epidaurus, forming the chief line of communication between Argos and the Saronic gulf. Epidaurus was said by Aristotle to have been originally a Carian settlement. Hence it was called Epicarus. Strabo relates that its more ancient name was Epitaurus. (Strab. l.c. Steph. B. sub voce Ἐπίδαυρος; Eustath. ad Hom. Il. 2.561.) It was afterwards colonised by lonians. According, to Aristotle, it was colonised by Ionians from the Attic tetrapolis, in conjunction with the Heracleidae on their return to Peloponnesus (ap. Strab. l.c.); but it is more in accordance with the generally received legend to suppose that Epidaurus had been previously colonised by Ionians, and that these latter were expelled by the Dorian invaders. Indeed, this is the statement of Pausanias, who relates that at the time of the Dorian invasion Epidaurus was governed by Pityreus, a descendant of Ion, who surrendered the country without a contest to Deiphontes and the Argives, and himself retired to Athens with his citizens. (Paus. 2.26.1, seq.) Deiphontes is represented as the son-in-law of Temenus, who obtained Argos as his share of the Dorian conquests, having married Hyrnetho, the daughter of Temenus. The misfortunes of Deiphontes afforded materials for the tragic poets. (Dict. of Biogr. art. Deiphontes.) Whatever truth there may be in these legends, the fact is certain that the Dorians became masters of Epidaurus, and continued throughout the historical period the ruling class in the state. At an early period Epidaurus appears to have been one of the chief commercial cities in the Peloponnesus. It colonised Aegina, which was for a long time subject to it. [AEGINA p. 33a.] It also colonised, near the coasts of Asia Minor, the islands of Cos, Calydnus, and Nisyrus. (Hdt. 7.99.) But as Aegina grew in importance, Epidaurus declined, and in the sixth century B.C. almost all the commerce of the mother-city had passed into the hands of the Aeginetans.

Epidaurus was originally governed by kings, the reputed descendants of Deiphontes; but, as in most of the other Grecian states, monarchy was succeeded by an oligarchy, which was in its turn superseded for a time by a tyranny. Amongst the tyrants of Epidaurus was Procles, whose daughter Melissa was married to Periander, tyrant of Corinth; and when Procles resented the murder of his daughter by Periander, the latter marched against his father-in-law and led him away into captivity after taking Epidaurus. (Hdt. 3.50-52.) After the abolition of the tyranny the government of Epidaurus again reverted to the oligarchy. who retained possession of it during the whole historical period. For this reason the Epidaurians were always firm allies of Sparta, and severed their connection with their mother-city, Argos, since the latter had adopted a democratical constitution. Of the exact form of the Epidaurian government we have no particulars. We only read of magistrates called Artynae, who were presidents of a council of 180 members. (Plut. Quaest. [p. 1.841]Graec. 1.) The original inhabitants of the country were called Κονίποδες or dusty-feet, and cultivated the land for their Dorian masters in the city. (Plut. l.c.; Hesych. sub voce Κονίποδες; Muller, Dor. vol. ii. pp. 57, 151, transl.) In the Peloponnesian War (B.C. 419) the Argives made war upon the Epidaurians and attempted to take their city, but they were repulsed and obliged to retreat into their own territories. (Thuc. 5.53-57.) In the time of the Romans, Epidaurus was little more than the harbour of the temple of Asclepius. Pausanias gives only a brief account of its public buildings. He mentions a temple of Athena Cissaea on the acropolis; temples of Dionysus, Artemis, and Aphrodite, in the city; a sacred enclosure of Asclepius in the suburbs; and a temple of Hera on a promontory at the harbour, which promontory is doubtless the one forming the northern entrance to the harbour, and now called C. Nikolao. (Paus. 2.29.1.) The name of Epidaurus is still preserved in the corrupted form of Pídhavro, which is the name of a neighbouring village. The foundations of the ancient walls may be traced in many parts along the cliffs of the peninsula. Here Dodwell noticed some fragments of columns, and a draped statue of a female figure, forming apparently the cover of a sarcophagus. The sea has encroached upon the shore on either side of the peninsula, and some remains of the outer city may still be seen under water.

The temple of Asclepius was situated at the distance of 5 miles west of Epidaurus on the road to Argos. (Liv. 45.28.) It was one of the most celebrated spots in Greece, and was frequented by patients from all parts of the Hellenic world for the cure of their diseases. The temple itself was only a small part of the sacred spot. Like the Altis at Olympia, and the Hierum of Poseidon at the Isthmus, there was a sacred enclosure, usually called the grove (ἄλσος) of Asclepius, and containing several public buildings. It stood in a small plain entirely surrounded by mountains. (Paus. 2.27.1.) The sacred enclosure was “less than a mile in circumference; it was confined on two sides by steep hills, and on the other two by a wall, which appears to have formed a right angle in the lowest and most level part of the valley, and is still traceable in several places.” (Leake.) The recollection of the sacred character of this valley has been preserved down to the present name. It is still called Hierón (ἱερόν), or the Sanctuary; and it is a curious circumstance that the village, through which the road leads to the Hieron, bears the name of Koróni, evidently derived from Coronis, the mother of Asclepius, and which it must have preserved from ancient times, although the name is not mentioned by ancient writers. Of the mountains surrounding the sanctuary the highest lies to the north: it is now called Bolonidiá, and bore in ancient times the name of TITTHIUM (Τίτθιον), because the child of Coronis, which was exposed upon this mountain, was here suckled by a goat. (Paus. 2.26.4, 27.7.) Mount CYNORTIUM (Κυνόρτιον, Paus. 2.27.7), on which stood a temple of Apollo Maleatas, is probably the hill in the southeast of the valley, above the theatre, on the way to Troezen. Pausanias also mentions a hill called CORYPHAEUM, on the summit of which was a temple of Artemis Coryphaea. It appears to have been the height in the south-west of the valley, since some believed that an olive tree on the ascent to the mountain was the boundary of the territory of Asine. (Paus. 2.28.2.) The buildings in the sacred grove are described by Pausanias. He mentions first the temple of Asclepius, containing a chryselephantine statue of the god, the work of Thrasymedes of Paros, and half the size of the temple of Zeus at Olympia. The god sat upon a throne, holding a staff in one hand, and resting the other upon the head of a serpent; a dog lay at his feet. On one side of the temple there were dormitories for those who came to consult the god. Near the temple was the Tholus, a circular building of white marble, built by Polycleitus of Argos, and containing pictures by Pausias. In the sacred enclosure there was a theatre, also built by Polycleitus, which Pausanias considered particularly worthy of attention. The other objects within the sacred enclosure specified by Pausanias were temples of Artemis, Aphrodite, and Themis, a stadium, a fountain covered with a roof, and several works erected by Antoninus Pius before he became emperor of Rome, of which the most important were the bath of Asclepius, a temple of the gods called Epidotae, a temple dedicated to Hygieia, Asclepius, and Apollo surnamed the Aegyptian, and a building beyond the sacred enclosure for the reception of the dying and of women in labour, because it was unlawful for any one to die or to be born within the sanctuary. (Paus. 2.27.) A festival was celebrated in the sacred grove in honour of Asclepius with musical and gymnastic games: it took place every four years, nine days after the Isthmian games. (Schol, ad Pind. Nem. 3.145; Plat Ion, init.; Dict. of Ant. art. Asclepieia.) The site of the sacred enclosure is now covered with ruins, which it is difficult for the most part to assign to any definite buildings. The position of the Tholus is clearly marked by its foundations, from which it appears that it was about 20 feet in diameter. In its neighbourhood are some foundations of a temple, which was probably the great temple of Asclepius. The ruins of the theatre are the most important. Leake observes that this theatre is in better preservation than any other temple in Greece, except that which exists near Trametzús in Epirus, not far from Ioánnina. “The orchestra was about, 90 feet in length, and the entire theatre about 370 feet in diameter: 32 rows of seats still appear above ground in a lower division, which is separated by a diazoma from an upper, consisting of 20 seats. Twenty-four scalae, or flights of steps, diverging in equidistant radii from the bottom to the top, formed the communications with the seats. The theatre, when complete, was capable of containing 12,000 spectators.” Of the stadium there remain the circular end and a part of the adjacent sides, with 15 rows of seats. Near it are the ruins of two cisterns and a bath.

When L. Aemilius Paulus visited Epidaurus in B.C. 167 after the conquest of Macedonia, the sanctuary was still rich in gifts presented by those who had recovered from diseases; but it had been robbed of most of these votive offerings before the. time of Livy. (Liv. xlv, 28.) It suffered most from the depredations of Sulla at the same time that he robbed the temples of Olympia and Delphi. (Diod. Exc. p. 614, ed. Wess.) It is described by Strabo as a place renowned for the cure of all diseases, always full of invalids, and containing votive tablets descriptive of the cures, as at Cos and Tricca. (Strab. viii. p.374.) [p. 1.842]

Of the worship of Asclepius by the Epidaurians, of his sacred snakes, and of the introduction of his worship into Rome and other places, an account is given elsewhere. (Dict. of Biogr. art. Aesculapius.) (Dodwell, Tour through Greece, vol. ii. p. 255; Leake, Morea, vol. ii. p. 416; Boblaye, Recherches, &c. p. 54, seq.; Curtius, Peloponnesos, vol. ii. p. 416, seq.)

COIN OF EPIDAURUS.

hide References (14 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (14):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.52
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.50
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.99
    • Homer, Iliad, 2.561
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.26.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.26.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.27
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.27.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.28.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.27.7
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.29.1
    • Thucydides, Histories, 5.53
    • Thucydides, Histories, 5.57
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 45, 28
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