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Arch Hellen Med, 27(2), March-April 2010, 259-263


The "smart" Asclepieion: A total healing environment

1Department of the History of Medicine, School of Medicine, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki
2Department of Library Science and Information Systems, Technological Educational Institute (TEI) of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece

For more than eight centuries, the Asclepieia in ancient Greece offerred health care, combining experimental therapeutic methods with a variety of religious and magical elements. This paper argues that neither the location nor the building composition of the Asclepieia were selected at random. Literature sources and excavations indicate that Asclepieia were built in locations of great natural beauty, rich in vegetation, with thermal springs and spectacular views. Buildings such as theaters, gymnasia and hippodromes, used by patients for physical exercise and recreation, were constructed next to the buildings where physicians were practising medicine. Some of the most important Asclepieia are described here, with emphasis on the special qualities of the natural environment and the recreational character of the buildings. It is obvious that the Asclepieia adopted a holistic approach to treatment, recognizing the importance both of the psychological and emotional factors in the healing procedure as well as the activation of the innate healing mechanisms of every human: medical intervention was combined with improvement of the psychological condition of sick people, by providing a pleasant and healthy environment for their residence. What has recently emerged as a major issue and a focal point in hospital design appears to have been a well-established practice in the ancient Greek healing centers.

Key words: Ancient medicine, Asclepieia, Holistic treatment, Greece.

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