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Saturday, December 13, 2014

2600 B.C.-30 A.D.: Greek/ Roman gods will cure your asthma

If you had asthma in ancient Greece or Rome, how would you fare?  What would you do?  Probably, as with any ancient civilization, you'd grin and bear it as long as possible, and while doing so you'd pray to one of the gods for healing.

Greek and Roman mythology is very similar, bringing to mind that newer nations that develop often adapt the cultures of the nations they swallow.  Many of the following gods probably made their way from Egyptian to Greek culture, and then to Roman.  One such example was the Greek Hermes and Roman Murcury, who was probably the same god as Thoth in ancient Egypt, or the god of arts and sciences, and secretary to the gods.

No one knows for sure when these legends were created, although some speculate it may have been sometime around 2600 B.C.  No one knows if these legends were based on actual events, or if they were simply entertainment that worked their way into mythology.  Regardless, what we do know is that all the gods had the ability to cause diseases and to heal diseases, although some more so than others.

That in mind, here are some of the most well known Greek/Roman gods of mythology (Greek name/ Roman name).  I think it's important to know about these because, if you lived in ancient Greece and Rome, it is them you'd pray for for health and healing.  

1.  Zeus/ Jupiter:  When his father Jupiter died, he and his two brothers (Neptune and Pluto) divided the world among themselves.  Jupiter became king of the heavens, earth and life, and thus king of the gods. He had a very jealous wife named Juno.  They had many children, all with magical power. 

2. Hera/ Juno:  She was the wife and sister of Zeus/ Jupiter.  She was therefore the queen of the gods, and the goddess of marriage. According to most myths she was not nice.  He had the ability to swallow cities with his water, and so Greek and Roman priests provided him with a regular diet of ritual sacrifices to keep him happy.  

3.  Poseidon/ Neptune:  He became king of the sea.  He divided the underworld into two sections, one for those who were nice in life, and another for those who were bad.  In other words, he created heaven and hell. 

4.  Hades (Haides, Aides, Aedonius)/ Pluto:  He became king of the underworld, which was often referred to as Hades. He was the god of death and of the dead.  He presided over funeral rights and protected the rights of the dead. He was also the god of hidden wealth of the earth, such as the fertile soil that made seeds turn into plants.  He also controlled gold, silver, and other mined minerals.  He was the brother of Zeus. Zeus offered to him daughter Persiphone, the daughter of Demeter, knowing that she would resist the marriage. Zeus abducted Persiphone, but when Demeter learned of this she caused a great dearth to fall upon the earth until her daughter was returned to her. In order that mankind did not perish, Zeus ceded and gave Demeter her daughter back. However, because she had tasted of the pomegranate seed, she was forced to return to the underworld for a portion of each year.  

5.  Ares/ Mars:  He was the son of Zeus and Hera.  He and his wife Eris carried three spirits with them: Panic, Pain, Famine and Oblivion.  He enjoyed to see bloodshed, and so the other gods tended to stay away from him.  He was therefore the god of war, and he loved to cause pain and panic. 

6.  Hermes/ Mercury: He was known the the ancient Egyptians as Thoth.  He was the youngest son of Zeus/ Jupiter.  He was the messenger of the gods.  He was mischievous, although also very clever and fun to be around.  He was among the most popular of all the Greek/ Roman gods. He was very good at extracting wisdom from people, and therefore he became the god of wisdom and the arts (he created medicine).  He was often worshiped as a god of health and healing.  He was the inventor of language, writing, paper, and medicine.  He communicated this wisdom to a priest, who then taught it to the rest of the learned class of Greeks/ Romans.  Some speculate he was the same as the Egyptian god qw2aImhotep, and therefore may have been an actual physician who became so proficient in his skills that he was remembered in folk lore.  Over time he became immortalized as a deity.  

7.  Apollo/ Apollo: He was the son of Hermes/ Mercury who was often worshiped as the god of prophesies, oracles, plagues, disease, health and healing. People often traveled to temples dedicated to him for healing purposes. He was also the god of archery.  His main emphasis was not healing, although he could heal. Some say that he may have been an actual physician around 1200 B.C., and may have been worshiped as a god of health and healing in the early days of ancient Greece. Some speculate he was the founder of human medicine, and later deified as the god of medicine.  His replacement was his son Asclepius.  

8.  Artemis/ Diana:  She was the daughter of Hermes/ Mercury, and the twin of Apollo.  She was protector of women and children.

9.  Athena/ Minerva: She was the daughter of Zeus/ Jupiter.  She was the goddess of wisdom. Her main temple was in the Acropolis of Athens, and thus is why she gave her name to that city-state.

10.  Hestia/ Vesta: She was the goddess of the hearth and home.  People prayed to her that their home would be safe and secure.  She watched over the women as they washed the dishes, clothing, cooked, sewed, etc. 

11.  Demeter/ Ceres: She was the sister and wife of Zeus/ Jupiter.  She was the goddess of the harvest, and when she was angry there would be droughts and famine.  The company of her daughter Persephone made her happy.  When Zeus offered Persephone to his brother Hades of the underworld, she became irate and set forth great dearth upon the earth.  Zeus was forced to concede lest the world come to an end.  

12.  Aphrodite/ Venus: Her father was Zeus/ Jupiter, and she had no mother.  The poet Hesiod said she was born of sea foam.  The poet Homer said she was the daughter of Zeus and Dione.  Aphrodite was the goddess of love and beauty.   She was kind most of the time, although easily angered. She has many similarities to the Egyptian Isis. 

13.  Hephaestus/ Vulcan: He was the son of Juno and Jupiter and is married to Venus.  He is god of fire and forge.  He was always making things such as homes, palaces, swords, tools, etc. 

14.  Heracles/ Hercules: He was half man and half god.  His father was Zeus/ Jupiter.  He didn't know he was a god until he grew up.  He was magically strong.  Juno tried to kill him many times.  To keep him safe from Juno, Jupiter sent him to live with a mortal family.  One day his father told him he was a god, and this set him off on many adventures. 

15.  Eros/ Cupid: Son of Venus.  His arrows made people fall in love with the very next person they saw, and as you might imagine, this often caused a lot of trouble.  His love arrows worked on mortals and the deity.  

16.  Dionyus/ Bacchus:  He was a shape shifter.  He often appeared as a handsome young man with glowing garments and jewels. 

17.  Orpheus/ Orpheus: He was a musician, and his songs would charm the wildest of beasts, and even rocks and trees. 

18.  Echo/ Echo:  He was an Oreod, or mountain nymph.  She once got Zeuz/ Jupiter in trouble, and earned the suspicion of Juno.  

19.  Pan/ Faunus:  He was god of wild, shepherds, flocks, nature, hunting, rustic music, etc. He had the legs of a goat.  Because he was god of the fields and god of fertility, he was the god who was most often worshiped during the planting season. In one story, the Athenians learned that armies from Persia threatened their city, the Athenians could not go to battle because they were worshiping the god Pan and didn't want to anger him.  They prayed to Pan for help, and Pan, pleased by their prayers, promised to send a plague on the Persians.  The next morning was the Battle of Marathon (490 B.C.), and a plague occurred that caused the Persians to be confused and worried.  This disease exists to this day, and it's called Panic.  

20.  Pandora/ Pandora: She was the first mortal woman formed by the gods of ancient Greece, and she was formed out of clay. Prometheus created man, but didn't want to create a woman.  Zeus was angered and commanded Hephaistos and other gods to create a woman who was beautiful and cunning, and therefore capable of causing havoc, according to  /She was then offered as a wife to Epimethius, the foolish younger brother of Prometheus.  She was warned not to accept any gift from Zeus.  When Epimethius welcomed her into his house, she opened the storage jar that Zeus gave her as a wedding gift, releasing a swarm of evil spirits, which have plagued mankind ever since.  Her son Pyrrha (fire) was the first born mortal child. 

21.  Pegasus/ Pegasus: The flying horse, and son of Poseidon and Medussa (the lady with snakes for hair). He was a kind god who often carried wounded soldiers from battle.  He ultimately became the thundering horse that Zeus rode in the stars. 

22.  Kerberos/ Cerberus: He was a giant, three headed dog that guarded the gates of Hades, or the underworld that was ruled by Hades or Haides.  

23.  Aesclapius/ Aesclapius:  He was son of Apollo, and an actual person (or so some believe) whose legend became so great he turned into a god during later Greek mythology.  He was a great physician in life, and therefore he was a physician as a god.  He had great healing powers, and his main emphasis was healing.  He also came into contact with many of the other gods, so he was often worshiped as the god of healing.  Perhaps it was for this reason that many temples were built and dedicated to him where he was worshiped.  Many sick would travel to his temples, would sleep there at night, and he would appear in their dreams with the diagnosis and treatment.  The priests at the temples would interpret his dreams.  The remedies given to the people by Aesclapius were recorded at the temples.  It is believed (although not proved) that it was from the Aesclapion at Cos where Hippocrates obtained much of his medical wisdom that he ultimately recorded (with others) in the Hippocratic Corpus.  His temples weren't hospitals per se, although many sick would stay at the the nearby hostels. Schools associated with the temples were where most of the priests and philosophers were educated, including Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Hippocrates, etc. The Egyptian Thoth had similar temples dedicated to him, and therefore he is often referred to as the Egyptian Aesclapius.  The same is also true of the Egyptian Imhotep.  The god Aesclapius fathered various children, all of whom had healing powers as noted below

24.  Epione:  She was the wife and consort of Aesclepius, and the goddess of soothing of pain. Her name means soothing. She is the mother of Panacea and Macheon and Podalirius

25.  Panacea:  She was daughter of Asclepius and Epione, and was the goddess of universal remedy. She had a potion that she used to heal the sick.

26.  Hygieia:  She was a daughter of Asclepius, and was the goddess of health, cleanliness and sanitation. She is credited with the word hygiene.

27.  Acesco:  She was one of six daughers of Asclepius, and was the goddess of the healing process.

28.  Aglaea/ Egle:  She was a daughter of Asclepius, and was the goddess of beauty, splendor, glory, magnificence, adornment.

29.  Laso:  She was a daughter of Asclepius, and was the goddess of recuperation from illness.

30.  Meditrina:  She was a goddess introduced in the late Roman era who was the goddess of health, healing and wine.  There was a celebration dedicated to her on October 11 where Romans blended old win with new wine in honor of the new wine.

31.  Podalirius:  He was one of the three sons of Asclepius.  His mother was Epione.  He was a surgeon and medic.  He was also the god of diagnosis.  He was a healer.  He and his brother Machaon participated in the Trojan war, and he healed Philoctetes to end the war.

32.  Machaon:  He was one of the three sons of Asclepius.  His mother was Epione.  He was also a master surgeon and medic and therefore a healer.  With his brother Podaleirus, he led an army from Thessaly to Eurytos in Troy during the Trojan war.  He possessed herbs that were given to his father Asclepius by centaur Chiron.

33.  Telesphoros:  He was one of three sons of Asclepius, and he was a dwarf. He devoted his life to serving Asclepius and Aratus (his step-brother). He was usually presented as a dwarf with his head covered, and he symbolized recovery.  His name means "the accomlisher," or "bringer of completion."

34.  Aratus of Soli:  Son of Asclepius.  He was a Greek poet who lived from 315-240 B.C.  You can read about him and his poems here.

34.  Chiron:  He was a centaur who was known for his knowledge of herbal remedies, and had knowledge and skill in medicine.  He also had great skill as an astrology and reading oracles, making him capable of reading the words of the gods, and therefore of providing diagnosis and prognosis.  He was revered as a teacher and tutor.  He raised Apollo, providing him with much of his medical wisdom. He was also tutor to many other Greek heroes, such as Asclepius, Achilles, Hercules, Phoenis, Dionysus, etc.

35.  Paeon: The great Greek poet Homer (who lived sometime around 800 or 850 B.C.) mentioned Paeon as the physician of the Greek gods, and often times other gods were identified with him when worshiped.  For instance, Zeus, the king of gods, was referred to as Zeus Paian or Zeus the Healer. Paeon may also have been worshiped as a god of health and healing.

36.  Hecate: The goddess of magic, witchcraft, night, moon, ghosts, and necromoancy (the conjuration of spirits).

37.  Dione:  According to, she was a partner of Zeus, and, according to Homer's Iliad, the mother of Aphrodite.  In Hesiods Theogony she is simply identified as the daughter of Oceanus.

38.  Prosperpina/ lists her as the daughter of Zeus and Demeter and the wife of Hades, the god of the underworld.  Demeter was always happy when she was around.  She was given as a bride to Hades, and when Demeter learned of this she became angry, threatened the world with great dearth until Zeus gave Demeter her beloved daughter back.

39.  Helen:  Goddess of birth of Spartan Women.

40.  Pyrrha:  She was the daughter of Pandora.  She was married to Deukalion, and together they were the only two to survive the great deluge.  To repopulate the world they each cast stones over their shoulders.  The stones cast by Deukalion formed man, and those cast by Pandora formed women. This is according to

There are many other members of Greek and Roman mythology, and many of them also had healing powers.  However, those mentioned here should provide a good overall understanding of how disease would have been treated in ancient Greece and Rome. Chances are, as a Greek or Roman citizen, you would worship one or more of these characters for health and healing. eir temples for healing.  

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