Healings by Asclepius in Epidaurus
The four steles from Epidauros, the first of which is analyzed here, are the best known examples of iamata or satationes, that is epigraphs describing miracolous healings attributed to the intervention of Asclepios. The term iamata indicates both the healing tales collected in ‘official’ corpora in Asclepios’ sanctuary and privates inscriptions thanking the god for the recovered health. The Epidaurian Iamata were probably exposed in the stoà-abaton, the place where dream incubations took place, in an age of great developement of the Asclepieion. A phase of colossal monumentalization started from the 370 a.C. ca., in parallel with an increase of the popularity of Asclepios’ cult. Probably the language of the steles, which shows a complex mixture of dialectal forms and koine novelties, represents the sanctuary’s will to communicate efficaciously with the growing panellenc public of pilgrims. The Iamata contain seventy tales, not all completely readable because of the many lacunae especially in the last two steles. The tales from Epidauros stand out from the other sanationes for the richness of the themes they address and the vivacity of their style. In the most common situation the sick pilgrim goes to the Abaton and dreams to be healed by Asclepios; the next day he is fully recovered and leaves the sanctuary. However, there are plenty of significative variations: on some occasions the patient may be cured while is awake, in others the god is replaced by snakes or dogs, in others the divine intervention does not consist in healing, but in the recomposition of a broken cup or in the finding of a treasure. Despite this, the tales feature several structural affinities: each of them opens with the short presentation of the protagonist, where the pilgrim’s name, provenience and troubles are mentioned. The many toponyms mentioned in the tales confirm the panellenic importance of the Epidaurian cult: not only we find nearby centers (Trezene, Hermione, Argos, etc.) but also places located far from Argolid (Epiros, Mytilene, Cnido, etc.). The deseases are various too: pilgrims visit the sanctuary to cure blindness, mutism, paralysis, infertility, war wounds and even lices. The diseases are usually sintetically mentioned at the beginning of every tale. In some cases the style is so schematic and elliptical that it recalls the medical cases described in hippocratic Hepidemics or the catalogues registred the visitors and their offerings to the sanctuaries. Lastly, the Epidaurian tales show a strong attention to the narrative aspects: for example they linger on the most impressive details of the deseases, which are often intensified and amplified. They often claim that the situation was hopless and the pilgrim suffered for a long time before being healed by the god. This is probably a tipical feature of Sanationes, as this kind of accounts had the purpose to glorify the healing power of Asclepios and encourage the patients to trust his treatments.