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Greek Island Holidays

Kos the island of Hippocrates

Kos Asklepeion

His ancient sanatorium founded in 444BC.

Hippocrates is best remembered as the father of modern medicine and the Hippocratic oath was handed down over the centuries from doctor to doctor.

Few people on holiday on the island of Kos will know that Hippocrates was born and died here and that also here is found one of the most interesting of archaeological sites, the medical school that was founded in his name.

Just to the south-east of Kos Town is the Asklepeion, the ancient sanatorium founded in 444BC where his newly discovered art of medicine was first taught and practised.

The setting is quite magnificent, with four elevated hillside terraces linked by a monumental marble staircase. Below is the village of Anatolia and to the east are views across the sea to Turkey.

The Asklepeion was not only a renowned Hellenic medical centre it was also a temple to the Asklepios, the god of healing, and it functioned for nearly 1,000 years before eventually being abandoned and falling into disrepair.

Little of the original ancient centre remains, the result in a great measure to the number of repeated earthquakes that reduced many of the ancient buildings to rubble.

Matters got worse when the crusaders arrived and decided to use the site as a quarry with the stone and rubble used to build fortresses.

It was not until 1902 that any work was done to restore the site. The area was extensively excavated first by Germans and then the Italians.

Some Corinthian columns dating from the 2nd century were discovered below a Doric temple, built some 400 years earlier, that sits on the highest terrace.

Local guides will turn out popular narratives of the Hippocratic connection but the famous healer's life story is rather more elusive than guides will admit and the great man's physical links to Kos are rather tenuous.

There is no doubt that Hippocrates was born on Kos in 460 BC or that he also died there in 357 BC. But scholars believe he spent most of his life from Kos, travelling throughout the Aegean.

Hippocrates was the first to advocate a 'scientific' approach to medicine and his efforts gained great fame when it was found he could halt the spread of disease through the then novel practice of boiling drinking water and isolating the sick from the well.

Greek Island Holidays

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