“I never knew the meaning of peace until I arrived at Epidavros,” wrote Henry Miller. The city of Epidavros lies by the sea, on the Saronic Gulf, not too far from Athens, Greece. A sanctuary to Asclepios, the god of healing, was established in the 6th century BC and reached international prestige by the 4th century BC. Historians believe that Asclepios was a king blessed with a talent for healing that eventually became deified for his abilities. The infirm from all parts of Greece were drawn to the sanctuary at Epidavros to be treated by those trained in the healing arts. Physicians (Asclepiadea) treated patients in an organized manner and museum records reflect the “70 miracles of Asclepios” and recipes for natural medicine and various treatments.
The prestige and reputation acquired by Asclepios as the major god of healing led to great economic prosperity for the sanctuary which made it possible to build large monuments to aid in the healing. Temples, porticoed buildings, and mineral baths were erected to treat the infirm guests. A library and gymnasium were also on site and games were held at the sanctuary, almost on a level with the greatest international festivals. Worshippers would come to Epidavros for a miracle cure, but stay for a longer period to rest, reflect, take mineral baths, and diet, departing much healthier.
The theatre at Epidavros, an architectural masterpiece, was thought the most beautiful in the world, even at a later date when much grander constructions existed. Carved into the side of Mount Kynortion, the theatre was simple and Classical. This, the most well preserved of the ancient Greek theatres, once seated 14,000 recuperating spectators. Praise goes to the scenic landscapes, excellent acoustics, the large orchestra, and well-arranged seating. Even the poorest spectators enjoyed good sightlines and fine sound.
After three centuries of prosperity and world renown. The Asclepion at Epidavros was dealt a series of major blows over the next six centuries. The ravages of time were completed by two major earthquakes in 522 AD and 551 AD. From then, the sanctuary remained silent until the excavations conducted by the Archaeological Society (1879-1928) uncovered its ensemble of monuments. Today, the roads in Epidavros which lead to the sanctuary can still be traced. Some distance away, stray blocks of finely carved decorated marble from the shrine can be spotted built into the walls of buildings and churches. The ancient majesty of Epidavros is defined by its sanctuary, a place of healing, with an inception innocent of history and timeless.