Aescalepia are healing sanctuaries dedicated to the god Aesculapius that functioned as hospitals. There are around 300 ancient Aescalepia Greek and Roman ruins and this is one of the more complete ones that includes remains of a colonnaded street, Via Tecta (sacred way), the Aesculapius sanctuary, Heroon, incubation rooms, library, porticos, bathing pools, latrines. Of particular importance is the base of the great temple of Zeus Asclepius. Unfortunately the magnificent entrance and most of the surviving sculptures and archaeological elements are controversially located in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin. The 3500 person theater, with passageways beneath the cava (seating area) to explore, is adjacent to the Sanctuary and healing center. The signage is particularly good and does an excellent job of explaining how Aescalepia functioned and the ancient understanding of the healing process that included special ritual preparations, a night spent in a special place for dreaming with priests interpreting the dreams afterwards to determine suitable treatment. Aesthetics including the theater were an integral part of the healing process, so it is standard to find theaters at Aescalepia. Despite the good signage explaining all this, we were appalled to hear the explanation that the theater was inserted into the sanctuary just for convenience sake. For understanding the way Aescalepia functioned this is one of the most complete and excellent sites to visit.
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