Date of Award

8-10-2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Medical Doctor (MD)

First Advisor

Dr. John Harley Warner, Ph.D.

Abstract

THE GREEK GOD OF HEALING ASCLEPIUS & GODDESS OF HEALTH HYGEIA: A DOUBLE-GENDERED DOUBLE-DEITY MODEL. Caroline Wagner Engel (Sponsored by Dr. John Harley Warner, Ph.D.). History of Medicine Department, Yale University, School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut. The ancient Greeks worshipped both a god of healing, Asclepius, and a goddess of health, Hygeia. When one examines ancient Greek sculptural representations of Asclepius and Hygeia, a difference in portrayal becomes readily apparent. This art historical essay explores the distinctive ways in which these two characters were illustrated, and hypothesizes that their differing roles as healer versus health served as the foundation for, and hence correspond with, these artistic discrepancies. The avenues from which this contrast is examined include familial relationship, gender, physical representation, and the treatment of their attribute. The analysis of ancient Greek art herein presented supports the hypothesis that Hygeia was a health-nurturer and Asclepius was a hands-on healer. While Hygeia was worshipped in a preventative manner with the goal of keeping that patron healthy, Asclepius was the hierarchically superior father who was prayed to, for healing, when one was suffering. The increased musculature, stern facial expression, seated position, male gender and handling of his snake are all ways that healing, in the form of Asclepius, is visually depicted as dominating over health, Hygeia, a woman who is slim, feminine, smooth-skinned, and delicately represented. This essay demonstrates that an examination of ancient Greek sculpture supports Asclepius and Hygeias distinct, yet complementary, roles, as healer and health nurturer.

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