Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Appetitive: Snakes in a Temple (Cerinthus Reports)

This will be the first of a new feature called Cerinthus Reports. Cerinthus has been in Greece for about the last two weeks. He is flying to Rome today. I asked him while he was there to see if he could find out the answer to a number of questions and he has finally found internet access and emailed me the first of those answers.

Sulpicia's Question: Were/are there really snakes in the temple of Asklepios?
I have been wondering about this question for a long time. When I first started taking Greek the summer before my freshman year in high school, I used Athenaze:
Athenaze: An Introduction to Ancient Greek Book 1 2e - UK Edition (Bk.1)
Athenaze in general is a somewhat problematic but very silly and enjoyable textbook. In the textbook, Philippos, the son of the protagonist Dikaeopolis, is blinded by a blow to the head in a wrestling competition. Dikaeopolis, with the aid of his brother, takes his son to the temple of Asklepios at Epidaurus to heal. The scene I remember the most from translating the passage was the as Philippos fell asleep, the temple was full of the gentle hissing of snakes.

Cerinthus Reports: there were no snakes under the temple to Asklepios...that apparently was just a myth (according to his sources).
Wikipedia disagrees. I will have to find out who his sources were to determine the best information.

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