Saturday, December 24, 2011


Hygiea with Asclepius

In Greek and Roman mythology, Hygieia (also Hygiea or Hygeia, Greek Ὑγιεία or Ὑγεία, Latin Hygēa or Hygīa), was a daughter of the god of medicine, Asclepius. She was the goddess/personification of health (Greek: ὑγίεια - hugieia[1]), cleanliness and sanitation. She also played an important part in her father's cult. While her father was more directly associated with healing, she was associated with the prevention of sickness and the continuation of good health. Her name is the source of the word "hygiene". She was imported by the Romans as the Goddess Valetudo, the goddess of personal health, but in time she started to be increasingly identified with the ancient Italian goddess of social welfare, Salus.

Hygieia's primary temples were in Epidaurus, Corinth, Cos and Pergamon. Pausanias remarked that, at the Asclepieion of Titane in Sicyon (founded by Alexanor, Asclepius' grandson), statues of Hygieia were covered by women's hair and pieces of Babylonian clothes. According to inscriptions, the same sacrifices were offered at Paros.

Ariphron, a Sicyonian artist from the 4th century BC wrote a well-known hymn celebrating her. Statues of Hygieia were created by Scopas, Bryaxis and Timotheus, among others, but there is no clear description of what they looked like. She was often depicted as a young woman feeding a large snake that was wrapped around her body or drinking from a jar that she carried.[5] These attributes were later adopted by the Gallo-Roman healing goddess, Sirona. Hygieia was accompanied by her brother, Telesphorus.

From: Wiki
Hygeia, the goddess of health, sanitation and hygiene, was the stepdaughter of Asclepius. She was worshipped alongside Asclepius in all his healing sanctuaries, or Asclepions.
Since ancient times, healers have noticed the close relationship between cleanliness and health. Pestilence and disease flourish where filth and impurities accumulate. Cleanse the body, both inwardly and outwardly, through diet, exercise, lifestyle and physical regimen, and most diseases are greatly ameliorated, or vanish of their own accord.
Personifying the value of diet and hygiene in health maintenance and disease prevention, Hygeia is the antithesis and complement to Asclepius. We look to Asclepius for medical miracles in times of crisis, nut first let us do all we can to maintain our health and prevent disease ourselves. The body has amazing powers of self healing if we keep it clean and live in accordance with Nature's laws.
In his book, Spontaneous Healing, Dr. Andrew Weil categorizes various approaches to the art of medicine as being either predominantly Asclepian or Hygeian. Most natural, holistic, alternative medical systems are in the Hygeian camp, whereas modern medicine is overwhelmingly Asclepian. The Hygeian approach, he maintains, is ultimately the most positive and empowering.
Hippocrates wasn't a fanatic or idealogue; he was, above all, eminently pragmatic, and believed in common sense to use whatever worked, and was most appropriate to the case at hand. But even though he believed in timely and heroic intervention where necessary, he was, in the balance, more Hygeian in his approach.

From: Here
Hygieia, one of the daughters of Asklepios (Asclepius) and granddaughter of Apollo, played an important role in the cult of Asklepios as a giver of health. She is often identified with health and is sometimes called The Health. She was worshipped and celebrated together with her father on many places (Asklepieion) of the Greek and Roman world.

The cult was known between the 7th and 6th centuries BCE as a local cult. It spread out after the recognition through the oracle of Apollo at Delphi and after the catasthrophic plagues in 429 and 427 BCE in Athens and in 293 BCE in Rome. The oldest Asklepieion seems to be at Trikke (the present day Trikala in Thessaly), while the biggest centres of worship were established in Epidaurus, Corinth, Cos and Pergamon. Pausanias noted some interesting details about offerings to Hygieia at the Asklepieion of Titane in Sikyonia, which was founded, according to him, by Alexanor the grandson of Asklepios. The statues of Health were covered by masses of women's hair consecrating to the goddess and the swathes of Babylonian clothing. The same offerings are also known from the inscriptions discovered in the Cycladic island Paros.

Hygieia was sung and represented by many artists from the 4th century BCE until the end of the Roman period. Ariphron, the Sikyonian, who lived in the 4th century BCE, was the author of a hymn celebrating her. The statues of Hygieia originated from well-known masters like Skopas, Timotheos (both of these works at the present time in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens), and Bryaxis. The Roman sculptors, as well, liked to create her image. Good examples of the Roman works of Hygieia are located in the museums' collections in Epidaurus, Herakleion, Nicosia and Rome. The late ancient ivory-cut relief from Walker's gallery in Liverpool is representing Hygieia in her typical form as a fine young woman feeding a huge sacred snake which is wrapped around her body. We learn from Pausanias about a special kind of big -- but not venomenal -- snake living in the region of Epidaurus. Sometimes Hygieia is accompanied by Telesforos, the dwarf with a cowl on his head, who is a symbol of the recovery. According to some myths he was the brother of Hygieia and a deity in Thrace.

With the increasing importance of Asklepios' cult during the Roman period, Hygieia was associated with the moon and her father, the most worshipped of the gods, and was considered as the equal of the sun. The name of Hygieia survives in present times in words such as hygiene. Her sacred snake together with the rod of Asklepios is the symbol for medicine.

From: Here
Hygia is Health, the divinity whose force fosters agreement among contrary qualities inside the body where it ought to flourish, and removes it from where it should not be. She is currently known, not as a deity or intelligent force, but as a passive bodily condition (to be acted upon or be left alone) opposite to that caused by disease; this condition, though regarded as a purely physical phenomenon, is nevertheless revered as a deity: "A people gets the gods which it deserves." (Cecil M. Bowra).

From Zeus to Hygia

Hygia is the daughter of Asclepius, the god that attends the ailments of each man or woman. Both are very important regarding health, yet the god of healing remains Apollo, who is Asclepius' father and represents purity itself. For sickness (it has been conjectured) is a form of pollution, whose secret paths must first be discovered through the obscure words of the god of oracles, son of Zeus:

"Loxias (Apollo, the Oblique) is the spokesman of Zeus, his father." (The Pythian priestess. Aeschylus. Eumenides 19).

Higher gods

Thus there are four generations between the ruler of Heaven and the health of mortals, who—to begin (or end) with—must remain the prey of unhealthy Death. This annoying circumstance is ordained by the MOERAE, and Zeus will not allow anything else; otherwise he had saved his own son Sarpedon 1, whom he loved, and he had abstained from smiting Asclepius with his thunderbolt when the latter started to raise the dead. This happened because men are not like the gods; and consequently Zeus also punished Prometheus 1 when he stole the divine fire and gave it to men, who in turn—following their own wisdom—employed it to cook and boil each other. Accordingly, the counsel of Apollo, "know thyself", has been taken as a reminder meaning "know that you are not a god", since the heart of man tends to forget that circumstance. And although all health comes from this god—called "the bright one"—it is also well documented that Apollo may descend from heaven "darker than night", letting fall upon men all kind of pestilences. Something similar could be said of his sweet sister Artemis, who is a giver of life and a deliverer, but also a slayer.

Closer to humans

These great gods are far away, and usually keep their distance:

"Shaker of Earth, as no wise sound of mind would you count me, if I fought you for the sake of mortals, pitiful creatures, that like unto leaves are now full of flaming life, eating the fruit of the field, and now again pine away and perish." (Apollo to Poseidon. Homer, Iliad 21.462).

Knowing or sensing this, humans invoke other gods, who, like Asclepius or Hygia, seem to dwell closer to them. This they do even when they are healthy, for sickness is an omnipresent threat:

"Truly blooming health does not rest content within its due bounds; for disease ever presses close against it, its neighbor with a common wall." (The Argive Elders. Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1001).

And even though they might not call them "gods", they will not cease to invoke them and desire what they represent, since no other circumstance can be sensed as so oppressive than to be afflicted with illness, which casts, before the eyes of the diseased, a dark shadow over the whole world and deprives life of its joy.


For the rest: Hygia
Orphic Hymn 68 to Hygeia (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :

"To Hygeia (Health), Fumigation from Manna. O much desired, prolific, general queen. Hear me, life-bearing Hygeia, of beauteous mien, mother of all; by thee diseases dire, of bliss destructive, from our life retire; and every house is flourishing and fair, if with rejoicing aspect thou art there. Each daidal art they vigorous force inspires, and all the world thy helping hand desires. Aides (Hades), life's bane, alone resists thy will, and ever hates thy all-preserving skill. O fertile queen, from thee for ever flows to mortal life from agony repose; and men without thy all-sustaining ease find nothing useful, nothing formed to please. Without thy aid, not Aides' self can thrive, nor man to much afflicted age arrive; for thou alone, of countenance serene, dost govern all things, universal queen. Assist thy mystics with propitious mind, and far avert disease of every kind."
HYGEIA was a minor divinity worshipped in conjunction with her father, the medicine god Asklepios, as the goddess of good health.

In sculpture she was represented as a woman holding a serpent in her hands, sometimes in a two figure statue standing beside her father Asklepios.
Also see:
Salus -- Roman goddess
Sirona -- Gaulish goddess

Hymn to Asklepios & Hygeia
THEOI Hygeia
THEOI Hygeia cult

Another page

Asklepios/Asclepius {God of the Week}

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