Epidaurus – sanctuary of Asclepius
The Archaeological Museum of Epidaurus opened in 1909 to display artifacts unearthed in the ancient site of Epidaurus.
Background and history
The ancient site of Epidaurus was dedicated to the gods Apollo and Asklepius. The oldest Mycenaean sanctuary was dedicated to a healing goddess; it was founded in the 16th c. BC on a ruined settlement of the Early Bronze Age (2800-1800 BC) and in about 800 BC it was rededicated to Apollo and the area is known as the Apollo sanctuary.
The main sanctuary of Epidaurus, the Asclepeion, was first studied by the French Scientific Expedition of the Peloponnese in 1829. In 1870, Panagiotis Kavadias of the Greek Archaeological Society began excavating the site, and over the decades that followed discovered an extensive array of artifacts. The bulk of the collection was unearthed mostly in two main sanctuaries of Asklepios and Apollo in Epidaurus, the older sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas and the later Asclepeion in the plain. The Asclepeion, was known for its healing rituals and for hosting sports. The size of the reconstructions of the most important monuments of the Asklepeion and growing collection meant that between 1902 and 1909, Kavadias built the Museum of Epidaurus to store the finds. most sculptures had been transferred to the National Archaeological Museum of Athens
Statue of Asklepios
After Kavadias’s death in 1926, only limited excavations of Epidaurus took place, such as by G. Roux of the French School at Athens in the area of the Avaton in 1942-43, and by I. Papadimitriou of the Greek Archaeological Service in 1948-51. A. Orlandos undertook the restoration of the theatre between 1954 and 1963 and unearthed new objects, which led to the expansion of the museum in 1958, with a storeroom built to house sculpture and pottery. In 1971, the museum underwent expansion again when and a new hall was built to accommodate a collection of inscriptions.
The large columns on display in the museum
Since 1974 excavations by the Archaeological Society at the sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas have been conducted under Professor V. Lambrinoudakis. A committee of the Ministry of Culture was founded in 1984 being responsible for the conservation of the site and presentation of the monuments in both sanctuaries.
In 1992, when the partial reconstruction of the Tholos temple of Asklepios was dismantled to undergo examination, a temporary exhibition was placed in the museum, with photographs and explanations of its architectural parts.
The museum contains a number of large reconstructions of temples and architectural components, particularly those found at the Asklepieion. Of major note is the reconstruction of part of the entablature and Doric columns of the Temple of Asklepios dated to 380–375 B.C. and reconstruction of part of the entablature of the Temple of Artemis, dated to 370–310 B.C. There is also an extensive reconstruction of the entablature and part of the inner Corinthian colonnade of the Propylaia dated to 300 B.C. The museum also has a Corinthian capital which was unearthed below the foundations of the Tholos temple; that temple is believed to be designed by Polykleitos the Younger. The temporary exhibition of architectural parts and sculptures from the Tholos, added in 1992, is located in a room which is known as the “B gallery”.
The museum has a substantial collection of inscriptions and Greek and Roman sculptures. The main collection of inscriptions has been housed in the special hall to the northeast of the main building since 1958 as has a storeroom for the sculptures, a pottery room, and a restoration workshop. A collection of inscriptions is also displayed under the portico to the south of the main building of the Epidauras Archaeological Museum. The museum has a plaster cast statue of Asklepios, with a sacred snake curling up on his stick. It is a copy of the original statue unearthed in Epidaurus and which is exhibited in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. Also of note is a marble headless statue, believed to be of the health goddess Hygeia, dated to the Hellenistic period and a statuette of a child.
The museum has a collection of votive inscriptions and perirrhanteria, displayed at the facade of the inscriptions hall. There is a fragment of a votive relief and Doric metopes, which are decorated with relief scenes, one of which depicts Asklepios and Athena, and are dated to the end of the 4th or the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. A lily from the ceiling of the Tholos decorates one of the coffers of the ceiling of the external Doric colonnade of the Tholos which is dated to 360–330 B.C. The museum also displays bronze medical instruments providing an informative insight into medical practice at the sanctuary of Asklepios. Another notable display are the fossils unearthed at Epidaurus and other places in Greece, an array of minerals found in the area of Lavrio, and a collection of ancient ammonites which are believed to be over 240 million years old.