Picture of Aesculapius with his symbols
Who was Aesculapius?
Aesculapius was the Roman god of healing and medicine and strongly associated with his father, the Roman god Apollo as the god of medicine. His mother was Coronis, one of the numerous lovers of Apollo. The god sent a white raven to watch over her and the raven informed Apollo that she had been unfaithful to him. His sister, the goddess Diana shot and killed Coronis and in her rage turned the raven black for being the bearer of bad news. Also refer to The Myth of Asclepius, god of Healing.
Facts about Aesculapius
The following information, facts and profile provides a fast overview of Aesculapius:
Aesculapius Profile & Fact File
Roman Name: Aesculapius
Role & Function: The function of Aesculapius is described as being the god of healing and medicine
Status: Minor Roman god
Symbols: The Rod of Aesculapius, a bowl, a bunch of herbs, a pineapple, a dog, and a snake. The cockerel or rooster was also sacred to the god and was the bird they sacrificed as his altar.
Greek Counterpart: The Greek name for Aesculapius was Asclepius
Name of Consort: Epione
Names of Children: Six daughters called Aceso, Meditrina, Iaso, Panacea, Aglaea and Hygieia. Three sons called Machaon and Podalirius and Telesphoros. Aesculapius also had another son, Aratus, with Aristodama
Aesculapius (Roman Counterpart was Aesculapius or Vediovis)
When the Roman Empire conquered the Greeks in 146BC, the Romans assimilated various elements from other cultures and civilisations, including the gods that were worshipped in Ancient Rome. Many of the Greek gods were therefore adopted by the Greeks but were given Latin names. His Greek counterpart was Asclepius. Another counterpart was Imhotep the Egyptian god of Healing and Medicine.
The Rod of Aesculapius - The Medical Profession
The Rod of Aesculapius or the Caduceus have been used as the symbol of the American medical profession for over 100 years. The use of these symbols have created considerable confusion. The famous Hippocratic Oath originally began with the line:
“I swear by Apollo the Physician and by Aesculapius and by Hygieia and Panacea and by all the gods…”
So, presumably, the Rod of Aesculapius was the symbol that should be used by the medical profession. The Rod of Aesculapius and the Caduceus are two different symbols and two different objects.
Mercury holding the caduceus and Aesculapius the physician with his staff
One survey suggests that 62% of professional healthcare organisations use the Rod of Aesculapius as their symbol whereas 76% of commercial healthcare organisations use the Caduceus as their symbol.
- The Caduceus means “herald’s staff of office” in Roman and is associated with Mercury, the Roman messenger of the gods. The caduceus can be described as two snakes criss-crossed around a staff that is topped by a round knob and flanked by wings. The caduceus has been used as a symbol by printers because it was the staff of Mercury who was the messenger god and the deliverer of information
Mercury and the Caduceus - two snakes or serpents with wings on the staff