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A gift from the Gods

The Greek ruins that offer a telling glimpse into the history of medicine

13 Sep 2018 by John White

“Welcome to Epidaurus, the birthplace of medicine.” This bold statement – yes, I can imagine eyebrows being raised in China, Egypt and India – caught my attention on a summer holiday to Greece last month.

Dating back over 2500 years, Epidaurus was a once prosperous city state, tucked into a small (and still lush) valley in the Peloponnese, not far from Agamemnon’s golden city Mycenae.

At the centre of this world heritage site is the Temple to Asklepios, a shrine to the Greek god of medicine. Composed around the temple was the so-called Sanctuary, made-up of a series of buildings dedicated to health and wellbeing, including a library, baths, sports, accommodation, hospital and a theatre that is 90% intact – and still in use today.

The Sanctuary, I learned, provides crucial evidence of the transition from a belief in divine and ceremonial healing practices to the science of medicine based on curative treatments; practices that subsequently spread to the rest of the Greco-Roman world.

As I wandered around the site, which at first looked like a field of crumbled walls and collapsed columns, it is possible to start to spot the footprint of these once great temples and hospital buildings devoted to healing. They offer a tangible sense of how far our understanding of science and medicine has come and how much the ancient Greeks did to get us there.

Along with medicine, philosophy and politics, the Greeks also transformed the concept of sport and competition – the Olympics representing the pinnacle of this thinking.

OT enjoyed another moment to celebrate, having been recognised by the Trade, Association and Business Publications International (TABPI) Awards 2018 for its front cover design work. The journal secured an honourable mention in the ‘Front cover, photograph’ category for its December 2017 edition of pre-reg optometrist twins, Joshua and Michael Mandel.

This month also sees the launch of the AOP’s education programme at 100% Optical 2019. The competition to secure places at top quality education seminars is fierce, so make sure you have 27 September in your diary when the booking opens.

And, do not forget to get involved in our #OTonthego Instagram competition, kindly sponsored by Hoya. With a £500 prize for the winner, it is time to get snapping and share your OT-inspired photos with us. The deadline to enter is 16 September.

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