Asklepios/ Caduceus Of Hermes Essay

2801 words - 11 pages

Asklepios, the Greco-Roman deity of physicians, led a life of compassion and benevolence. His sign, a staff with a single serpent intertwined about it, thus became a key symbol for the medical society and has persisted until the present. Recently, however, confusion has occurred in which the symbol of Asklepios has been unintentionally replaced by the symbol of Hermes, a poor representation of the medical world. Through this confusion of the symbols, Asklepios has remained the intentional representation of the healthcare society. He has a fascinating history and many accounts of his selflessness are available; he is considered to encompass every trait a doctor should boast (Bailey, 257-258). A problem arises because not every doctor can boast of having these traits. Due to this, one must ask if the symbol of Asklepios is truly an accurate symbol for our medical society, a symbol deemed to represent kindness, altruism, and also a sort of disinterest in monetary assets. The last characteristic, a lack of interest in wealth, has certainly lost its place in the heart of the common doctor in our capitalistic world. If their concern for money overrides their concern for patients’ wellbeing, doctors do not truly deserve to be recognized with the symbol of Asklepios, a symbol of righteousness and selflessness. The symbol of Asklepios, often confused with the caduceus of Hermes, is steeped in historical and medical tradition which healthcare providers have co-opted as their virtuous foundation for their profession. However today’s society poses the question: is the symbol an accurate portrayal of the medical world or merely and unobtainable goal? (Cassel, 604).
Asklepios was first mentioned as far back as 1500 BC in Mycenaean inscriptions (Bailey, 257). The first depiction of the myth of Asklepios was provided by Homer in the Iliad (Wilcox et. al, 673) in 900 BC. However, the first actual written account of Asklepios did not come about until 700 BC as told by Hesiod. From the afore mentioned, the myth of Asklepios has been in circulation for a substantial amount of time and has continued to persist and affect in the present as can be deducted by his symbol being the representation of the modern medical society.
Asklepios (also referred to as Aesculapius in Latin) was the son of Coronis, the daughter of the king of Thessaly, and Apollo. Coronis was the lover of Apollo but denied him by marrying a mortal whom her father had chosen for her. Apollo, in his jealousy and anger, killed Coronis but his fatherly instinct prevailed when considering his unborn son still presiding in Coronis’s womb (Bailey, 258). Other sources state that she was killed by Apollo’s twin sister, Artemis, for unfaithfulness (Leadbetter) As Coronis was burning on a funeral pyre, Apollo saved his son which he then left in the care of Chiron, a centaur skilled in the art of medicine. Asklepios thrived as a physician (Bailey, 258). He gained knowledge in employing drugs,...

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