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Hygieia and Aesculapius


© J.-F. Peiré
© J.-F. Peiré
The representation of a character on a circular support resembling a shield was highly valued during Roman times. Numerous medallions decorated the villa of Chiragan, generally depicting divinities from the Greco-Roman or oriental pantheon.

The couple consists of depictions of Hygieia, who represents of health, and her father Aesculapius, the god of medicine known as Asclepius to the Greeks and the son of Apollo and the mortal Coronis. The two divinities are accompanied by a snake, the symbol of wisdom and healing power.
Aesculapius is often represented with a reptile wrapped around a stick. This motif will become the doctors’ caduceus in the eighteenth century while pharmacists’ caduceus is embellished by the bowl of Hygieia.

In Epidaurus, Greece, numerous sacred snakes live freely in Aesculapius’s sanctuary.

Patients came there to “incubate” in the dormitories. During their sleep, Aesculapius, appearing to them in a dream, cured them and prescribed them a treatment. In 293 BCE, Rome is hit by the plague and sends a diplomat to Epidaurus in search of one of these reptiles to stop the epidemic. It was placed on Tiber Island in the heart of the city of Rome.

© J.-F. Peiré
© J.-F. Peiré
A temple dedicated to Ascelpius, Aesculapius or Esculape in Latin, is thus built on this site. Today, there is a hospital at its location, proof of the medical purpose of the site which, like all islands, facilitated the isolation of contagious diseases.
The style of the faces has a strong resemblance to those in the reliefs of the Labors of Hercules.

The collection of medallions seems to have been sculpted and set up in the villa at the same time as the high-reliefs at the end of the third century CE.

Hygieia and Esculape: marble medallions discovered on the site of the Roman villa of Chiragan (Martres-Tolosane, Haute-Garonne).
End of third century.
Inv. Ra 34k and Ra 24m.
Lu 615 fois

Tolosa's gold age | Chiragan | Necropolis