History of Medicine
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Greek Medicine
I swear by Apollo Physician... Greek Medicine from the Gods to Galen

Apollo, Eileithyia, and Hygieia


Photograph of seated Apollo wearing a toga and facing to the left on a frieze of the Parthenon, ca. 430 B.C.E. (Courtesy of Malcar Förlag).

Apollo was often considered to be a god of healing, and in stories such as The Iliad is depicted as the bringer and reliever of plagues. Hera was a protector of women, and she and her daughter, Eileithyia, were often called upon during childbirth. The goddess Hygieia (‘Health’), the daughter of Asclepius, was considered a guardian or personification of health.


Eileithyia and Hera assisting Zeus in the birth of Athena.

Vase painting, ca. 500 B.C.E.

Greek vase painting showing Eileithyia and Hera assisting Zeus in the birth of Athena. Eileithyia stands behind Zeus, who is seated, and Her stands in front of him, bot with outstretched hands to catch Athena, who emerges in full armour with shield and spear from the top of Zeus’ head.  Circa 500 B.C.E. (Louvre CA616; photograph by Maria Daniels). While Eileithyia was often called upon by Greek women giving birth, she appeared most often in Greek art in depictions of the birth of Athena from the head of Zeus.


Engraving of a Greek statue of Hygieia standing in robes and holding a snake that is entwined around her left arm.  Engraving by Bouillon (Paris, ca. 1830). NLM/IHM Image B015458. Hygieia

Engraving, by Bouillon (Paris, ca. 1830).



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