Old Temple of Asclepius

The old Temple of Ascelepius dedicated to Asclepius is located on the Tiber island, in Rome. It was built in 291 B.C. In 293 B.C. there was a great plague in Rome. Upon consuling the Sibyl, the Roman Senate was instructed to build a temple to Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, and sent a delegation to Epidaurus in Greece (a well-known center for healing), to transfer the cult of Asclepius to Rome. They got a statue of the god and a snake from a temple and put them on board of their ship. When they reached the Tiber river, the snake slithered off the ship and swam onto the Tiber island. They believed that this was a sign from Asclepius to build his temple on that island. This location may have been chosen because it was separated from the rest of the city, which could help to protect whoever was there from plague and illnesses. The island was modeled to resemble a ship. Travertine facing was added in mid or late first century by the banks to resemble a ship's prow and stern, and an obelisk was erected in the middle, symbolizing the vessel's mast. Walls were put around the island, and it came to resemble a Roman ship.

The ruins of the old Temple of Asclepius are 3.5 meters below the transept of the basilica of San Bartolomeo all'isola, at the center of which there is an ancient marble well.


This two marble columns have capitals decorated with an eagle, the symbol of Otto III, who founded the basilica of St. Bartholomew.


The well stands in correspondence with the overlying marble well located in the basilica of St. Bartholomew. During the first few centuries of the church it was famous because of the healing and healthful properties of its water.


  • Photos and main text by Adriana Ingravalle moc.liamg|argni.anan#| and Teresa Prinzivalli moc.duolci|iznirpaseret#| (January 2015)

Related items:


  • Caporilli Maurizio, Pichini Tommaso, Lucianetti Arnaldo, Bedoni Francesca, De Paoli Marco, L'Isola della Salute. L'isola Tiberina dall'antichit√† ai nostri giorni, Pool Grafica Editrice, Roma 1996, pp. 197-199
  • Egilberto Martire, L'isola della salute: dal tempio romano di Esculapio all'ospedale di San Giovanni di Dio, Rassegna Romana, Roma 1934, pp. 1-32

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