Sanctuary of Asclepius

This monument, located in the “Valle dei Templi” in Agrigento, is a religious place dedicated to Asclepius, the God of medicine, called Aesculapius by the Romans. He was venerated in Agrigento in a large sacred area (mid-4th to 2nd centuries B.C.), which included many buildings for the cult and for therapeutic rituals.

These rituals also took place at other sanctuaries devoted to Asclepius throughout the Mediterranean, where the devotees were mainly sick people. According to a hypothetical reconstruction, the pilgrims would leave their carts and buy votive offerings in the buildings to the northeast of the sanctuary. They would then start the ritual and therapeutic procession with rites of purification near the fountain. The procession then continued by placing the votive offerings into wells and in the small temple (sacellum). The pilgrims would then visit the other buildings. Inside of the sanctuary there was a bronze statue of the Greek god, which, according to the legend, was stolen by Verre.

The temple is in Doric style, long 22.144m and wide 11,118m, the thickness of the walls was 0,55m and the diameter of the columns was 1,10m. It was divided into two rooms: a porch with two columns at the front and a rectangular cella, the back wall of which is characterized on its outer side by two grooved half-columns. On either side of the entrance to the cella, there were stairs leading up to the roof, decorated by lion-head-shaped gutters. In the porticoed buildings, on the western and nothern side of the sancuary there were rooms for short stays and for treatment; in the northwestern portico there was a room called abaton, where the incubation ritual took place. This ritual consisted in sleeping in the abaton so that during a dream the vision of the god would either suggest a possible cure or miraculously cure the devotee.

The archaeological finds from the sanctuary are votive figurines portraying anatomical parts that devotees prayed Asclepius to cure or that had been cured by the god. The excavation have taken place since 1926 by Alexander Hardcastle with the consent of G. Fiandaca.


The back part of the temple with the columns in Doric style


Sacellum, pronao and cella with a central cabinet (thesaurus), for the votive offerings.


Plan of the Sanctuaty with procession trail

  • Photos and main text by Alessia Miceli moc.liamg|1ilecim.aissela#| and Valentina Marziali moc.liamg|59ilaizram.elav#| (January 2015)

  • Information retrieved from tabs on the archaeological site

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