chapter  1
16 Pages

The seven heresies of Asclepius: how environmental and social context shapes health and well-being


Asclepius was the Greek god of healing and medicine. From the 6th century BCE, some 800 Asclepian healing temples were built across the eastern and central Mediterranean. Typically, these were situated far from settlements on hilltops and promontories overlooking the sea, such as at Epidaurus, Pergamon and Kos, where light was multidirectional from sky and water, winds plentiful, and aromatics from pine forests and thyme-rich garrigue filled the air. At that time, it was assumed that well-being emerged from natural places (Hart, 1965; Gesler, 1993; Koenig, 2000). It is now increasingly being recognised that the natural and social context of individuals is a key determinant of well-being, providing protection against stressors and improving resilience and recovery (Sternberg, 2009; NEA, 2011).