From the Asclepium (2)

Asclepius (Antiquarium of the Palatine, Rome)

I’ve now been in the hospital for several days. It is amazing to witness how swiftly you adapt to being a patient. Because I am here for intravenous therapy only and remain for a great part capable of doing other things, I have been frequently telling myself that I am not ill, and had merely changed the site of my office. As a matter of fact, I have been able to revise about half of the book I am now writing with my Livius colleague Arjen Bosman.

I think it was prudent to cling to my normal life as much as possible, but it also made me a bit of a foreigner over here, and I suddenly realized how much of everyday talk in the hospital is just topical. The nurses have a great assortment of reassuring remarks, which really make you feel comfortable and are, at the same time, suited for any patient on any occasion. They often have a sixth sense, feeling what the patient needs to hear to feel better.

Then I realized that the ancient priests of Asclepius must have had this same ability. They must have sensed what the visitors liked to hear and give them the impression that the god was actually there. It may explain why even intelligent people like Aelius Aristides had the idea that their dreams in the Asclepium somehow predicted their futures.


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