The Birth of Hospital, Asclepius cult and Early Christianity.

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The Birth of Hospital, Asclepius cult and Early Christianity.

Uisahak. 2017 Apr;26(1):3-28

Authors: Yeo IS

History of hospital is one of main fields of researches in medical history. Besides writing a history of an individual hospital, considerable efforts have been made to trace the origin of hospital. Those who quest for the origin of hospital are faced with an inevitable problem of defining hospital. As the different definition can lead to a different outcome, it is important to make a clear definition. In this article, the hospital was defined as an institution in which patients are housed and given medical treatments. According to the definition, the Great Basilius is regarded to have created the first hospital in 369 CE. The creation of hospital is considered to be closely related with Christian philantrophy. However, the question is raised against this explanation. As the religious philantrophy does not exclusively belong to the Christianity alone, more comprehensive and persuasive theory should be proposed to explain why the first hospital was created in the Christian World, not in the Buddhistic or other religious world. Furthermore, in spite of sharing the same Christian background, why the first hospital appeared in Byzantine Empire, not in Western Roman Empire, also should be explained. My argument is that Asclepius cult and the favorable attitude toward medicine in Greek world are responsible to the appearance of the first hospital in Byzantine Empire. The evangelic work of Jesus was heavily depended on healing activities. The healing activities of Jesus and his disciples were rivalled by Asclepius cult which had been widely spread and practiced in the Hellenistic world. The temples of Asclepius served as a model for hospital, for the temples were the institution exclusively reserved for the patients. The exclusive housing of patients alone in the temples of Asclepius is clearly contrasted with the other early forms of hospitals in which not only patients but also the poor, foreigners and pilgrims were housed altogether. Toward the healing god Asclepius, the Latin Church fathers and Greek Church fathers showed significant difference of attitudes. The Latin fathers were generally very critical on Asclepius while the Greek fathers were more favorable to the same healing god. This difference is also considered to be an important factor that can explain why the first hospital appeared in the Byzantine Empire.

PMID: 28814700 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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