Reputed to be the birthplace of Apollo’s son Asclepius the healer, Epidaurus was known for its sanctuary situated about five miles (8 km) from the town, as well as its theatre. The cult of Asclepius at Epidaurus is attested in the 6th century BC, when the older hill-top sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas was no longer spacious enough.
The Asclepeion at Epidaurus was the most celebrated healing centre of the classical world; the place where ill people went in the hope of being cured, so effectively the first hospital. To find the right cure for their ailments, they spent a night in the enkoimeteria, a big sleeping hall. In their dreams, the god himself would advise them what they had to do to regain their health. Found in the sanctuary, there was a guest house with 160 guestrooms. There are also mineral springs in the vicinity which may have been used in healing.
The Tholos behind the temple of Asclepius, built between 360 and 320 BC, was considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Greece. Like the stunning theatre, it was designed by Polycleitus. Below the floor a triple circular wall with narrow entries and blocked passages seems to have been a labyrinth connected with the god’s cult, and perhaps the home of sacred snakes.