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Greek Hygeia - Roman Salus
GODDESS of Hygiene Health Cleanliness Ancient Coins

Hygeia, was a daughter of the god of medicine, Asclepius. She was the goddess of health, cleanliness and sanitation and afterwards, the moon.

 

In Greek and Roman mythology, Hygieia, or Hygeia, was a daughter of the god of medicine, Asclepius. She was the goddess of health, cleanliness and sanitation and afterwards, the moon. She also played an important part in her father's cult. While her father was more directly associated with healing, she was associated with the prevention of sickness and the continuation of good health. Her name is the source of the word "hygiene".

At Athens, Hygieia was the subject of a local cult since at least the 7th century BC. "Athena Hygieia" was one of the cult titles given to Athena, as Plutarch recounts of the building of the Parthenon (447-432 BC):

However, the cult of Hygieia as an independent goddess did not begin to spread out until the Delphic oracle recognized her, and after the devastating Plague of Athens (430-27 BC) and in Rome in 293 BC.

In the second century AD, Pausanias noted the statues both of Hygieia and of Athena Hygieia near the entrance to the Acropolis of Athens.

Hygieia's primary temples were in Epidaurus, Corinth, Cos and Pergamon. Pausanias remarked that, at the Asclepieion of Titane in Sicyon (founded by Alexanor, Asclepius' grandson), statues of Hygieia were covered by women's hair and pieces of Babylonian clothes. According to inscriptions, the same sacrifices were offered at Paros.

Ariphron, a Sicyonian artist from the 4th century BC wrote a well-known hymn celebrating her. Statues of Hygieia were created by Scopas, Bryaxis and Timotheus, among others, but there is no clear description of what they looked like. She was often depicted as a young woman feeding a large snake that was wrapped around her body or drinking from a jar that she carried. These attributes were later adopted by the Gallo-Roman healing goddess, Sirona. Hygieia was accompanied by her brother, Telesphorus.

"Hygieia" was used as a greeting among the Pythagoreans.

Salus (Health) a Goddess of the Romans, the same that was worshipped under the name of Hygiea by the Greeks, who feigned her to be the daughter of Asclepius and of Minerva. On a denarius of the Acilia family appears the head of the goddess and on the reverse a female standing with a serpent in her hand. The types of this divinity on imperial coins most frequently present to view a woman clothed in the stola; sometimes she is sitting, at others standing; in others in a recumbent posture, with a serpent either on her right or her left arm in a quiescent state, rising in folds or entwined round an altar before her, and receiving food from a patera, which she holds in her extended hand. It is in this form (which was doubtless that of her statues and with these symbols) that she is exhibited on most coins on the imperial series from Galba to Maximianus. She had a celebrated temple at Rome, painted, it was said, by Q. Fabius, who thence was surnamed Pictor (the painter) . - There appears to be some affinity between this personification of Salus, when offering food in a patella to a serpent, and the Lanuvian virgin represented in the same act on coins bearing the head of Juno Sospita. - The opinion also has the probability on the face of it, which refers the serpent on coins, where mention is made of Salus Augusti, or Augustorum, to Aesculapius and his daughter Hygaeia (or Salus) as deities of Health. - Certain it is that when those sanitary divinities, and especially when Dea Salus, occur on coins of Emperors, they indicate that those princes were labouring at the time under some diseases; on which account, it would seem, sacred rites had been performed for them and the memorial of the event recorded on public monuments.

 

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