Numismatic and History Discussions > History and Archeology

The staff of Asklepios



If you see a rev. with Asklepios stg. it is always described as 'Asklepios holding his serpent-staff'. But if you take a closer look then you see very often that this is not the case but the staff only leans loosely against Asklepios' hips. I have never seen this with other rods. Sceptres, wands, spears and so on are hold by the hand of the figure. I think it is a very instable position too!

I think this staff position is not at random, but I have no explanation for that! Anyone who does know the meaning or have a suggestion?

Every contribution highly welcomed!

Best regards 

Askelpios does sometimes lean on the staff that is couched in his armpit, but, as you observe, on many coins it is only propped against his side; also, on the cistophori and on small bronzes of Pergamon, we see the staff, or the so-called 'temple key', by itself with the snake entwining it.  Just to start discussion, since someone else may have read dissertations on it, I have thought that a staff is normal for handling a familiar snake.  A snake wants to climb up something.  In a jungle he'll climb up vines or trees.  Hygieia has hers use her own body, but, for whatever reason, Asklepios does not; his climbs the staff. We also see Athena's spear and sometimes another goddess's scepter entwined with her snake.  Athena's Erichthonios snake climbs the Acropolis olive tree, and the guardian of the apples of immortality climbs the tree that bears them.  For a mantic Apollo, the tripod or a tree may serve; indeed, a tripod alone often serves.  Pat L.


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