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Hygia






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HYGIA, the daughter of AEsculapius Medicus, called by the Greeks Υγεια and inscribed on Roman coins SALVS. The Gentiles are supposed to have adopted the serpent as the symbol of health, from the brazen one of Moses. The patera in Hygia 's hand indicates that health is to be sought through religion. On coins of Deultum, struck under Alexander Severus, Hygia stands with serpent and patera. Of Alexander himself Lampridius says - "He visited the sick soldiers in their tents, even those the most distant, causing them to be conveyed in wagons, and assisted them with all things needful.

When mention of Hygia, or of AEsculapius, as deities of health, is made on the imperial mint of Rome, it always indicates that those emperors are at the time themselves laboring under disease; or that sacrifices have been performed for their recovery. - See SALVS. - SALVS AVGVSTA. - SALVS AVGVSTORVM.

Hygia et AEsculapius cum cane suo. - Pausanias alludes to the magnificent works which Antoninus Pius dedicated to the honour of AEsculapius. The veneration of that emperor for the god of medicine has been evidenced by a brass medallion (see p. 20 of this dictionary) bearing on its reverse the name of AESCVLAPIVS, and a type allusive to the legend of that divinity 's arrival in the form of a serpent at Rome from Epidaurus. Another brass medallion of the same emperor exhibits AEsculapius, seated on a throne, with a dog at his feet. In his left hand he holds a staff, round which coils a serpent; in his right is a patera, attesting his assigned divinity. The other figure represents his daughter Hygia, clothed in the stola; she stands near an altar, and in the act of sacrificing. - Behind the goddess is a tree.

Pedrusi having thus described the reverse type of this unique and remarkable medallion, and caused it to be engraved in the 5th volume of the Museum Farnese (TAV. ix. fig. 6), a faithful copy of it is inserted below, together with the purport of some of the learned Italian 's animadversions on the subject: -

This pious but mistaken display of personified deification has for its object to promote the health of a beloved monarch. All united in putting up vows for its restoration, for every one enjoyed the results of the imperial beneficence. Punctiliously courteous to his subjects, "Imperatorium fastigium ad summam civilitatem deduxit:" - Kind and considerate with the Senate, to which "tantum detulit Imperator, quantum, cum privatus esset, deferri sibi ab alio Principe optavit:" - Most  benignant towards the people, among other examples -"Balneum, quo usus fuisset, sine mercede, populo exhibuit." - Provident, and always attentive to the good of the conquered provinces, it was under Antoninus that all the provinces flourished. - Most honest in his opinions, he was resorted to by nations even as distant from Rome as the Bactrians and the Indians, when they had differences to settle, soliciting his decision as that of an oracle. A monarch adorned, then, with so many estimable qualities, might well lay claim to the public vows in favor of his own health.

But the true AEsculapius, who watched over the health of Antoninus, was the celebrated Galen, to whose consummate knowledge this prince, in one of his dangerous sicknesses, was indebted for the preservation of his life. * * * The ancients frequently associated Hygia with AEsculapius, and in Achaia and other districts of Greece, their statues stood together in the temples erected to their united honour. And at Rome the same union took place in the worship of father and daughter, with this sole difference, that the goddess whom the Greeks called Hygeia, was by the Latins termed Salus or Bona Valetudo.

Eckel (vi. 33) remarks, that frequently as the image of AEsculapius appears on ancient coins, the dog is rarely seen as his companion. Pausanias, however, affirms a figure of that animal to have been placed at the feet of the celebrated statue of AEsculapius at Epidaurus. - The reason, as explained by the same writer, was that having soon after his birth been left exposed, he was suckled by a goat and guarded by a dog. "Canes adhibebantur ejus (cujus?) (AEsculapii) templo, quod is uberibus canis sit nutribus." - "Cane ad pedes (simulacri AEsculapii) decumbente." (Pausan. ii. 61).
The appearance of the tree rising in the field of the reverse, is supposed to bear reference to another superstitious belief of the ancients respecting AEsculapius, that the god of medicine took no satisfaction in the worship of this votaries unless paid to him in his own grove. On this point Pausanias (ii. 60) says - "AEsculapii lucum, circumquaque, montes incingunt, intra cujus ambitum mori quenquam, aut masci, religio est."


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