The Asclipeion, surrounded by woods of pine and cypress trees, is one of the most famous monuments on the island of Kos and is situated on a slope facing the coast of Asia Minor a mere 3.5kms north west of Kos Town.
The Asclipeion was discovered in the beginning of the 20th century by the German archaeologist Rudolf Herzog, assisted by the Koan history researcher Iakovos Zarraftis, at the site of a church named `’Panayia tis Tarsou (or tou Alsous)”. Excavation began in 1902 and continued till 1905 and large part of the finds were preserved in the Archeological Museum that was established at the time. A mission of the Italian Archeological School undertook extensive excavations on the site from 1928 to 1943 but no more excavations have been conducted since then.
The Asclipeion of Kos is connected to the works of one of the most important figures of medical science, Hippocrates (460-380 BC). The masterpiece painting of the Rising Aphrodite by the famous painter Apelles and the semi-naked Aphrodite by the great sculptor Praxiteles used to embellish the Asclipieion.
The site is laid out in three terraces.
The surviving ruins of the Asclipeion do not extend beyond the 4th century BC and mainly belong to the Hellenistic Age. Construction material from the archeological site has been unfortunately used, during the times, notably for the erection of the Kos Town Fortress and the Mosques at the Lotzia and Eleftheria squares.
On the lowest terrace there was a stoa in the shape of the greek letter Π. The southern side is dominated by the retaining wall, bedecked with niches, in one of which there is a fountain. To the east there is a complex of Roman baths (Thermae) dating from the 3rd century AD. Its massive walls, built with small stone and lime, stand out.
On the middle terrace you will see the remains of a large altar (of Kyparissios Apollo) which was built around the middle of the 4th century BC. It is one of the earliest structures in the Asklipeion. To the west of the altar there is a temple of Asklepios in Ionian style, dating from the 3rd century BC. In its nave, it has a rectangular pit of small depth covered by a marble slab where the offertory box (thysayros) was kept. To the south of the altar, there are the foundations of a semi-circular platform. To the east of the altar there is a Roman temple in the Corinthian order from the 2nd century AD.
On the upper terrace lie the remains of the Doric temple of Asklepios from the 2nd century BC, 33.28 meters long and 18.79 meters wide, where the Church of “Panayia tou Alsous” was built (see above). On the south side, the staircase leading to the sacred cypress grove is discernible. On the same terrace there are the branches of an aqueduct.
The Asclipeion is quite impressive as it is surrounded by vegetation, mainly pine woods and cypress trees, and the panorama is quite stunning, as on clear days you can admire the view of the Turkish shores on the other side of the expanse of water.