In 180 B.C., on the occasion of a plague, vows were made to Apollo, Aesculapius and Salus (Livy xl.
Now, serpents were tended in the sanctuaries of the Greek Aesculapius (Asklepios), the famous god of healing.
Finally, although in the sanctuary of Aesculapius healing came directly or indirectly as the patients dreamed, it appears from the burlesque of Aristophanes (Plutus, 653 sqq.) that they first bathed in the sacred spring.
Serpent cults were well known in ancient Europe; there does not, it is true, appear to be much ground for supposing that Aesculapius was a serpent-god in spite of his connexion with serpents.
Cato advised the agriculturist to sell his old oxen and his old slaves, as well as his sick ones; and sick slaves were exposed in the island of Aesculapius in the Tiber; by a decree of Claudius slaves so exposed, if they recovered, could not be reclaimed by their masters.
Temples were erected to Aesculapius in many parts of Greece, near healing springs or on high mountains.
They include colossal figures of Aesculapius and Bacchus, and the lower half of a seated Egyptian divinity in black basalt, bearing the cartouche of Tethmosis (Thothmes) I.
The British Museum possesses a beautiful head of Aesculapius (or possibly Zeus) from Melos, and the Louvre a magnificent statue.
There is an obvious development from the serpent qua reptile to the deity or the devil, and that the original theriomorphic form is not at once forgotten can be seen in Zeus Meilichios, Aesculapius Amynos, in the Cretan snake-goddesses, or in the Buddhist topes illustrated by Fergusson.
Serapis' (OsirisApis) who came to acquire the attributes of Aesculapius and of Pluto, god of the dead, sometimes had serpent-form, and even in the reign of Constantine popular belief connected the rise of the Nile with his agency (Frazer, Adonis, 398).