The re-enactment of the Hippocratic oath

An awe-inspiring experience

The re-enactment (recitation) of the Hippocratic Oath has been instituted at the sacred grounds of the Asclepeion. A crowned young man, holding a parchment with the text of the Oath written on and accompanied by two maidens in white, symbolising the goddesses Hygeia and Panacea, descends the steps of the third terrace of the Asclepeion. Meanwhile, a procession of three flute players, dressed in chitons while playing a rhythmic musical piece, together with maidens dressed in white carrying baskets, precedes them. They descend the steps slowly and majestically in double file and take their position around the Altar of Asclepius, which they sprinkle with rose petals, while the young wreath wearer recites the ancient text of the Oath in an imposing atmosphere.

The re-enactment of the Hippocratic oath
The first re-enactment of the oath, at 1952

The ceremony was first held in 1952 and was performed by students of the Hippocratic High School of Kos, in honour of some European doctors who had visited the island of Hippocrates. During that time, the principal of the school was Gabriil Papatheofanous who tasked the gymnasts Amalia Exarhaki and Panagiotis Fotias with the teaching of the required choreography to the students. Teacher of classical studies and author Fotis Varelis was one of the first initiators of the ceremony and did the research that lead to the instructions for that first ceremony.

Since then, the ceremony became widely known and several doctors combine their visit to Kos with the awe-inspiring re-enactment, allowing themselves to relive a vital moment in the history of medicine. Medical students from around the world have also experienced the ceremony by taking their oath in the sacred Asclepeion. Nowadays, the ceremony is performed annually under the auspices of the municipality of Kos or or upon requests in the event of a medicinal conference and other medical events. It is considered the topmost event of Hippocratia Festival.

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Kos Island Greece