1. The Asclepion: In antiquity, before the first hospitals appeared, there were temples, called Ἀσκληπιεῖον (Asklepieion), dedicated to the cult to the god-healer Asclepius (a title shared with his father Apollo). His main iconographic feature is still used as a symbol of medicine, the rod with a snake entwined around it. Snakes (in concrete the European Zamenis longissimus) used to crawl here and there among the sick who were resting, dog-nurses whose job was to lick wounds. This is hard to find that in a modern operating room. After bathing the patients to purify them, a priest-doctor drugged them and put them to sleep on a κλίνη (klínē the root from which clinic evolved meant bed) and later acted as oneiromancers interpreting the treatment. To cap it all you could visit the underground of the temple, which resembled the ᾍδης (Hades, Hell) or experience a catharsis in the acoustically perfect theater. Payments by cash or rooster. Goths, Theodosius II and earthquakes put and end to the site. One asklepeion was in Epidaurus and another in Kos, where Hippocrates wrote the famous Hippocratic Oath. Here the first sentence of the text:
“I swear by Apollo Healer, by Asclepius, by Hygieia, by Panacea, and by all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will carry out, according to my ability and judgment, this oath and this indenture.”
Asklepius was also the father of several daughters, among them: Hygieia and Panacea. In a similar fashion, the symbol of the first one was a cup with a snake, nowadays the pharmacy sign. In the United States the caduceus, also a staff but with two serpents instead of one, is often the symbol of medical services, however, it was traditionally associated with Hermes, god of commerce. Ophidia were powerful symbols of eternal life and resurrection, due to its ecdysis, and duality of nature, as they can kill or heal with their venom.
2. Hospitality: Valetudinaria, from Latin “valetudo” (good health), was a military building to heal the soldiers injured at the limes (border). Hospitium comes from the Latin verb hospes (guest) and in the East part of the Empire, where Greek was the lingua franca, ξενοδοχεῖον (ksenodokheion, foreigners-accept). It referred to the sacred rule of hosting foreigners and pilgrims, like a hotel (in fact, this and hostel are the same but shorter. Check the map below), although not exclusively. Some old germanic words calqued it: Middle Dutch gasthūs, Old High German gasthūs, Old English gæsthus. Despite the formal differences, hospes, host and guest shared a common ancestor, proto-indoeuropean gʰóstis “Foreigner”. As Christianism became the official religion, it took the role of helping the sick to ease their pass to the otherworld. Therefore salvation was a key concept: care (charitas) before healthcare. The architecture reflected that: the wings spread around the chapel, so patients could hear the Mass and pray. All of the mentioned before were not technically hospitals in the moderns sense, with the exception of nosocomium (from Greek νόσος (nósos) “disease” + κομέω (koméō) “to care”).
3. Sickhouse: The Bimaristan (in Persian بيمارستان, “sick+place”) where the hospitals in the Islamic world. The word is still used in Persian, as it is shown on the map, but is archaic in Arab and if used, it refers to a mental hospital. The first building was founded in 271. These institutions were modern to our eyes in many different ways: Although some fee might have been applied, they were normally free to anyone thanks to state support based on waqfs, patients were divided into departments, including quarters for men and women with their own personal, who were secular, paid by the state, educated in the madrasas and licensed, (like the famous Avicena) and inspected regularly. Unlike the doctor in the West.