WHO IS HYGIEIA?
Greek Goddess of Prevention & Health
The Greeks had many gods that could help cure diseases. Throughout their history, these became more numerous and specialized. However, people knew that curing an illness was not the ideal. Better yet was to make sure that a person never became ill at all.
Hygieia was one of the daughters of Asclepius, the patron god of doctors.
She not only encouraged a return to good health after illness, but also protected a person’s health so that they never fell ill to begin with.
People believed that by invoking Hygieia, they could prevent illness before it happened. If a person was already ill, the goddess of health could restore them and keep them from having lingering issues. For this reason, Hygieia was among the deities invoked in the Hippocratic Oath, a version of which doctors still swear to this day.
Hygieia’s name, of course, lived on into the modern world. As the goddess who prevented illness, she gave her name to the modern concept of hygiene.
While the Greeks made many advances in medicine, hygiene as we think of it today was not a central part of medical care in the ancient world. With no understanding of germs and how diseases spread, it would not be until the modern era that sanitization became part of medical practice.
It is a mistake, however, to think that people of the past had no concept that hygiene was important. While they did not understand germs and viruses, observation showed that illnesses and infections were less common in cleaner environments.
To this day, the Greek goddess Hygieia is still associated with maintaining good health and preventing the spread of illness.