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The Aesculapius rod and Caduceus

Last modified: 2011-12-24 by rob raeside
Keywords: aesculapius rod | caduceus |
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From the symbols.com website: http://www.symbols.com/encyclopedia/41b/41b33.html

"Caduceus, the staff of the two snakes, (...) is the attribute of Hermes (Greece) and of Mercurius (Rome). It has, on account of this, become a symbol for trade and communication."

And from http://www.symbols.com/encyclopedia/41a/41a12.html: "In Greece Mercury was represented by Hermes, the quick-footed messenger of the gods, often pictured with wings at his ankles. Hermes was symbolized by the caduceus, the staff of the two snakes. (...) The staff of the snakes in Rome became a symbol for trade and communications. This caduceus, or snakes' staff, has been mixed up with the Aesculapii staff, with only one snake, a symbol for the art of healing or medicine."

So in short, if the staff has:

- two snakes plus (optionally) wings at the top, it is a caduceus and stands for trade;
- one snake and nothing else, it is a rod of Aesculapius and stands for medicine.

Santiago Dotor, 12 February 2003


But it got mixed up for a good reason: As a symbol of communications, it was used as a sort of white flag on the battlefield: These are messengers, do not harm. It then spread to any non-belligerent on the battlefield, including doctors- hence its use for military doctors and not many others (civilians tend to use the Aesculapis).
Nathan Lamm, 12 February 2003


 
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