August 14, 2020


Aim for Excellence

Some Ancient Greek Temples Had ‘Disability Ramps’, According to This Researcher

In historical Greece, numerous hundred many years before the frequent period and extended before the...

In historical Greece, numerous hundred many years before the frequent period and extended before the creation of wheelchairs, some holy sanctuaries may possibly have been specially created with incapacity in mind.


While ramps have been not specifically frequent in the fourth century BCE, historical healing temples are frequently ringed by these everlasting stone buildings. Archaeologist Debby Sneed from California Condition University suspects that’s no coincidence.

In a new paper, she argues the historical Greeks planned and produced these ramps to accommodate people who could not effortlessly use stairs, like the elderly, expecting gals, tiny small children, people with canes and crutches, people being transported on litters, and people with impaired mobility. 

“While the provision of access to mobility-impaired people may possibly not have been the unique function of these ramps,” Sneed argues, “it was a key variable in their construction.”

Analysing the literature and individually visiting numerous perfectly-recognised websites, Sneed has discovered a curious pattern in the use of tiny set ramps in the entryways of historical Greek temples.

(© 2019 J. Goodinson scientific advisor J. Svolos via Sneed, Antiquity, 2020)

Higher than: Reconstruction of the fourth-century BC Temple of Asklepios at Epidauros (suitable), showing the ramp extending out of the entrance/east side.

The sanctuaries committed to healing are likely to have extra ramps encompassing them. In the past, archaeologists have assumed this was for animal sacrifices, but Sneed factors out that most of these messy affairs occurred on altars outside the temples.


It truly is also not likely that these stone ramps have been remnants of construction, as the historical Greeks tended to depend on cranes and hoists although developing. 

Sneed’s study factors out a preponderance of ramps at some sanctuaries and not other individuals. While the sanctuary that housed the primary Olympic video games at Olympia has two ramps, just one to the main temple and a different to a sacrificial precinct, the healing Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidauros –  arguably the most crucial healing sanctuary of historical Greece – has 11 stone ramps on 9 individual structures. Other subsidiary structures all-around it have been not lifted earlier mentioned ground level.

“The offered evidence indicates a pattern whereby healing sanctuaries, which hosted quite a few people with a array of illnesses, injuries and situations (like quite a few impacting mobility), experienced extra ramps than non-healing sanctuaries,” writes Sneed. 

“Two these types of healing sanctuaries, the Asklepios sanctuaries at Epidauros and Corinth, are adequately perfectly preserved to illustrate this pattern.”

The just one at Corinth only has two ramps, admittedly, but it is crafted in a way that would make all of its rooms effortlessly obtainable. The ramp at the entrance delivers you into the highest room, a different delivers you into the courtroom, and the last room is at ground level.


There are some exceptions. The healing sanctuary on Kos has stairs connecting all its terraces, but as Sneed factors out, it may possibly have also specialised in a kind of healing that didn’t frequently have to have ramps. 

In Corinth, for instance, excavators at the sanctuary uncovered caches of even older anatomical choices, like a large quantity of legs and feet from both gentlemen and gals.

“The evident dedicatory emphasis on legs and feet – and consequently on reduced-overall body injuries and impairments – at this early date may possibly have encouraged the builders to consist of ramps when the areas have been reconstructed in the afterwards fourth century BC to accommodate the somewhat large quantity of website visitors with impaired mobility that the website catered to or historically captivated,” writes Sneed.

Sneed’s unique venture of looking into incapacity in historical Greece has been deemed persuasive by other archaeologists, despite the fact that not everybody is certain.

Katja Sporn, head of the German Archaeological Institute in Athens, told Science information that for the reason that these ramps have been uncovered in just one specific area, they could only have been a pattern in architecture.

“It helps everybody, also disabled persons, wander into temples improved,” Sporn suggests. “But that you would only do it for disabled persons I you should not come across convincing.”

Both way, the thesis raises an appealing discussion stage, as Sneed concludes in her paper just one that’s related for the inclusion of disabled community associates these days.

“Ancient Greek culture neither mirrors our very own, nor is it a precursor of a modern-day ‘Western civilisation’. Even where by we do see similarities, as in the construction of ramps to promote accessibility, we are not able to attribute them to the similar leads to,” she writes.

“We can, however, explore the motivations at the rear of the decisions of historical Greek architects and builders, and of historical Greeks in common, and take into account the effects for people residing inside of that culture.”

The study was printed in Antiquity.