Snakes and staffs
Two different symbols combining snakes and staffs have been used to represent the medical profession. Laxmi Vilas Ghimire looks at the history of these symbols and asks which is better
- By: Laxmi Vilas Ghimire
If you ask which symbol represents medicine and doctors, some people might say a white coat, others might say a stethoscope, but some may say that it is a snake entwining a staff. However, two different symbols that feature snakes and staffs are used to represent medicine. One is the aesculapian symbol, which has a snake rolled around the staff of Aesculapius. The other has two snakes entwined around the caduceus (staff) of Hermes with a pair of wings on the top called, unsurprisingly, the Caduceus of Hermes. But why are these used to represent the medical profession, and which one is a more accurate representative?
Between 1200 BC and AD 500, Aesculapius was the major focus of Greco-Roman medical tradition.1 He was deified and worshipped, and his traditions of care spread throughout most of the Roman Empire. Aesculapius was also described in Homer's writings as a mortal physician, who