Cos, home of Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, is the third largest island of the Dodecanese (Twelve Islands). In antiquity its population was 120,000, eight times that of today. Its fame derived from the renowned Asclepeion of Cos, a healing center and religious shrine devoted to Asclepius, the god of healing. Tourists still come to marvel at this spectacular architectural structure, and international medical conferences are conducted on the island in memory of Hippocrates. Cos (also spelled Kos) lies only 3 miles off the coast of Turkey, near the Bodrum peninsula. Connections are available to the Turkish mainland by ferry, and a fascinating circuit of biblical sites can be made from Athens through the Greek islands to Cos and then up the western coast of Turkey for a departure from Istanbul. Access to Cos by air is available from Athens (three flights daily), or by ferry from Piraeus, Rhodes, or Thessaloniki through Samos. Hydrofoils are available from Rhodes and Samos for faster trips. (Always check ferry and hydrofoil schedules closely; frequent and erratic changes occur, particularly with hydrofoils in the event of high winds.) Cos was settled by the Mycenaeans in 1425 B.C.E., and Homer described it as heavily populated (Iliad 14:225). Pliny referred to it as a major shipping port (Natural History 15:18). Among its exports were wine, purple dye, and elegant, diaphanous fabrics of silk (raw silk; pure silk from the Orient did not reach the west until the 3rd century C.E.). Aristotle wrote that silk fabric was invented on the island of Cos: “A class of women unwind and reel off the cocoons of these creatures [caterpillars] and afterward weave a fabric with the thread thus unwound; a Koan woman by the name of Pamphila, daughter of Plateus, being credited with the first invention of the fabric” (The History of Animals 5.19). Cos reached the pinnacle of its prosperity and power in the 7th and 6th centuries B.C.E., but by the end of the 6th century B.C.E. it had come under the control of Persia.
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