2,500-Year-Old Ancient Greek Temples Were Built With Disability Ramps

by : Emily Brown on : 22 Jul 2020 18:10
2,500-Year-Old Ancient Greek Temples Were Built With Disability RampsPA Images

A new study conducted by archaeologists has revealed Ancient Greeks built ramps up to temples to ensure people with disabilities could access the buildings. 

Considering there are still a lot of modern-day buildings where disabled access features are less than ideal, the new discovery makes it clear that Ancient Greeks were way ahead of the game with their architectural planning.


Archaeologists from California State University made the conclusion after re-examining the placement and design of ramps at several Greek buildings, some of which were around 2,500 years old.

Greek architecturePixabay

In a study published in the journal Antiquity and cited by CNN, the researchers detailed that access ramps were particularly common at healing sanctuaries, where many mobility-impaired people went in search of help from the healing god Asclepius.

Ramps weren’t common on Greek buildings, suggesting they weren’t simply part of the usual architecture, Science Mag reports.


Debby Sneed, the lead author on the study, explained:

The distribution is pretty clear: They show up in places where there are more disabled people.

One example is the Sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidaurus, one of the most important healing sanctuaries in Ancient Greece, which had 11 stone ramps installed on nine structures during renovations that started in 370 BC.


The researchers believe some buildings older than fourth century BC were likely built with disabled access in mind, because while wheelchairs weren’t yet invented, ramps would be easier to navigate for people on crutches, or those being carried on stretchers.

Sneed commented on the findings in a press release, saying:

Archaeologists have long known about ramps on ancient Greek temples, but have routinely ignored them in their discussions of Greek architecture.

The likeliest reason why ancient Greek architects constructed ramps was to make sites accessible to mobility-impaired visitors.


The examples given in the study are the earliest known evidence of ancient societies adapting their structures for disabled people.

Sneed pointed out that people tend to think all ancient Greeks were as muscular and fit as the individuals depicted in their art, saying: ‘there’s this assumption that there is no room in Greek society for people who weren’t able-bodied.’ However, archaeological evidence has shown that disability was commonplace in Ancient Greece.

Wheelchair rampPixabay

The study authors noted that 60% of the individuals excavated from a Classical-period cemetery at the site of Amphipolis had osteoarthritis, which causes joints to become painful and stiff.


Many visitors to healing sanctuaries are thought to have had mobility impairments, as demonstrated at one sanctuary in Corinth where a number of dedications to the god Asclepius represent legs and feet. The researchers suggest this was indicative of people requesting healing of their limbs.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: News, history, Now


CNN and 1 other
  1. CNN

    Ramps leading into temples show Ancient Greeks put inclusive design into action

  2. Science Mag

    Ramps for disabled people trace back to ancient Greece