293 BC: Rome suffers from the Plague. It’s, like, so bad you guys. They ask the Oracle at Delphi what they should do, oracle advises them to
get snake introduce the Cult of Asclepius in Rome.
(A small diversion here: Asclepius is the son of Apollo and a human woman called Koronis. His mother dies / is killed by Apollo while she’s pregnant, and Asclepius is cut from her belly. Chiron, the centaur, teaches him about healing and hunting, and Asclepius gets so good at that that he can bring back the dead. Zeus strikes him down for messing with the order of things. Asclepius becomes a god, takes his place among the stars.)
Onwards, then, to Epidaurus, where our brave Roman heroes get given the sacred snake of the god. Snake jumps out of its basket as the ship is sailing up the Tiber, and swims to the Isola Tiberina, where the first temple of Asclepius is founded at Rome. Plague… gets better.
Retelling based on this: http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/numismatics/entry/a_medallion_showing/