The Tholos of Epidaurus

The erection of Tholos started in 360 B.C. and was completed in about 350 B.C. by the famous architect Polykleitos, who also designed the theater of Epidaurus, possibly a grandson of the sculptor Polikleitos

The most important building in the sanctuary of Epidaurus was the Tholos or Thymele. The excavations on the site started in 1881 and were first conducted by the Greek archeologist Panayotis Kavvadias. They lasted until his death in 1928 under the auspices of the Archeological Society of Athens. His work comprising “The History of Greek Art”, in three volumes, and the “Fouilles d’ Epidaure” of 1891, in two volumes, form the basis of the description of the Sanctuary in general and of the Tholos in particular. The authenticity of the details by the eminent archeologist allows the analysis of the monument on a basis not explored so far.

In his book “History of Greek Art”, volume B, page 464, Doudoumis Publications, Kavvadias asserts:

"The Tholos was equal in beauty to the temple Erehtheion in the Acropolis of Athens and competing with the Parthenon with regards to its building perfection".

The only ancient description of the Tholos is Pausanias short reference in the Korinthiaka, 27:

"Opposite the temple of Asclepios there is a place where the god’s worshippers sleep. A circular marble structure built nearby, the so- called Tholos, is worth seeing. Inside the Tholos there is a painting by Pausias portraying Eros, having left the arrows and the bow and having taken and holding the lyre. Methi *** (drunkenness) is also portrayed here drinking out of a glass cup, which is a work of Pausias, too. The cup looks as if it is real glass and one can see the woman’s face through it".

*** Methi, translated as drunkenness, should not be confused with the idea of intoxication, as the woman being portrayed can clearly be seen through the wine glass, pointedly implying the symbolic clearness of a lucid mind, reaching the realms of the Supreme Mind in a mystic monument, where the sacred ceremonies have not yet been revealed.

The description of the Tholos by Pausanias is extremely brief and does not give any specific information about the structure of the monument and its use.

by ALTANI, Researcher

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