Presentation of the Monument(Click on the images to see them larger)
«Opposite the temple (of Asclepios) is the place where the pilgrims of the God sleep. A circular edifice built of marble nearby, known as the Tholos, is truly worth seeing. Inside the Tholos there is a painting by Pausias depicting Eros who, having left aside his bow and arrows, is holding a lyre. Methe, the goddess of inebriation, is also depicted drinking from a glass cup - another work by Pausias. The cup seems to be of real glass and through it one can see the woman's face». From Pausanias's "Corinthiaca", 27, 3
The description of the Tholos by Pausanias is extremely brief and does not provide information on the form of the building or its use.
The Tholos began being built in 360 B.C. and was completed about 350 B.C. Aglaia Arhondithou-Argyri, an archaeologist, gives the following account in her book "Epidaurus" (pp. 22-26):
«Near the temple of Asclepios are the ruins of a circular edifice known as the Tholos. It had a circular sekos, a wing and an inner colonnade. A ramp led to its entrance, which - as was customary with temples - was situated on the east side. Twenty-six columns comprised the exterior Doric colonnade, supporting a Doric entablature adorned with relief metopes with rosettes. The inner colonnade consisted of 14 columns of the Corinthian order. The wall of the sekos was between the two colonnades. This was made of white marble and had a window to let the light in. A large number of relief decorative elements - egg-and-dart mouldings - adorned the door of the sekos. The floor was paved with black and white limestone slabs».
A wide circle of black stone was in the centre. A circular white stone was at the centre of the circle. The stone was not secured so that it could easily be removed by any person wishing to go down to the basement with the three concentric corridors. The person who carried out the excavation thought at first that it served as a space for storing valuable objects. The inscription which gives an account of the cost of the temple refers to the Tholos as "THYMELA" and for that reason it has been supported that the Tholos was used as a refectory where the priests had their meals. A recent theory as to the purpose the Tholos served is that Asclepios, deprived of his heroic nature, was worshipped there.
This was so because Asclepios was a celestial god, an Olympian god, who was worshipped at the temple beyond the Tholos. But he was also a hero who derived his strength from the earth and ascended from the tomb just like a snake comes out of the earth. The Tholos is the symbolic tomb of the hero who lives inside the earth. The excavation of the temple of Asclepios at Pergamus, the most famous in Asia Minor, where a centrally-planned building was discovered, has made a significant contribution towards solving the problem.
The circular building of the Tholos at Epidaurus was a complete astronomical monument. What is unusual about it is that it was situated at the healing centre par excellence of the ancient Greek world. One day we may be able to understand the reasons why an astronomical monument had to be in a cure centre, a place dedicated to health. Perhaps, this is the reason why no-one has thus far associated the architectural and sculptural elements, both interior and exterior, on the floor, ceiling and murals in an attempt to compose the astronomical identity of the Monument.
With the exception of the basement of the Labyrinth, the remaining of the monument bears the seal of Asclepios's father, Apollo, master of spiritual light. The Sun is Apollo's reresentative in the physical universe. (Plutarch, "Περί του ΕΙ εν Δελφοίς", 4 and 21).
Today, the only thing that remains from the Tholos is the Labyrinth.
The circular shape of the Monument was not due to mere chance. It permitted the representation of the firmament and represented the two astronomical theories concerning the Sun: the Geocentric theory of the Sun's apparent course and the Heliocentric theory. The apparent course appeared on the exterior of the Monument and was there for all visitors to see. The Heliocentric had been designed inside the Monument protected from the eyes of the many.
Drawing of the
Floor of the
T h o l o s
by ALTANI, Researcher
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