Its circular shape, which the ancient Greeks normally associated with mortuary constructions, and its tripartite basement imitating the labyrinthine spaces of Hades, suggest the interpretation that the monument housed the subterranean dwelling of Asklepios.
Work of the Argive architect Polykleitos, the Tholos was constructed between 365 and 335 BC. It is located next to the Abaton, since both buildings were part of a single architectural programme that consciously led the patient close to the underground home of the god. There where Asklepios embodied the generative powers of nature, having gained with his death immortality and the permission of Zeus to heal mortals, from the depths of the earth.
The splendid edifice consists of three concentric rings. On the outer ring were 26 Doric columns of poros limestone. The middle ring formed a circular cella (temple). On the inner ring was a colonnade of 14 marble columns in the Corinthian order, which surrounded an elaborate floor of alternating white and black marble lozenge-shaped paving stones. Under this floor was the basement, where three circular corridors with openings in appropriate places obliged those who entered it to follow a meandering course.
The monument had a roof of marble tiles with sculptural decoration of exquisite art and other features that made it unique. It was destroyed by the earthquake in the sixth century AD and in the ensuing centuries its ruins were pillaged for their architectural members. However, the basement and part of its building material survived. After the restoration of the base of the building with ancient and new members, and the partial reconstruction of the superstructure, today’s visitor can participate in the magical experience that the visit to the Tholos once was.