© 9th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities
Ground plan of tholos tomb of Minyas
The Mycenaean tholos tomb, known as the Tomb of Minyas, the mythical king of Orchomenos, near the ruins of the prehistoric settlement of Orchomenos and the city's later theatre, is one of the largest and most important monuments of its kind. The tomb, which was probably built for the members of the royal family of Orchomenos in 1250 BC, was plundered in antiquity. The monument was visible for many centuries after its original use and even became a place of worship in the Hellenistic period. It was probably a famous landmark until at least the second century AD, when Pausanias visited Orchomenos and described the tholos in detail (9, 38, 2-3).

The tomb stood on ground level and had a dromos thirty metres long. Its entrance - 5.46 metres high, 2.70 metres wide at the lower end and 2.43 metres wide at the upper end - was built of limestone (*dark grey Levadhia marble) and had a wooden door. The lintel, still in place today, is six metres long and weighs several tons. The circular chamber is fourteen metres in diameter and was probably the same height. Pausanias relates that the tholos was built in the load displacing technique with a keystone at the very top to hold it together. On the northeast side of the chamber is a small side chamber, accessed by a 2.12 metre high door. A similar side room appears in two other royal graves: the Tomb of Atreus at Mycenae, which is contemporary with the tomb of Minyas, and tholos Tomb A at Archanes, Crete. The entrance and the chamber were decorated with bronze rosettes as shown by the attachment holes on the walls, while the ceiling of the side room consisted of four limestone (green schist) slabs with relief spirals, rosettes and papyrus flowers. In the centre of the chamber is a marble pedestal, 5.73 metres long, which in the Hellenistic period held several statues of gods.

The tomb was entirely preserved at least until the time of Pausanias, who greatly admired its construction. In later centuries the monument was still visible despite its gradual reburial. Early nineteenth century travellers report that the tholos was destroyed. The monument was first excavated by Heinrich Schliemann, Homer's great admirer, whom the legendary wealth of Boeotian Orchomenos undoubtedly tantalized.

Excavations continued in the greater area of the tholos under the Bavarian Academy of Sciences in 1905 and 1907, and Anastasios Orlandos restored the monument in 1914.
Elena Kountouri, archaeologist