Nymphaeum in the Agora of Amathous, Cyprus

Nymphaeum in the Agora of Amathous, Cyprus

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Amathous is one of the significant ancient city-kingdoms of Cyprus where, according to mythology, Greek hero Theseus left the pregnant Ariadne to be attended by local women. It was also an important site of worship of the Goddess Aphrodite-Astarte.

There are various, rich archaeological finds at the site, including the Agora, the public baths, the Temple of Aphrodite, early Christian basilicas and several tombs.

The Agora is located in the lower town. In ancient times, it was the traditional hub for commercial and political activities, and the many buildings surrounding it, played an important role in the daily life of the city. During the Roman period, the Agora was organised around a large stone-paved court. Three porticos occupy the other three sides. The west portico opened to the court through 13 Doric columns, and ended at its north edge at a fountain (or a Nympheum), and at a later cistern. Buildings were erected behind the north portico - which is very damaged - and appear to have constituted the most important administrative or religious buildings of the site.

The area south of the Agora is occupied by a public bath (balaneion), which is comprised of a closed circular area and annexes. The bath - along with part of the west portico of the Agora - date to the Hellenistic period, and constitute the earliest indications of human activity in the area.

Also at the site is the Temple of Aphrodite, sat atop of a hill at the Acropolis of Amathous. Evidence of the presence of a sanctuary in the area includes votive offerings going back to the mid 8th century BC. Through the centuries, the Temple of Aphrodite was a sacred enclosed space for ceremonies and votive offerings around an altar. There may have been other buildings in the area, but the cult itself was not housed in a main building.

Two gigantic stone craters (huge monolith vessels) – believed to be of the late Archaic period stood in the area. One was taken to the Paris Louvre in the middle of the 19th century and has now been replaced by a modern replica.

It is also believed that there were two other temples at the Acropolis of Amathous – one dedicated to Adonis and the other to Hercules.

Finds also originate from several tombs and date from the Archaic to the Roman and Christian periods, were found at the Acropolis and the lower section of the town, and in five early Christian basilicas.

As the western churches start Holy Week, it seems appropriate to post something Christian and liturgical. So here’s a rough drafty-draft of a section on churches that I wrote for a contribution to the Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Archaeology. For more on that project, go here.

Monumental architecture, and basilica-style churches in particular, remain the most visible form of Early Christian material culture. Richard Maguire’s recent dissertation on the Early Christian churches of Cyprus counts over 70 buildings dating to this period. His 2012 work stands as the best, recent synthesis and catalogue of these monuments, and expands substantially on the work of Peter Megaw and Andreas Papageorghiou who published a series of synthetic articles in Greece during the 1960s. Papageorghiou sought to prove that Early Christian archaeology on Cyprus derived from Constantinopolitan precedents and tied the island closely to the culture of the imperial capital. Megaw’s important 1974 article which addressed the question “Metropolitan or Provincial?” for Cypriot architecture comes down largely in the latter camp for most Early Christian monuments on the island assigning many characteristic features of basilica-style churches to Levantine or Palestinian influences. Maguire’s dissertation is less committed to tracing lines of influence, and instead recognized the polyvalence of influences on ecclesiastical architecture on the island. The position of Cyprus astride a wide range of Eastern Mediterranean networks makes Maguire’s conclusions not only the most plausible but also consistent with what we read in textual sources for the island.

Like most of the eastern Mediterranean, the earliest confirmed Christian buildings date to the end of the 4th century AD. The archaeological evidence for these churches remains unsatisfactory, but perhaps not entirely unconvincing. The earliest phase of the basilica associated with St. Spyridon at Tremetousia in Larnaka District has a mosaic that the excavator, A. Papageorghiou, dated stylistically to the 4th century. He combined that date with the reference to a pilgrimage church in the Vita of St. Spyridon and the bishop’s attendance at the Council of Nicaea in 325 to argue that the modest three-aisled basilica with stone columns. The 6th or 7th basilica of St. Auxibios at Soloi in Kyrenia Distract also has an early phase which various scholars have argued to be mid-4th century, again on the basis of mosaic style. An early, five-aisled basilica at the site, however, had several unusual features including a series of semicircular basins set into a flat eastern wall that caused Megaw to suggest that this building may be a nymphaeum rather than an early church, whereas Charles Stewart and the excavators have suggested that this early, hall-like structure should rank as the earliest Christian building on the island with the basins serving an unknown liturgical function. Several other buildings on the island have possible 4th century dates. Papageorghiou and Megaw have dated the massive, seven-aisled Chrysopolitissa basilica at Paphos to the 4th century based on mosaic styles, but the church remains unpublished. The basilica of St. Epiphanios at Salamis, where he was presumably buried after his death in 403. The account of the church’s construction in the Life of Epiphanios where the bishop commissioned the church before his death.

The reliance on stylistic dates for the earliest churches on Cyprus reflects a significant limits to our archaeological knowledge of the region. The great basilica of the Campanopetra at Salamis featured a colonnaded, double western atria and an atrium projecting to the east, a ambulatory surrounding a three-aisled nave, and numerous ancillary rooms. The church was almost certainly designed to accommodate pilgrims and, along with the fourth-century basilica of St. Epiphanios and the late-fifth century basilica dedicated to St. Barnabas, formed a pilgrimage center at Salamis for travelers on their way to the Holy Land. Unfortunately, we do not have published stratigraphy for any of these churches leaving Campanopetra to be dated on the basis of architectural sculpture and St. Barnabas dated on the basis of wall style. It seems likely that the churches at Salamis were built within a century of the impressive Episcopal compound at Kourion published in 2007 by Megaw. This church stood at the south end of the Roman agora on the site of fourth-century civic basilica. The earliest phase of the church dates to the 5th century but the building continued to enjoy expansion and elaboration into 6th century. Amathus, similarly featured at least two 5th-century basilicas – one, large 5-aisled church identified by the excavators as the seat of the bishop and the other, smaller 3-aisle basilica at the foot of the acropolis – although the rationale for these dates remain unclear. Despite the relative ambiguity in dating these buildings, it would appear that the 5th century saw the construction of monumental churches in urban centers of the island, and this was contemporary with the expanding resources of the ecclesiastical hierarchy across the Mediterranean and the autonomy of the Cypriot church.

The 6th century saw an expansion of monumental Christian architecture into the countryside. Marcus Rautman’s excavations at the village site of Kopetra are among the most significant in the Early Christian archaeology of the island. He revealed three basilica style churches at a village site in the Kalavassos Valley. Two date to the 6th century on the basis of rigorous stratigraphic excavation. A three-aisled church at the site of Sirmata may be associated with a monastery. Another three-aisled church is likely the main church in the village. The well-known church of the Panayia Karnakaria at the ex-urban site of Lythrankomi on the Karpas Peninsula preserved a significant, if highly fragmentary apse mosaic decorations dated by Megaw and Haskins to the end of the first third of the 6th century. The site of St. George-Peyia, an ex-urban, coastal settlement northwest of Paphos has produced three, unpublished basilicas which may all have 6th-century dates. The church at the small, rural settlement of St. Kononas on the Akamas peninsula is likely contemporary. The acropolis of Amathus saw an elaborate three-aisled basilica with numerous annexes in the 6th century, which remains largely unpublished and Paphos In an urban neighborhood of ancient Arsinoe (Polis-Chrysochous), the three-aisled south basilica dates to 6th-century on the basis of controlled excavation. The continued expansion of monumental architecture in both urban centers and ex-urban areas in the 6th century reveals the creation of a Christian landscape on the island.

Recent works has shown that the Early Christian architectural traditions did not end with the political, military, and economic turmoil of the 7th century. While the absence of rigorously archaeological dating it remains difficult to determine when the churches built in the 5th and 6th century went out of use, it is evident that the persistence of basilica-style church architecture depended upon the structure and demography of settlement on the island, the role of seismic events in compromising the fragile fabric of these buildings, and the impact of military incursions. Amidst these challenges, communities continued to build new churches as carefully excavated examples from the rural coastal site of Maroni-Petrera and the inland village site of Kalavasos-Kopetra show. At the same time, an inscription commemorates the renovation of the large basilica at Soloi, perhaps in the aftermath of Arab raids. The south basilica at Arsinoe appears to have been converted from a wood-roofed building to a barrel vaulted structure. At the site of Kiti near Larnaka, the apse of an earlier basilica was incorporated in a new church in the early 7th century and decorated with a spectacular mosaic of the Panayia. In the mid-7th century, decorated apse of the church at Panayia Karnakaria at Lythrankomi saw a similar incorporation into a new building. Charles Stewart has recently argued that the small corpus of churches converted from wood-roofed to barrel-vaulted basilicas represents an 8th-century response to depredations of the 7th-century Arab raids. Recent study of the excavations at Polis-Chrysochous may suggest that this practice started a generation or two earlier. Whatever the cause and the specific date, Early Christian churches did not vanish from the island in the 7th century, and at least in some case continued to be the focus of investment for Christian communities into the Medieval period.

An important place showing the long history of Cyprus

Ancient Amathus was twice the city of what Limassol is today.

It dates back to almost 3000BC.

It associated also itself with Cleopatra and Julius Cesar, as when they got married her son sought refuge in Amathus.

Julius then send the mighty Egyptian fleet, capturing Amathus and killing Cleopatra's son.

Top singers and other artistic groups perform, in Summer, at the area that supposed to be the old agora (marketplace).

Small set of ruins - not on the scale of the Paphos mosaics or tomb of the kings. Minimal entry price so worth a visit if you are in the area. Can also walk up the hill overlooking the ruins - another temple at the top of the hill - I walk up here quite often as it is very pleasant at the top.

A small entrance fee (less than 2 euros) A short walk from Atlantica Bay Hotel. 20 minute bus ride from Limassol. Interesting site and pretty accessible but plenty of imagination required

We enjoyed this, but found very little information about the site. It would be a good idea to take some with you to help you understand it more. The water course is particularly interesting. There is little shade, so wear a hat!
We also tried snorkelling around the old harbour. Cross the road from the site and walk to your right a bit. The walls jut out into the sea which you can follow round.

Well worth the walk up to the top of the site. The views are great & you have to wonder how they constructed these builgings in this location so long ago. Best visited first thing in the morning, undergrowth is rough.

Limassol beaches

The city of Limassol has the longest coastline of all the cities and beach resorts in Cyprus. The city offers a diverse style of public and controlled beaches.

Featured below are some of the most popular tourist beaches in Limassol

Ladies' Mile (Lady's Mile)

This is a superb beach with grainy white sand and shallow clear water. It is located near the New Limassol port and can be reached in 15 minutes from Limassol's town centre. It is one of the safest beaches for children and the facilities for windsurfing are assured. It is a perfect place to enjoy a swim, sunbathe or a peaceful walk along the sandy beach.

This beach is not as crowded as others and is located midway between Larnaca and Limassol. Governor's beach has a sandy coastline and shallow clear water with a rocky area beneath the shore, ideal for snorkeling and fishing. It is a relaxing beach where you can witness a beautiful sunrise and enjoy a meal in a typical Greek Cypriot Taverna just a few metres away from the beach.

Kourion (Chris Blue) Beach

This is a large beach and is one of the most spectacular beaches in Limassol. The ruins of the Ancient Roman Kourion Amphitheater are just next to the beach on a high mountain, which is also a popular spot for hand-gliders to emerge from. Sailing and wind-surfing opportunities are assured here but sometimes the beach can get very overcrowded with swimmers.

This beach is located midway between Limassol and Paphos. It is clean with warm water and is safe for swimming and other water sports activities offered during the summer months. The area surrounding the beach is quiet and unspoiled as Pissouri is a small village which does not get overcrowded with many tourists. Furthermore, there are many restaurants along the beach offering delicious traditional cuisines of Cyprus.

For those who wish to escape the crowds and enjoy a perfectly peaceful experience, head towards the Flo Cafe Beach Cove. This is a small pleasant bay located in the heart of the tourist area in Limassol. The water is clean and considerably shallow which makes it a safe beach for small children. The beach cove is complimented by the Flo Cafe which is situated directly on the beach front.

Needs more excavation

While this site does have some ruins to see they are not as extensive as the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylas or Curium. More excavation, which I believe is due, will make it a little more interesting.

but is fascinating. Go along and make like you are off of Time Team. You can pretty much wander where you like, take you time over it as it's easy to miss stuff.

Granted, this is no Colisseum, or Parthenon. The passage of time and the consistency of the stone has not allowed the remains to be preserved. But it is so beautiful, I would almost say so romantic, that it is worth a visit. But do not limit yourself to the ruins along the main road: climb the hill: the ruins up there, and the view of Limassol, are worth the small effort

easy to access , surprisingly unspoilt althiough it's right next to a main road. It would be okay on your way to town, as doesn't take long to walk around it.

You can get to this by bus and its really interesting if you want a nice day away from the beach. Lots of interesting mosaic's.

Ancient Amathus was twice the city of what Limassol is today.

It dates back to almost 3000BC.

It associated also itself with Cleopatra and Julius Cesar, as when they got married her son sought refuge in Amathus.

Julius then send the mighty Egyptian fleet, capturing Amathus and killing Cleopatra's son.

Top singers and other artistic groups perform, in Summer, at the area that supposed to be the old agora (marketplace).

Recent Polish excavations in the agora of Paphos, the ancient capital of Cyprus

In 2011, the Institute of Archaeology at Jagiellonian University, Kraków, initiated the ‘Paphos Agora Project’, one of only a few Polish field projects concerned with classical archaeology. Nea Paphos (to be distinguished from Old Paphos, the famous cult centre associated with Aphrodite, some 20km to the east) served as the principal city of Cyprus from c. 200 BC to c. AD 350. Initially, it was the seat of the strategos (military general), who governed Cyprus on behalf of the Ptolemies, and later that of the Roman governor. It is one of the most important archaeological sites of Cyprus and is inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

Nea Paphos was founded at the end of the fourth or beginning of the third century BC. An area of approximately 95ha is enclosed within the city walls (Figure 1). The city was planned with a rectangular street defining regular blocks (insulae)—a common feature across the Graeco-Roman world but unique for Cyprus. The city was also equipped with a harbour, theatre, temples and, presumably, a royal palace on the acropolis hill. To the east of the latter, protected from the prevailing western winds, was the agora, together with an odeon (or bouleuterion). Previous projects have also revealed districts of wealthy Roman houses in the western part of city, and many other structures are attested by ancient texts and inscriptions.

The site is prone to earthquakes and substantial reconstruction was undertaken during the Roman period. Many extant structures, such as the House of Dionysos, the Villa of Theseus and the odeon, date principally from this time. As a result, relatively little is known about Paphos during the pre-Roman, i.e. Hellenistic, period.

The agora lay at the heart of every Greek city, serving as the political, religious, social and economic focus of the community. During the 1970s, the Roman-period agora was discovered and partly explored by the Cypriot archaeologist Kyriakos Nicolaou, who determined that it formed a square with sides almost 100m long, probably surrounded by porticos and in use from the second to the fourth centuries AD.

Under the direction of the first author, the ‘Paphos Agora Project’ set the following objectives: to verify the findings of Nikolaou, to establish whether there was a Hellenistic agora below the Roman one, to determine the date and form of this public space, and to analyse the development of the agora’s architecture, which includes the use of 3D reconstructions. From 2013, the project has also focused on the development of a new system of field documentation, which will link standard archaeological and architectural recording methods with a GIS database, Digital Terrain Model and orthophoto-mapping. Alongside standard survey techniques, the project is using 3D laser scanning, geo-radar survey and aerial photography with a remote-control drone.

Amongst a number of structures, the project has identified two large public buildings of Hellenistic date. Building A, discovered during 2014 in the centre of the agora, was probably a temple (Figure 2), whereas building B, close to the southern portico of the agora, is interpreted as a possible warehouse. Further work is required to confirm these initial interpretations. Other features identified include: small shops (tabernae) by the eastern entrance to the agora (in the direction of the theatre), and numerous walls, floors and hydraulic structures such as cisterns, basins, wells, channels and terracotta pipes.

The excavations have also recovered large quantities of portable material culture first and foremost, thousands of pottery sherds of all categories, including finewares, transport amphorae and kitchen- and coarse-wares (Figure 3). Other finds include terracotta figurines and oil lamps, and metal, glass, bone and stone artefacts. The project is undertaking wide-ranging analysis of all this material culture. Some artefacts provide particularly valuable information. For example, the discovery of a lead weight with the name of the civic official—Seleukos—responsible for overseeing markets (agoranomos) provides confirmation that this was indeed the agora. A set of bronze scales with an acorn-shaped weight—unique for Cyprus—suggests the use of a local weighing system during the first century AD, with a unit that differed from the widely accepted Roman pound (Figure 4).

The discovery of a 7m-deep well proved to be extremely significant for establishing the chronology of the site—as well as providing exciting finds (Figure 5). The well dates to the Hellenistic period and, through its association with the eastern portico of the agora, it was also possible to move back the initial date of this portico to the Hellenistic period. Following its use as a well, the shaft was backfilled with rubbish—mainly broken ceramic vessels, many of which have been successfully reassembled, and a number of other objects (Figures 6 & 7). Based on a preliminary analysis of the pottery and amphora stamps, it has been concluded that the material from the well constitutes a homogeneous, closed deposit dating to the late Hellenistic period: the late-second to the first half of the first century BC.

Four years of excavation in three trenches have opened a total area of 489m 2 —about five per cent of the 1ha covered by the agora. The most important achievement so far has been to push back the initial date of the agora from the Roman period, as Nicolaou believed, to the Hellenistic period. This important discovery sheds new light on the early history of the city. On Cyprus, only one other agora of Hellenistic date has been excavated—at Amathus, a city on the south coast of the island.

During this year (2015) and supported by a new MAESTRO grant from the National Science Centre, the scope of the project has been expanded. We will continue to work on the agora, but will also extend our investigations across the whole city using non-invasive and geoarchaeological techniques to document the material remains of economic infrastructure and economic activities. We are particularly interested to characterise human-environment interactions and their impact on the organisation of the economy of Paphos. Our aim is to use a range of techniques and methods in order to provide a new perspective on this ancient Cypriote capital city and, in particular, to re-evaluate its importance as an economic centre, both on the island and, more broadly, within the eastern Mediterranean.


Amathus (Ancient Greek: Ἀμαθοῦς) was one of the most ancient royal cities of Cyprus, on the southern coast in front of Agios Tychonas, about 24 miles west of Larnaca and 6 miles east of Limassol. Its ancient cult of Aphrodite was the most important, after Paphos, in Cyprus, her homeland, though the ruins of Amathus are less well-preserved than neighboring Kourion.

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Cyprus: The Top 10 Attractions

Stefanie Konstanta is the Local Contributing Writer at Global Storybook (Cyprus).

Geia sas! I am Stefanie and I will be your local guide in Cyprus.
My ultimate goal in life is to travel around the world. When I am not traveling, I am organizing my next trip.
Even though Cyprus is small, I am here to prove that it's actually a rich and diverse country! You can also follow my adventures at Stef's Journey.

Latest posts by Stefanie Konstanta (see all)

While Cyprus may seem like a tiny drop in the sea, it is rich in history and culture. Throughout the centuries, Cyprus was occupied by numerous conquerors due to its enviable position – it is located between three continents. As a result, Cyprus inherited a little bit from every culture, and it’s what makes our country so unique and appealing.

So if you are looking for something more than just sand and the sun, Cyprus is a perfect destination for you. It has a number of very old and historic archaeological sites, consecrated churches, some very interesting museums plus an amazing scenery that you can explore. It’s also a wonderful place where you can go hiking, as you’ll find countless natural trails on the island.

As a local, I want to share the top 10 sights that you must visit when you come to Cyprus. Since it’s quite a small island – it will be easy for you to see these attractions on a day trip. In addition, all the mentioned places are located relatively close to each other.

1. Choirokitia

The Neolithic settlement of Choirokitia, which was occupied from the 7th to the 4th century BC, is considered one of the most important prehistoric sites in the eastern Mediterranean. It is the earliest permanent human settlement found in Cyprus. Not surprisingly, Choirokitia was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1998.

To illustrate how the early inhabitants once lived – the local archaeologists have rebuilt 5 houses. They quickly discovered that each house used to have a unique design. In addition, the findings indicated that the Choirokitians had a very sophisticated lifestyle which included hunting and farming.

What is even more shocking is the fact that the dead bodies used to be buried under the floors of their dwellings, along with their most important possessions. At that time, people strongly believed that they could carry their earthly possessions into their next lives.

P.S. You can easily get to Choirokitia on your own, by taking an intercity bus.

  • Address: located 32km from Larnaka, or 48km south of Lefkosia
  • Time required: 1-2 hours
  • Hours of operation: open daily: September 16 – April 15: 8:30am – 5:00pm April 16 – September 15: 8:30am – 7:30pm
  • Price: €2.50

2. Ancient Amathous

This archaeological site has a particularly great importance in the history of Cyprus. These ancient ruins include an Early Christian Basilica, the Temple of Aphrodite, an Acropolis, Defense Walls, plus various others. As the research shows, the Amathous was inhabited since the 11th century BC.

Originally, it used to be a small city with a seaport right in front of it. Sometime later, Amathous has become one of the four main kingdoms of Cyprus. The city took its name from Amathousa, the mother of the King Kinyra from Paphos. At the top of the hill, an Aphrodite temple was built, which dates back to the 1st century BC.

By 1191, when Richard Lionheart appeared on the scene, the Kingdom of Amathousa was almost completely in ruins. Nowadays, you can find numerous archaeological findings displayed in various museums in Limassol, Nicosia, and even New York and Paris. This site has a tremendous historical value, though very little of it remains today. At the very least, you can always use your imagination to go back in time and fancy how it was like back then.

  • Address: Ayios Tychonas (seaside), Limassol
  • Time required: 1-2 hours
  • Hours of operation: open daily: September 16 – April 15: 8:15am – 5:15pm April 16 – September 15: 8:15 – 7:45pm
  • Price: €2.50

3. Petra tou Romiou: (The Aphrodite’s Rock)

According to the Ancient Greek mythology – Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, emerged from the sea. Well, as it turned out – it happened at this very bay. Even though it’s considered to be one of the most popular sights in Cyprus – don’t expect to spend much time here. If you enjoy taking photos, then you will especially love this place. It is mostly popular due to the famous legend, and it’s also free. So if you’ll have an opportunity, then don’t miss it!

Watch the video: #Festival of Panagia Iamatiki in #Arakapa