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Ancient Amathus


The history of Cyprus dates to the early years and near Ayios Tychon there are the ruins of Amathus, one of the biggest ancient kingdoms of the island. Amathus, one of the most ancient royal cities according to the legend, was settled by one of the sons of Heracles, who was worshipped there. According to other legends, Ariadne, the beautiful daughter of Minos, who fled from Labyrinth in Crete with Theseus, was later abandoned in Amathus. She died there while giving birth to her child and was buried in a sacred tomb.

What is certain, which is undoubtedly historical evidence, is that the area was populated at least 3000 years ago. The city took its name from Amathusa, the mother of King Kinyras from Paphos.

Amathus was built on the coastal cliffs with an amazing view to the sea. It flourished and became a rich kingdom since the early years of its settlement. During the Post Phoenician Era (800 B.C.) a port was also constructed there, which served the trade with the Greeks and the Levantines. High on the cliff a temple was built, which became a special worship site to Aphrodite, the goddess of Beauty and Love. The excavators discovered the Temple of Aphrodite, which dates approximately to the first century B.C.

According to the legend, it was where Adonia took place, in which athletes competed in hunting wild boars during sport competitions. They also competed in dancing and singing to the honour of Adonis.

Amathus was a rich and densely populated kingdom with a flourishing agriculture and mines situated very close northeast Kalavasos. In the Roman Era it became the capital of one out of the four (4) administrative regions. Later, in the 4th century A.D. it became the Episcopal See and continued to flourish until the Byzantine Period. At approximately the Late 6th century A.D., Ayios Ioannis Eleimonas (Saint John Charitable), protector of the knights was born in Amathus.

Until 1191 when Richard the Lionheart arrived in Cyprus, Amathus had declined. The tombs were plundered and the stones from the beautiful edifices were brought to Limassol to be used for new constructions. Much later, in 1869, a great number of blocks of stone from Amathus were used for the construction of the Suez Canal.

Archaeological excavations in the area by parties of Cypriots and French archaeologists started in 1980 and continue until today. The Acropolis, the Aphrodite’s Temple, the market, the city’s walls, the Basicila and the port have all been excavated.

It is an amazing opportunity for the visitor to ramble over the area and have the feeling of living as they used to live. The visitors have a wonderful chance to explore the area and see rare and beautiful archaeological treasures, which are buried in the soil for centuries.

In the market there are marvellous marble columns decorated with spiral ornaments and huge paved precincts. At the coastal side of the city there are indications of an Early Christian Basilica with floors decorated with precious gems. Farther, near the terraced road leading to the Temple, situated on the top of the cliff, several houses built in a row dating to the Hellenistic Period have been discovered. In the east and west extremes of the city the two acropolis are situated, where a number of tombs have been found, many of which are intact.

You might admire many of the interesting hand-made items with an archaeological value, which have been found during the excavations and are actually exposed at the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia as well as at the Limassol District Archaeological Museum or even at the New York Metropolitan Museum. The biggest treasure of Amathus is exposed at Paris Louvre Museum. It is a dim made from limestone, which dates to the 6th century B.C. It is 1.85 m. high and weighs 14 tons. It was made from a single big stone and has four (4) curved handles decorated with the head of a bull. It was used for storing the must from the grapes, which after the fermentation it became wine, which Cyprus is famous for.

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