Baths of Aphrodite & Byzantine Monastery, Cyprus

The Baths of Aphrodite and the Byzantine Monastery of Pyrgos tis Rigenas are both situated on the eastern slopes of the Akamas Peninsula, an area of nature reserves with a large biodiversity of flora and fauna. The area of Akamas is named after the hero of the Trojan War and son of Theseus who founded a colony on Cyprus. Depending on ones reading of Greek or Cypriot mythology the Baths of Aphrodite, an enchanting spring, was either where Aphrodite bathe after sleeping with her husband Hephaestus or where she first met her lover Adonis. The mythology of Aphrodite is closely tied to Cyprus, as it was near Paphos that Aphrodite was born (or emerged from the sea). The Greek philosopher Athenaeus of Naucratis is our first written account of the baths, also he relates the spring as a place where Aphrodite washed after making love with Hephaestus. Hephaestus was known as the Blacksmith to the Gods, which is unsurprising considering the history of early metallurgy in Cyprus, and in particular their work with copper. Other strands of mythology state that this was where Adonis first saw Aphrodite and immediately fell in love, legend states when a wild boar killed Adonis that Aphrodite was so overcome with grief she cried as many tears as droplets of blood that fell from Adonis. Adonis’ droplets turned into blood red anemones and from Aphrodite’s tears sprang white roses. Whatever the truth of these myths what is telling is that they’ve prevailed. The 4th century Greco-Roman poet Claudian described the area as ‘Aphrodite’s Realm’ and mentioned two springs that flowed at Akamas, one mingled with honey and another mingled with poison, he said that Eros dipped his arrow in both streams making the outcome of those who were struck either sweet or sometimes bitter!

The Byzantine Monastery of Pyrgos tis Rigenas is a couple of kilometres from the baths, beside a large oak tree where Aphrodite was meant to rest on her way to the baths. The monastery itself is incredibly ruinous and dates from the 11th or 12th centuries, no-one knows to whom the monastery was dedicated to. The are was very popular with monks during the Byzantine period with many hermits living in the caves around Akamas. Another legend states that the monastery stands on the ruins of a tower built for Aphrodite. The monastery is also known as the Tower of Regina, a mythical Queen of Cyprus after whom many places in Cyprus are named.

I must say the walk from the baths of Aphrodite up through the nature reserve should not be attempted without adequate water as a lot of the springs are not drinkable and the hike is certainly far further than the tourist map made out! The nature reserve is so diverse in plant species and one can even spot lizards, falcons and supposedly Cyprus vipers and black whip snakes, thankfully neither of which I saw! The peninsula of Akamas is wild and incredibly beautiful, it is difficult at times to traverse so perhaps as local legend states there is a spot on the peninsula that acts as a force field to keep visitors away!

GPS: 35.0564, 32.34456

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