Ancient Kourion, Cyprus

The majority of the archaeological remains of ancient Kourion date from the Roman and Early Byzantine periods however this area of Cyprus was inhabited since Neolithic times. Its not hard to understand why this place was settled, nestled on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean sea. Most of the remains date from the Roman period around 300BC-200AD however the foundation myths say it was inhabited since the 12th century BC. The Kingdom of Kourion was established between 1050-750 BC however the site of that settlement is undetermined, what can be noted on the way up to the archaeological park is the burials at the Kaloriziki necropolis with its tombs built into the stone of the bluff, these date from the 11 century BC. Kourion and indeed all of Cyprus came under Assyrian rule in the 8th century BC and subsequently was under Egyptian administration in 569BC. However this did not last long as Cyrus I of Persia claimed all kingdoms of Cyprus in 546BC. It was during the classical period, 475-333BC, the earliest occupation of the site of the acropolis was established. In 58BC the Roman Council of the Plebs annexed Cyprus and under the Romans Kourion became a centre of commerce, governance and worship due to the sanctuary of Apollo Hylates. The city flourished in the 1st and 2nd century AD but in the fourth century was hit by five strong earthquakes over and eighty year period. Though Kourion’s buildings were reconstructed in the early 5th century much of the acropolis remained in ruins. Arab raids in 648 and 649 resulted in the full destruction of Kourion and the centre of occupation was relocated to Episkopi, 2kms to the northeast

One of the finest ruins at Kourion archaeological park is the Roman theatre dating from the 2nd century BC, the theatre was built on the slope of the hill to support the weight of the seating. The design is typical of Hellenistic theatres of the eastern Mediterranean with a circular orchestra and a cavea (seating enclosure) exceeding 180 degress. The theatre was repaired after an earthquake in 15BC and slightly altered. The theatre was used for gladiatorial games between 214 and 217 AD. The House of the Gladiators is another interesting ruin with mosaics depicting the lives and combat of the gladiators. The Forum, the public baths and the Nymphaeum are also other noteworthy ruins. Cyprus has a whole host of ancient ruins and if visited in the early part of the year are practically deserted.

GPS: 34.66384, 32.88844

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