Cyprus is home to many of the world’s most historic sites. Today, I was excited to visit four of them during our journey from Nicosia to Paphos: The Kourion Archaeological Site, Aphrodite’s Rock, Tombs of the Kings, and the Paphos Mosaics.
Kourion was an ancient Greek city-kingdom built in the hills, overlooking the sea. Today, Cyprus has preserved the archaeological remains of Kourion. We saw the remains of the House and Baths of Eustolios and the Theater of Kourion. The baths were organized based on water temperature and the bathing water came from the mountains by means of an aqueduct. The complexity of the infrastructure impressed me for its time. There is a mosaic inscription that identifies the building as Eustolios. Eustolios built the building in order to alleviate the pain of the people of Kourion due to the earthquakes in the 4th century and the building remained in use until the 7th century. The theater is the oldest theater in Cyprus, dating back to 2nd century BCE (the Hellenistic period of Ancient Greece). The acoustics of the theater are excellent not only because of the circular layout of the seats, but also because the seats themselves are indented as to reflect the performer’s sound within the theater. The romans then turned the theater into an arena. I have not seen anything located in the United States dating back as far as any of these artifacts. Even though they may have existed at some point, they most likely have been destroyed during colonization.
We continued along on our road trip and stopped to visit Aphrodite’s Rock. According to legend, this rock is the site of the birth of the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. Despite the grey sky, the scenery of the water and Aphrodite’s Rock was beautiful. I climbed the rock with some students to gain a new perspective of the landscape. Although I was nervous because the rock was more slippery in certain areas, I was relieved to make it to the top and was rewarded by an immaculate view. I am proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone because opportunities to visit sites with as much significance is rare.
Our last stop in the morning, was the Tombs of the Kings (3rd century BC). I learned that the tombs are monolithic, meaning that they are made of one rock that has been carved into the appropriate shape. The original pillars are square shaped, however, they were reshaped to the Doric style pillar. Despite its name, no kings were in reality buried in the Tombs of the Kings.
After lunch, we visited the Paphos Mosaics. Mosaics were used as flooring for homes in Ancient Greece. The simplest mosaics we saw used black and white pebbles from the sea. I noticed the Greek Key pattern (also known as the “Meander”) in multiple mosaics. My favorite part of the day was when our tour guide recounted stories from Greek mythology to explain the scenes depicted by the mosaics. For instance, the image below is of the river nymph Daphne being transformed into a laurel tree by her River God father in order to protect herself from Apollo. I have seen mosaics in museums in the U.S. many times, however, I have never seen them in their original place. Seeing these historic artifacts in the place that they were discovered is truly an incredible experience.