Paphos and Greek Mythology

Today we did cultural visits at and around the city of Paphos. First, we toured the Kourion archeological site, where we saw ancient ruins of what used to be a bath house. The bath house was constructed around a central fire, with several baths around it. The closest baths to the fire were the “hot” baths, then the “warm” baths, and then the furthest baths from the fire were the “cold” baths. Additionally, the baths collected rainwater through a series of clay pipes running downhill to distribute water to where it was needed. The flooring of the bath house also included a beautiful mosaic of a lady, which was constructed with the Roman method of cutting colorful stone into square shapes.

Next, we toured what used to be a theatre during ancient times, but after Romans conquered the area, they turned it into an arena to force random wild animals to fight to the death for entertainment. One thing that the tour guide mentioned was very interesting to me. She said that when the Romans took over an area and a culture, they did not simply destroy everything and replace it with their own ideas. Instead, they observed the original residents and kept the best parts, and sometimes even expanding on them. Here, they turned the theatre into entertainment in a different form – the arena.

After leaving the sight, we went to Aphrodite’s Rock, the sight at which the goddess of love in Greek mythology was born. The legend states that Aphrodite rose from the foam of the sea, where the sky met the ocean, and stood upon a rock where she was dressed by nymphs in flowers and pearls before ascending to Mount Olympus. This rock in the story was in Paphos, and we got to see an amazing part of an old religion. I have always been a huge fan of Greek mythology, so this visit was very striking to see things I simply deemed as stories to have real connections and places in the Greek world where they originated.

Afterwards, we toured the Tomb of the Kings, a series of old burial sites for rich aristocrats in the ancient times between 3 B.C. and 3 A.C. Each burial ground was meant for a family line and could hold around 10-20 (or more) people, with a main forum that tended to break off into three large rooms with many tombs. One of the burial grounds that we visited had holes dug out in the shape of a coffin, which was explained to be done during times of war, famine, and disease. Due to the increased number of people dying, there was not enough time to build entire new rooms and burial areas. Instead, they quickly dug out these holes inside hallways to ensure that the fast burial still included the individual with their family line.

Lastly, we toured the Paphos mosaics. First, we learned about the old Greek method of creating a mosaic, which was done through taking small stones from the sea and creating a black and white design. After the Romans took over, they enjoyed the mosaics that they found, and decided to improve upon the idea. This is where the process of cutting small stones into squares to make the intricate geometrical designs came from. The Paphos mosaics generally contained scenes from Greek mythology. One of my favorite stories was the story of Cupid making Poseiden and a young maiden fall in love with each other. Another story was a nymph who ran away from Apollo, not wanting to be his lover. The nymph’s father, a weaker sea god, knew that he could not protect his daughter from Apollo. Instead, he saved her the only way that he knew how. The sea god turned the nymph into the first laurel plant that can now be found across Cyprus, protecting her from Apollo forever.

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