Friday, May 2, 2014

Paphos Archeological Site

The Paphos Archeological Site (also known as the Kato Paphos Archaeological Site and the Paphos Mosaics) is located near the harbor in the tourist district of Kato Paphos, which is within the Paphos district of Cyprus.

The ancient city of Nea Paphos (also known as Nea Pafos) was founded by Nicocles--the last king of Palaipafos--at the end of the 4th century.  Nea Paphos became the capital of Cyprus during the 2nd century BC, until an earthquake in the 4th century AD destroyed the area.  However, the Nea Paphos was still a prominent city throughout the Byzantine and Medieval periods.  During the Venetian period, the coastal area of Nea Paphos was abandoned for the current city of Paphos, which was called Ktima.

The Paphos Archaeological Site is considered the main archaeological site of Paphos, and it's been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980.

This archaeological site features several ancient ruins and mosaics.  The beautiful and rare Roman mosaics were discovered by accident when the land was plowed in 1962.  Today, over forty ancient mosaics have been discovered and primarily feature scenes from ancient Greek mythology, and are a part of Cyprus' Aphrodite Cultural Route.  These ancient mosaics existed in the four main houses: Aion, Theseus, Orpheus, and Dionysos.

The Paphos Archaeological Site includes the House of Aion, House of Theseus, House of Orpheus, House of Dionysos, Agora, Odeon, Asklepieion, Saranta Kolones Castle, and various ancient ruins (such as the city walls) scattered throughout the area, as well as a Lighthouse and Visitor's Center.

The Visitor's Center at the Paphos Archaeological Site provides descriptions and details regarding this archaeological site, as well as the ancient ruins throughout the city of Paphos.  The Visitor's Center features a short video production, as well as small ancient artifacts that were discovered in the area.

The House of Aion is the smallest excavated house in the area, and it was discovered in 1983.  This house primarily features one large mosaic that dates back to the 4th century.  Only part of this house has been excavated so far.

According to a sign at the House of Aion, "Only a small part of the building has been excavated....  The uncovered rooms include the reception hall of the building, decorated with exceptional geometric and figural mosaic floors.  The central panel of the main room is divided into five smaller panels, each depicting a different mythological scene....  The mural frescoes of the house depicted Apollo and the Muses.  Some parts of these have been restored and are currently exhibited in the Pafos Museum [or the Paphos District Archaeological Museum]."

The House of Theseus dates back to the 2nd century AD and was utilized until the 7th century AD.  This ancient villa, which was named after the main mosaic that depicts Theseus killing the Minotaur, was built over the ruins of earlier houses from the Hellenistic and early Roman periods.

Since this villa contained more than 100 rooms, the House of Theseus was most likely the residence of the governor of Cyprus.  In recent years, this area has been excavated and it's now open to the public.

According to a sign at the Visitor's Center, the House of Theseus is "the largest structure to have been found in Cyprus so far.  The construction of the House of Theseus started in the 2nd century AD above the ruins of earlier buildings of the Hellenistic and Roman periods.  The building with its numerous reconstruction phases, continued to be used until at least the early 7th century AD....  It was expanded horizontally around a large atrium and consists of clearly defined official and domestic parts.  The principal state rooms were found in the center of the south wing, while a large bath complex was located in the southeast corner of the building."

The House of Orpheus is named after one of the mosaics that features the four seasons.  These mosaics date back to the 3rd century AD.

The House of Dionysos, which is the second largest ancient villa at this site, was the first house of mosaics to be discovered, in 1962.  The ancient mosaics date back to the 2nd century AD, yet the house was destroyed during 4th and 5th century earthquakes.

This house is named after the depictions of Dionysos, who was called the Greek god of wine.  This ancient villa most likely belonged to a member of the ruling Roman class or a wealthy citizen of Paphos.  The House of Dionysos claims to have the oldest mosaic floor in Cyprus, and it's considered to feature the most impressive mosaics in Cyprus.

According to a sign at the Visitor's Center, the House of Dionysos "was constructed around a peristyle atrium with a garden pool, or impluvium and consists of about forty rooms.  All the communal rooms and halls around the atrium are paved with mosaic floors, many of them representing mythological scenes.  The oldest mosaic floor in Cyprus representing the monster Scylla, dated to the end of the 4th century BC, was discovered in this villa, belonging to an older phase below the Roman building."

The ancient ruins of the Agora (or Market) is only evident by the preserved foundations.  It dates back to the 2nd century AD, yet it as destroyed during 4th century earthquakes.

The nearby Odeon, which is an open-air amphitheater that dates back to the 1st century AD, has been restored by the Cypriot Department of Antiquities.  Today, there are various cultural and musical performances hosted at this ancient theater.

Near the Odeon, there's a small Lighthouse.  From the top of the Lighthouse, there are beautiful views of the archaeological site and surrounding area of Paphos.

The Saranta Kolones Castle (also known as the Saranda Kolones Byzantine Castle, the Forty Columns Castle, and the Medieval Fort) received its name due to the large number of granite columns that are preserved in the castle area.

This Byzantine castle was built in the 7th century AD to protect the city of Nea Pafos, and it was utilized until 1223, when it was destroyed by an earthquake and abandoned.  The Saranta Kolones Castle consisted of three-meter thick walls, as well as eight towers and a moat surrounding it.

According to a sign at the Visitor's Center, the Saranta Kolones Castle's "modern name derives from the numerous granite columns found on the site which were transported there during the Middle Ages from the ancient Agora....  It was a compact fortress surrounded by a massive external continuous wall with eight towers of various forms and a ditch....  The interior of the castle consisted of a square courtyard with four towers at the corners.  On the eastern part of the courtyard a horse-shoe shaped tower enclosed the entrance of the castle.  The building was destroyed by an earthquake in 1223 and was never rebuilt."

The Paphos Archaeological Site is a lovely and vast archaeological site, and it's a delightful place to explore for both locals and tourists, especially due to the convenient location near the tourist area of Paphos.

Site: Paphos Archaeological Site. 

Category: Archaeological Site and Museum. 

Location: Tourist area in Kato Paphos, within the Paphos district of Cyprus. 

Phone Number: 26306217 and 26930521. 

Operating Hours: 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM on Monday to Sunday, during the winter months.  8:30 AM to 7:30 PM on Monday to Sunday, during the summer months.

Entrance Fee: €4,50. 

Date of Visit: 2009-2013.

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