Discovering Cyprus: Amathunta – The lost city of legends

East of Limassol lies the once beautiful city of Amathus or Amathunta. Dating all the way back to 1100 BC, it was destroyed during an Arab invasion in the 7th century AD. It is one of the main tourist attractions in Limassol, but unfortunately it is often taken for granted.  Meanwhile, the ancient city is actually one of the greatest discoveries on the island.

Amathunta in legends and in literature

Amathunta

The city is surrounded by many legends and is mentioned in many ancient Greek myths.

One legend says that the city’s founder was Cinyras, linked with the birth of Adonis (Aphrodite’s lover). Another mentions that Theseus abandoned Ariadne here, after rescuing her from the Minotaur labyrinth in Crete. But perhaps, the city’s main mythological connection, is the one with Aphrodite, whose tomb is said to lie beneath it.

The city was rather famous in Roman times.  Furthermore, it was even the capital of one of Cyprus’s administrative regions.

Therefor, the epithet Amathusia in Roman poetry, was often used as a synonym for  “Cypriot”.  William Cowper, a famous English poet, mentions it in his translation of the poem “Elegy VII. Anno Aetates Undevigesimo“:

“As yet a stranger to the gentle fires
That Amathusia’s smiling Queen inspires,
Not seldom I derided Cupid’s darts,
And scorn’d his claim to rule all human hearts.”

Here once again, the connection between Aphrodite and the city is highlighted, as Venus was seen as the “smiling queen”.

Amathunta’s treasures

Amathunta

Today the most famous find from the city is a stone urn on the acropolis. It dates all the way back to 6th century BC.  The urn was made from a single piece of stone and has four curved handles carved with bulls. Back then, the bulls symbolized the worship of Aphrodite, thus allowing us to make the connection of the goddess to the temple itself. The urn’s main use was storage of water, needed for the temple’s sacred rituals.

Amathunta

Findings from Amathunta can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum and even the Louvre.

Visiting Amathunta

The archaeological site is made up of two parts. The first one is the city itself and is situated at the bottom of the hill. There you can find the Agora with its marble columns. Next to it is an Early Christian basilica with mosaic floors decorated with semi-precious stones.

Amathunta

If you walk uphill to the second part of the site, you will find yourself looking at the remains of Aphrodite’s temple. The view is breathtaking and allows you to see the ruins on the other side of the hill, which are not visible from down below. This is also where the famous urn is situated.

Looking down, you can’t help but wonder, what did the city look like and who might have stood in your place.

Amathunta

The bottom part is open daily from 8:00- 17:00 and has a ticket fare of 2,50 euro, while the top part is free and is open all the time

 

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