Plank-Shaped Statuettes from Cyprus

Plank-Shaped Statuettes from Cyprus

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Ancient history of Cyprus

The ancient history of Cyprus shows a precocious sophistication in the Neolithic era visible in settlements such as at Choirokoitia dating from the 9th millennium BC, and at Kalavassos from about 7500 BC.

Periods of Cyprus's ancient history from 1050 BC have been named according to styles of pottery as follows:

  • Cypro-Geometric I: 1050–950 BC
  • Cypro-Geometric II: 950–850 BC
  • Cypro-Geometric III: 850–700 BC
  • Cypro-Archaic I: 700–600 BC
  • Cypro-Archaic II: 600–475 BC
  • Cypro-Classical I: 475–400 BC
  • Cypro-Classical II: 400–323 BC

The documented history of Cyprus begins in the 8th century BC. The town of Kition, now Larnaka, recorded part of the ancient history of Cyprus on a stele that commemorated a victory by Sargon II (722–705 BC) of Assyria there in 709 BC. [1] [2] Assyrian domination of Cyprus (known as Iatnanna by the Assyrians) appears to have begun earlier than this, during the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III (744–727 BC), [3] and ended with the fall of the Neo Assyrian Empire in 609 BC, whereupon the city-kingdoms of Cyprus gained independence once more. Following a brief period of Egyptian domination in the sixth century BC, Cyprus fell under Persian rule. The Persians did not interfere in the internal affairs of Cyprus, leaving the city-kingdoms to continue striking their own coins and waging war amongst one another, until the late-fourth century BC saw the overthrow of the Persian Empire by Alexander the Great.

Alexander's conquests only served to accelerate an already clear drift towards Hellenisation in Cyprus. [4] His premature death in 323 BC led to a period of turmoil as Ptolemy I Soter and Demetrius I of Macedon fought together for supremacy in that region, but by 294 BC, the Ptolemaic kingdom had regained control and Cyprus remained under Ptolemaic rule until 58 BC, when it became a Roman province. During this period, Phoenician and native Cypriot traits disappeared, together with the old Cypriot syllabic script, and Cyprus became thoroughly Hellenised. Cyprus figures prominently in the early history of Christianity, being the first province of Rome to be ruled by a Christian governor, in the first century, and providing a backdrop for events in the New Testament [5]

Aphrodite, Goddess of Cyprus

From the end of the 19th century, scholars have been searching for the origin of the Greek Aphrodite, the goddess of love. For some, she was a blond goddess from the North, of Indo-European origin. For others, she came from the Orient. But for the Ancient Greeks she was the goddess of Cyprus, born from the foam of the sea and worshipped in Paphos. References in ancient authors and archaeological evidence may prove that Aphrodite originated in Cyprus. 1

Sources in ancient texts

Homer (9th-8th centuries BC) refers to Aphrodite as Kypris, especially in the Iliad 5.330-342, 347-362, 418-430, 454-459, 755-761. He mentions (Odyssey 8.360-366) Aphrodite’s sacred precinct in Paphos with an altar fragrant with incense, where she went to be bathed, anointed with immortal oil and clothed in lovely garments by the Graces.

Homeric Hymn 5.53-57 (8th-6th centuries BC) provides the same information as the Odyssey. Homeric Hymn 6.1-18 tells of Aphrodite as the mistress of the walled cities of the island of Cyprus and narrates that she was brought by the wind zephyr over the waves of the sea in soft foam and welcomed by the Hours who dressed her in heavenly garments, adorned her with golden jewellery and took her to the gods.

Homeric Hymn 10.1-6 refers to Aphrodite born in Cyprus as the queen of well-built Salamis and sea-girt Cyprus, who gives kindly presents to men.

In Asia Minor, in the 9th-8th centuries BC, Homer knew of Aphrodite as the goddess of Cyprus and of her sanctuary which actually existed in Paphos. Aphrodite was still unknown in mainland Greece where her cult is not witnessed before the 7th century BC.

Hesiod, a Theban poet (8th-7th centuries BC), narrates the strange birth of Aphrodite (Theogony 176-206): Aphrodite was born soon after the creation of the world, at a time when the first gods Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Heaven) procreated at random. Gaia rebelled against Uranus because she was suffocated under all the creatures he had forced her to procreate. One of their sons, Cronus, accepted to mutilate Uranus. Uranus’ genital parts fell into the sea where they created foam from where a maiden was formed and taken by the waves first to Cythera, then to sea-girt Cyprus. Thence she went to the assembly of Gods accompanied by Eros and Desire.

Herodotus (5th century BC) says (History 1.195.2-3) that the temple of Aphrodite in Cyprus was founded from the temple of Aphrodite Ourania in Ascalon in Syria-Palestine, which was the oldest of all temples of the goddess. He also mentions (History 1.199) the practice of sacred prostitution in Cyprus.

Tacitus (1st-2nd centuries AD) reports (Histories 2.3.1) that according to a very ancient tradition, the temple of Aphrodite in Paphos was founded by King Aerias, or by Kinyras, according to a more recent source, and that the goddess landed there after she sprang from the sea. He mentions that at the time of Titus, priesthood and divination were still practiced by a descendant of Kinyras and that the goddess was still venerated in the shape of a conical stone.

According to Pausanias (2nd century AD) (Description of Greece 8.5.2-3), Agapenor, leader of the Arcadians on their way back from the Trojan War, was overtaken by a storm, landed in Paphos and founded the city and temple of Aphrodite.

Many other references have been made to the cult of Aphrodite in Cyprus by later historians and scholiasts. The comments by scholiasts of the first centuries AD are very critical of the orgiastic cult of the goddess.

The genesis of Aphrodite in Cyprus

From these ancient sources and archaeological evidence (numerous stone statues and clay figurines, as well as archaeological remains of sanctuaries and temples), we may try to reconstruct the genesis of Aphrodite in Cyprus.

Around 3000 BC, a cult of female fertility developed intensively in the region of Paphos (Kouklia-Vathyrkakas, Lemba, Kissonerga). Limestone, picrolite and clay figurines [Fig. 1] found in tombs and settlements, of an earlier date than the Cycladic idols, represent birth-giving women of different sizes (from circa 2 to 40 cm high) in a cruciform shape. It is certain that a cult of female fertility was flourishing for a few hundred years in the western region of Cyprus. It was centered on the protection of childbirth, which was very important in small societies at a time when infant mortality was very high. But it is risky to assure that a goddess of fertility was already worshipped. 2 Later this cult faded away, but may have weakly survived in the western part of the island, leading the way for the establishment of the most celebrated cult place of the goddess of Cyprus at the end of the 2nd millennium BC, exactly in the same area (Palaepaphos).

By the end of the 3rd millennium BC, at the beginning of the Bronze Age, the island was exposed to influences from Anatolia with the settlement of new comers on the north coast. They brought new religious concepts based on the cult of horned animals. This culture produced a hard lustrous ware in the shape of enigmatic plank-shaped figures, found in settlements and tombs, in the north and central part of the island (Lapethos, Vounous, Dhenia, Ayia Paraskevi). They bear incised decoration showing a richly ornamented dress, with jewellery, including earrings in their pierced ears. Some hold an infant, while others have a double head on one single body. It is not clear whether they represent humans or some female deity, but they certainly were cult figures. Representations of infants in their cradles were also placed in tombs. They may have been part of a cult associating a religious idea of prosperity and survival after death with the image of a woman and a child. During the first half of the 2nd millennium BC, these figures developed into clearly defined female figurines with emphasized sexual features, mainly in the central region of Cyprus. It seems that by then some sort of female deity was worshipped.

During the 2nd millennium BC, Cyprus exploited its copper and traded it with countries of the Levant. In consequence, the island was exposed to cultural influences from the Near East. Near Eastern religions in the Bronze Age derived from the older Sumerian Pantheon. The most important goddess in Mesopotamia, characterized by a strong sexual power, was Inanna, which means the Lady of Heaven. Her descendants, Ishtar and Astarte, inherited her sexual features and her overwhelming power over global fertility and prosperity. Their universal nature, their power over kings and men, their fierceness at war, episodes of their existence, such as the sacred marriage with a shepherd king and their descent to the underworld in search of their beloved companion, are referred to in sacred hymns. They were represented by numerous popular idols which have been found at many sites in the Levant.

The clay figurines of a new type [Fig. 2], described as bird-faced figurines, which have been found in tombs and settlements of the second part of the 2nd millennium BC, especially in the central and eastern parts of Cyprus, are characterized by their strange head with large perforated ears wearing clay earrings and by their naked body with breasts, wide hips and emphasized pubis. They imitate Syrian prototypes and may have served as charms for fertility, prosperity and protection against death. They testify to the continuity of a fertility cult strengthened by oriental elements and may have been a popular image of some deity. It seems that by the middle of the 2nd millennium BC Cyprus had developed as a wealthy island, whose kings could be compared with the Pharaoh of Egypt and those of the city of Ugarit on the opposite Syrian coast. The island developed its own culture and no doubt its own religious institutions.

Excavations in Kition-Kathari (modern part of Larnaca) have revealed a sacred area along the city wall, with the remains of two sanctuaries of the 13th century BC, consisting of an enclosed courtyard associated with altars, hearths, benches and storerooms. Quantities of copper slag were found in the courtyards and the vicinity. There was a sacred garden between the sanctuaries. Some female terracotta figurines were found on the site. The sanctuaries were probably dedicated to a female deity whose cult was associated with the production of copper and where divination was practiced. These vestiges show an already developed religious context.

Dating to the 13th-12th centuries BC, some bronze statuettes, representing a naked female figure holding her breasts and standing on a base in the form of an oxhide ingot, probably testify to the worship of a goddess patron of copper in different places of Cyprus.

During that period, figurines of the same ceramic fabric as the ones with pierced ears, but of a new style, appeared. They have a normal face without the exaggeratedly large ears and nose, but they are still naked with their hands on their breasts. They show some similarities with Mycenaean figurines, as if Achaean prototypes had begun to alter their characteristic oriental appearance.

At the beginning of the 12th century BC, Kition was reconstructed and fortified with a cyclopean wall. The sacred area was rearranged with four temples, one very large and three smaller ones. Copper workshops communicated with the large temple. Stone "horns of consecration", religious symbols of Aegean origin, stood in the sacred yards. A few figurines of the goddess with upraised arms and some Mycenaean figurines were found, as well as sherds of a new Mycenaean pottery type. The use of ashlar blocks shows a stage of wealth and power. All these changes point to the arrival of Achaean Greeks, who seem to have appropriated holy places and have made them more imposing.

The same situation may have existed in the region of Palaepaphos, which was probably a wealthy region in the second part of the 2nd millennium BC, as shown by the opulence of its tombs. The remains of a sanctuary dated to the 12th century BC have been discovered. It consisted of an open-air sacred yard delimited by a huge, partly preserved wall of massive blocks of stone, and a covered hall on part of one of its sides. Aegean cult elements, such as horns of consecration and stepped capitals, have been also found on the site. The sanctuary bears the mark of an Aegean presence, but it cannot be excluded that a sacred precinct of the sacred enclosure type (of oriental origin?) preexisted on the site.

The building or rebuilding of the sanctuaries in the 12th century BC both at Kition and Palaepaphos, with the introduction of horns of consecration and new Mycenaean pottery, as well as numerous other cultural novelties, indicate the presence of Aegean people. Tradition has kept the memory of Greek colonists founding cities in Cyprus on their way back from the Trojan War. The Arcadian Agapenor was said to have founded the temple of Aphrodite in Paphos, but we should bear in mind that a goddess Aphrodite was unknown in Greece in the 12th century BC. Another tradition referred to by Tacitus that mentions Kinyras (probably of oriental origin) as the founder of the temple of Aphrodite in Paphos seems more likely. From what we know about the goddess worshipped in Paphos in later times, her cult had affinities with oriental cults. When the Greeks arrived, they may have adopted the local goddess, identifying her with some female deity they already worshipped, and they gradually hellenised her, favouring the development of a new type of figurine. For it is a fact that a local goddess was represented by figurines of an oriental type in the previous centuries, and that figurines of a new type made their appearance in the 12th-11th centuries BC. The new mixed population may have maintained for centuries some aspects of the cult of the old goddess at Palaepaphos with its oriental institutions (king-priesthood, sacred prostitution, perhaps sacred marriage, oracle, deity represented as a baetyl) inherited from previous oriental religious practices. In the course of the 11th century BC, waves of Aegeans, mainly Cretans, brought to Cyprus new religious elements. Around 1100 BC, another type of figurine appeared, characterized by her uplifted arms pointing to the Cretan prototype of the Minoan Goddess with upraised arms. Figurines of this type are found in the new temples of Kition, rebuilt in the 11th century BC, in sanctuaries in Enkomi, Palaepaphos and elsewhere. The goddess is represented in this type for several centuries. The new type depicts an image of the Lady of the Sanctuary [Fig. 3] with a cylindrical body her arms are raised in a ritual gesture and she wears an imposing headdress and a long dress. She was no longer seen as a wild goddess of sex, but as a divinity radiating majesty. Her images were offered in her sanctuaries, and were no more deposited in tombs.

Around 900 BC the Phoenicians established a colony at Kition and rebuilt the earlier temples. They dedicated the largest temple to their goddess Astarte who was worshipped at Kition till the 4th century BC. The cult of Astarte had many similarities with the cult of the Cypriote goddess of fertility.

Amathous, which – according to tradition – was founded by indigenous Cypriotes who kept the Eteocypriote language and perhaps very ancient rites, had also developed as an elevated place where the cult of the goddess was venerated, possibly as early as the 11th century BC. A sanctuary dedicated to the goddess existed at the top of the acropolis from the early 7th century BC, and evolved into a great religious centre during the Archaic period. Many archaic female figurines of the nude type with hands on their breasts that were found at the site of the sanctuary and in tombs testify to the worship of the goddess who was more or less identified with Astarte and Hathor. It is mentioned that the goddess in Amathοus was hermaphrodite.

Religious influences from the Syro-Palestinian coast brought in again the image of a goddess represented by naked figurines with hands on their breasts and strong sexual features. This new type of figurine spread particularly during the 8th-6th centuries BC in sanctuaries of the central part of the island, which may have been under the influence of the Phoenicians.

The Cypriotes gradually disliked the sexual appearance of their goddess and from the 6th century BC they represent her as an imposing priestess/goddess [Fig. 4]. Numerous figurines show her fully dressed under heavy garments and wearing rich jewellery, but still with her hands on her breasts. Figurines of her worshippers offering a young animal, a dove, a flower, a cake, a vase, and musicians playing the tambourine, and later the lyre, were also dedicated in her sanctuaries. By the end of the 6th century BC, sculptors had started producing grandiose statues in limestone, representing the goddess or her worshippers.

The Archaic period was probably a time when the goddess was lavishly worshipped in her principal sanctuaries of Palaepaphos and Amathous, but also in numerous rural sanctuaries all over Cyprus. There was an abundance of offerings in the sanctuaries, illustrating the cult of the goddess which probably included ceremonies with the playing of the tambourine and the lyre, incense burning, dancing, giving oracles, offering of doves, young animals, flowers, and vases.

By the end of the 5th century BC, the Cypriotes became conscious of their Greek identity. In the meantime the cult of Aphrodite had developed in Greece. The goddess and her worshippers in Cyprus were now shown in Greek dresses, and with Greek features, but they were still distinct in their lavish ornamentation and rich jewellery. Somewhat later, in the 4th century BC, the goddess was shown wearing a high vegetal crown, symbol of prosperity, or a turreted crown as a protector of cities. She appeared on the coinage of many kingdoms, as the great deity of Cyprus offering protection. By the 4th century BC, she was assimilated with the Greek Aphrodite.

In the Hellenistic period, the temple of Aphrodite at Palaepaphos developed as the main and prestigious cult place of the goddess. Ptolemy Philadelphus associated her cult with the cult of Arsinoe, his sister and spouse. The sacred precinct was kept as it was. The only finds surviving from this period are numerous dedications.

At Amathous the cult of the goddess was kept very vivid as witnessed by the great number of figurines and statues of the Hellenistic period, while her cult was associated with the cult of Isis and Adonis. The ruins, which survive until nowadays and date from the 1st century AD, are those of an imposing temple in the Greek style with a cella and a colonnade, and Nabatean capitals on its façade.

At Soloi, two temples were erected in honour of Aphrodite in the 3rd century BC and were in use till the 4th century AD. There her cult was associated with the cult of the Egyptian Isis. Soloi produced a number of statuettes and statues of Aphrodite, represented as a nude beautiful deity [Fig. 5].

The Romans made the old sanctuary of Palaepaphos a place of pilgrimage, since they considered Aphrodite to be the origin of their race. The precinct was kept as it was, with the conical stone (baetyl) symbolizing the power of the goddess still in place, but annexes were built to shelter pilgrims who came from all over the Mediterranean to worship her and consult her oracle.

In the Roman period, the temples of Paphos and Amathous were places of asylum according to a right granted by the Romans.

The temples were abandoned in the 4th century AD, after repeated earthquakes and the edict of Emperor Theodosius that closed all pagan temples.

The name of the goddess

From the few early inscriptions available (6th century BC), we know that the goddess was simply called η θεά, the Goddess, or the Paphian, or the Golgian (from the name of her two main sanctuaries). In Paphos, in the 4th century BC, she was still called νασσα, a very old Greek name meaning the Sovereign. She began to be called Aphrodite in Amathous at the end of the 4th century BC as found in royal inscriptions. From then onwards she was invoked as Kypria Aphrodite or Paphian Aphrodite in numerous inscriptions of Hellenistic and Roman times.

Although Homer knew her already as Aphrodite, this name is not recorded in Cyprus in early times. At first sight, this name may be explained with the phrase born from the foam of the sea (αφρός means foam), but not from a linguistic point of view. Linguists rather think that Aphrodite could be the phonetic transcription of an oriental name like Attorit, akin to Astarte, given by the Greeks to the old goddess of Cyprus. The myth of her birth includes elements from very ancient Sumerian and Hittite cosmogonies in which the father god is mutilated by his son. A myth from Byblos, closer to the Cypriote myth, narrates that the god Uranus was mutilated by his son and the blood from his genitals fell into the river of Byblos. The introduction of a maiden born from the foam created by the genital parts of Uranus could be an invention by some Cypriote hymn singer in order to explain the goddess’ name.


The rich mythology around Aphrodite may have originated in Cyprus from aspects of her cult at the time when the Greeks adopted this deity. She was a fierce sexual goddess, patroness of copper, and protector of the fertility of nature. Hence she came to be associated with many lovers, Hephaistos, the god of metallurgy, and Adonis, the god of vegetation. Here are some mythological episodes associated with her:

Aphrodite is caught with her lover Ares by her husband Hephaistos and flies to hide in her sanctuary in Paphos (Homer, Odyssey 8.356-366).

Aphrodite prepares in her temple in Paphos to go to meet the Trojan shepherd Anchises with whom she falls in love (Homeric Hymn 5.53-57).

Pygmalion, king of Paphos, is in love with a statue of a beautiful woman he had carved in ivory and Aphrodite gives life to it (Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.242-299).

Aphrodite inspires an incestuous love to Myrrha for her father Kinyras, and she gives birth to Adonis (Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.298-502 Plutarch, Moralia 311).

Aphrodite turned into stone statues the Propoetides of Amathous who denied her divinity (Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.238-242).

It is clear from the above that a local fertility deity played an important part in the religious life of the Cypriotes from a very early period. In the 2nd millennium BC, she was deeply influenced by Near Eastern religions. In the 12th century BC, she was encountered by the Achaean Greeks in Cyprus and acquired Greek characteristics, mixed with Phoenician elements deriving from the Syrian goddess Astarte in the course of time. She was almost completely hellenised in the 4th century BC. Altogether she had been adopted by the Greeks at an early date, and she eventually found her way to Mount Olympus as the goddess of love and beauty.

List of illustrations

Fig. 1: Schematized picrolite figurine. From Yialia. Ht.: 15.3 cm. Circa 3000 BC. Cyprus Museum.

Fig. 2: Figurine of a nude female figure with pierced ears. Holding a child. Ht.: 21 cm. 15th-13th century BC. Cyprus Museum.

Fig. 3: The Lady of the Sanctuary with uplifted arms. Ht.: 36.5 cm. 8th-7th century BC. London, British Museum 1899.12-29.1 (Cat. Terracottas A 123)..

Fig. 4: Terracotta fragmentary statue of the Cypriot goddess, exported from Cyprus to Samos. Ht.: 37 cm. Early 6th century BC. Vathy Museum (Samos).

Fig. 5: Marble statue of Aphrodite. From Soloi. Ht.: 81 cm. 1st century BC. Cyprus Museum.


1 A short bibliography with the main books that have been used for this article is added in the bibliography section. It contains all the references to other sources which have been used and would be too many to be included in this short presentation.

2 Fertility was worshipped but not as a divinity by itself.


Bolger, D., Serwint, N. (eds) 2002: Engendering Aphrodite. Women and Society in Ancient Cyprus (ASOR Archaeological Reports 7), Boston.

Chadjiioannou, Κ. 1973: Ancient Cyprus in Greek sources, B΄, Nicosia.

Karageorghis, J. 1977: La Grande Déesse de Chypre et son culte , Lyon.

Religious statues from Cyprus show evidence of astronomical writing

An analysis of five late Bronze Age Terracotta religious statues , dating back around 3,300 years and found at various sites in Cyprus, has revealed the presence of astronomical ‘writing’, which has also been found on a number of other much older artefacts distributed across several continents.

The study of the items was conducted by Dr Derek Cunningham, author of The Long Journey: 400,000 years of Stone Age Science , who has hypothesised that our ancient ancestors developed writing from a very archaic geometrical form that is based on the study of the motion of the moon and the sun.

Dr Cunningham found that all five Cyprus Bronze Age statues share virtually identical features and that the angles of the lines correspond exactly to archaeological phenomena, such as the prediction of eclipses, and the measurement of time.

The most important of these astronomical values is the sidereal month, which is drawn in early astronomical texts as an angular value at either 13.66 or 27.32 degrees to represent the half and full month values. After the sidereal month value is known it is then a simple matter for astronomers to calculate that the earth is moving approximately 1 degree per day around the sun, and through more careful observations to deduce there is an eclipse season every 6.511 draconic months, this being a time period a time period equivalent to 6 synodic months. Other parameters important for predicting eclipses are the 5.1 degree angle of inclination of the moon’s orbit, and the 9.3/18.6 year lunar nutation cycle. Finally a value of 11 degrees is found on many early Stone Age artefacts, which corresponds to the 11 day difference between the lunar and solar year.

Dr Cunningham found that these values could be found in the form of an angular array carved into statues and figurines, offset to either above or below the horizon, or to the right or left of vertical. In order to test the theory, the figurines or statues are rotated until the prominent lower line on the left leg of each figure aligns to 27.3 degrees – this is the angular value representing the sidereal month value. The remaining lines are then analysed to determine their orientation. It was found that all of the figures showed alignments towards astronomical phenomena, such as the sidereal month, the moon’s orbital plane to the ecliptic, the half lunar nutation cycle, and the difference between the solar and lunar year.

The values found on the figurines and statues have been found to explain data from a wide range of archaeological samples dating from as old as circa 400,000 years before present, all the way through to the development of Celtic Ogham writing. The findings reveal there is still much about our ancient ancestors that is not yet understood.

Aphrodite – The Goddess of Cyprus

Aphrodite, goddess of fertility and sensual pleasure, was born from the foam of the sea at Petra tou Romiou. In Cyprus she was passionately worshipped.

The earliest inhabitants settled along the shores of the island. They were farmers and hunters who worshiped an earth goddess, often depicted as a woman with upraised arms, naked with marked sexual features or as a female with her hands over her breasts, and sometimes as a seated goddess holding a child upon her knees.

Figurines and statuettes found in tombs, sanctuaries and private houses, show the development of the fertility goddess through the ages. Of note is a statuette from Lempa of the goddess of fertility in the shape of a cross. She was joined by a nude goddess, Kipris (dea Cypria) closely tied to the Egyptian Hathor, the Assyro-Babylonian Ishtar, and the Syro-Palestinian Astarte.

Mycaenean settlers in Cyprus

Mycaenean or Archaean (Greek) traders from the west introduced their culture and their beloved goddess, Aphrodite. During this prosperous period the great kingdoms of Salamis, Curium, Amathus and Palaepaphos were established. Kipris, now pronouncedly worshipped in the southwest, soon became assimilated by Aphrodite. Sacred gardens at her shrines inspired notorious orgies and festivals to ensure health and fertility. She became the protectress of royal dynasties, agriculture and sailors. From her name comes the term “aphrodisiac”.

The Sanctuary of Palaepaphos

A great sanctuary to Aphrodite was built in Palaepaphos, not far from her birthplace. Aphrodite was not represented in human form here, but as a conical stone idol (like the sacred pillars of Canaanite peoples), which was anointed with oil during festivities. Rulers of the Kinyras dynasty served as kings and high priests until the Ptolemaic era. After catastrophic earthquakes a new city and temple were built further west – Nea Paphos.

Ancient Amathus

As the Achaean Greek settlements became more powerful, resentful Paphians migrated east to settle in Amathus taking Aphrodite with them. A magnificent sanctuary was built on the acropolis. Alexander Hislop in “The Two Babylons” mentions a colossal stone vase from this temple, decorated with fertility symbols, which was taken to the Louvre in 1865. In 22CE the Roman Senate established the right of asylum for Aphrodite’s principal sanctuaries in Paphos and Amathus.

Phoenician religion in Cyprus

Phoenician traders from the east settled mainly in Kition (SE). The Phoenician Astarte absorbed the Cyprian fertility goddess. Cypriot deities now had Phoenician names. Shrines to Aphrodite-Astarte and Melkart-Baal were built in Palaepaphos.

Arsinoe Ptolemy Philadelphus

Cyprus came under the control of the Ptolemies of Egypt who, like the Pharoahs, deified themselves. Arsinoe, wife of Ptolemy Philadelphus became identified with Aphrodite and was worshipped as Arsinoe-Kipris in NW Cyprus until 2 CE.

The Island of Venus

The domination of Cyprus by the Ptolemies came to an end with Cleopatra’s death, and the island came under the jurisdiction of the Roman Senate. Roman coins of the period are engraved with a representation of the sanctuary of Aphrodite in Palaepaphos. Known to the Romans as Venus, her cult on the island drew pilgrims from all over the Roman Empire.

They would gather at Yeroskipou (Greek: Hieros-Kipos, Sacred Garden) for the spring festivities dedicated to Venus. Accompanied by music, a procession of men and women with garlands on their heads led by the royal couple, made its way to her temple to perform mystic rites featuring sacrifices of virginity and religious prostitution. In return for offering the goddess a coin, worshippers were given a phallus (fertility) and a lump of salt.

By the 4th century CE, however, basilicas were erected on many temple sites. Ancient votive customs and festivities, thinly camouflaged and “christianised”, continued to be celebrated however. Many popular customs at Easter, as well as the Festival of Kataklysmos held fifty days later, have their roots in those ancient festival rites to Aphrodite. There they remain firm at the core of Cypriot life down to this day.

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Материалы: Глины, Керамические, Керамики

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Состояние: Новое, ручной работы в Греции.
Рост: 14 см - 5,5 дюйм(ов)
Ширина: 5,5 см - 2,2 дюйма
Длина: 3 см - 1,2 дюйма
Вес: 130 г
Антропоморфная фигурка в форме доски почти прямоугольной формы, с угловыми проекциями, указывающими на руки. Горизонтальные и волнистые полосы, видимые на поверхности фигурки, скорее всего, указывают на одежду или украшения. Считается, что эти полосы не были первоначально оказаны в рельефе, но окрашены. Не исключено, что потерянные в настоящее время пигменты защитили эти части поверхности от эрозии, от которого пострадала остальная часть фигурки.

The Archaic Period 750-475 BC

During the Archaic period (750-475 BC) Greek influences were much weaker. In 707 BC the Cypriot kings submitted to King Sargon (722-705 BC) of Assyria. Although Assyrian rule was not punitive and local kings maintained their wealth and relative independence the influence of Assyrian art and sculpture were dominant. Following the collapse of the Assyrian empire in 669 BC Egyptian rule of a more severe kind than that of Assyria was established for 25 years. However, during these years there was lively commerce with Aegean and Ionian Greece and Karageorghis argues that there were Cypro-Greek and Cypro-Egyptian influences on the development of sculpture with a sometimes difficult-to-assimilate fluctuation between Orient and Occident (See Karageorghis, V 1982 Cyprus: From the Stone Age to the Romans, Thames and Hudson, London p.139).

Internally the island was organised into seven and then ten autonomous city-kingdoms. There is some evidence to suggest these were ruled by Greek incomers although Kition remained under Phoenician leadership. This influence grew in the fifth century BC as Phoenicians ruled at Lapithos and briefly at Salamis, the most powerful Greek kingdom, and at Idalion and Tamassos in the mid-fifith and fourth centuries respectively.

The city kingdoms had wide trading contacts and by the sixth century BC they were striking their own coinage.

The Classical Period: Persian domination and Greek ties (475-325)

In 545 BC the kings of Cyprus submitted voluntarily to Cyrus, King of Persia. This developed into ‘hard slavery’ for the Cypriots that was to last 200 hundred years after all of the city-kingdoms, save Amathus, had joined with the Greek cities in Ionia (part of modern Turkey) in the Ionian Revolt (499 BC). (Karageorghis,1982 p.152)

Throughout the Classical Period Cyprus was poised between mainland Greece and Persia. Mainland Greek commanders tried to make the island a base but the Persians reasserted themselves. From 411-371 BC the island's politics were dominated by the philo-hellenic King Evagoras of Salamis who controlled a large part of the island by 391 BC with the support of Athens and Egypt.

The treaty of Antalkidas (387 BC) saw Athens recognise Persia's sovereignty over Cyprus and Evagoras's influence was pushed back, first into his kingdom of Salamis in 380 BC and then with his murder in 374 BC.

The Cypriot kings continued to make common cause against Persia after a period of internal feuding but Persian rule kept coming back. It was finally overturned at the Battle of Issos where the Greeks under the leadership of Alexander the Great, King of Macedon, beat the Persians. At this point 200 years of Persian rule was over and the island's city-kingdoms submitted voluntarily to Alexander ( Tatton-Brown Ancient Cyprus pp.16).

The Ruins of Salamis

The Gymnasium with its columned palaestra, built over the ruins of an ealier Hellenistic gymnasium in the 2nd century AD during Trajan and Hadrian’s reign after Salamis had been greatly damaged in 116 AD during Jewish revolt, Salamis. Photo © Carole Raddato.

The vast exercise ground was discovered in 1882 and finally excavated in 1952 when the marble columns were re-erected. The Gymnasium was originally laid down during the Hellenistic period, as testified by epigraphic and archaeological evidence, but it was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt during the reign of Augustus. The Gymnasium was destroyed once again under the reign of Vespasian following the earthquake of 76 AD. It was restored by Trajan and Hadrian after the Jewish insurrection of 116 AD with a roofed colonnade along all four sides and bathing facilities. An inscription embedded in the pavement dating from the Early Christian period refers to the construction by Trajan of the roof of a swimming pool of the Gymnasium. Hadrian also contributed to the embellishment of the building, and several honorific decrees have been found which mention him as a “benefactor and saviour of the city”.

In the 4th century AD two more earthquakes struck the area. The building was partly restored by the Byzantine emperor Constantius II who remained the city Constantia. The marble columns crowned by Corinthian capitals of various types were taken from the stage building of the nearby theatre as well as other buildings. They replaced the stone pillars of the Roman gymnasium. This explains the mismatching of some of the columns and bases and why they differ in size. The visible remains date from these two late restorations.

During the Hellenistic period, the palaestra had a small circular pool in its centre while during the reign of Augustus a statue of the Emperor stood there.

The centre of the Gymnasium’s palaestra where a statue of Augustus was erected, Salamis. Photo © Carole Raddato.

Two marble pools occupied the two ends of the eastern colonnade of the Gymnasium. The pools originally had a small roofed portico and were surrounded by nude statues of the gymnasiarchs but these were later smashed by Christians. They have now been replaced by a collection of headless statues found at the site. They were probably defaced by Christians zealots who considered them as symbols of pagan idolatry.

Marble pool at NE corner of the Gymnasium’s portico surrounded by headless statues dating back to the 2nd century AD (Trajanic/Hadrianic), Salamis. Photo © Carole Raddato.

Marble pool at NE corner of the Gymnasium’s portico surrounded by headless statues dating back to the 2nd century AD (Trajanic/Hadrianic), Salamis. Photo © Carole Raddato.

Statue of a female figure in grey marble, its face, hands and feet were white marble insets and are now missing, this type is usually identified with Persephone, Salamis. Photo © Carole Raddato.

Marble pool at SE corner of the Gymnasium’s portico dating back to the 2nd century AD (Trajanic/Hadrianic), Salamis. Photo © Carole Raddato.

At the south-west corner of the palaestra lie the gymnasium’s latrines, a semicircular colonnaded structure in which there was seating was 44 people. They are the largest ever found in Cyprus.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Whereas half a decade ago a significant proportion of marriages were arranged (often by the father), this has largely disappeared, although parents may still exert strong control and influence over marital choices. Most people consider getting married to be the normal course of action, so the vast majority do in fact marry those who don't are often viewed as being either eccentric or unlucky, or both. Whereas previously the provision of a dowry, mostly for women, was considered mandatory, parents still feel they should provide as much economic support as possible for their children when they marry. Ideally, the parents hope to provide the newlywed couple with a fully furnished house and other basic needs, such as one or two cars.

Domestic Unit. The typical family arrangement on both sides is the nuclear family, often with fairly strong ties towards a more extended family, especially the parents. Most couples hope to have two children, preferably one of each sex. The more traditional division between the public domain (work, etc.), which is overseen by the male, and the private domain (the home), which is overseen by the female, is still strong, despite women's entry into the labor market. Since people usually move into city apartments or build their own home, relatives do not live in as close proximity as in the past, when they lived in clusters of houses in the same town or village.

The Terrifying History of a Cursed Statue Named “The Goddess of Death”

It was allegedly unearthed in 1878, but it likely dates back more than three thousand years the ancient limestone statue was originally dubbed “The Woman of Lemb” after the town in the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus where it was discovered… but the grim and fateful legend that soon surrounded the artifact quickly earned it the nickname “The Goddess of Death.”

First believed to represent a Cypriot fertility goddess, the statue’s reputation began to take a significantly darker turn after it was acquired by its first owner, Lord Elphont, during British colonial occupation of Cyprus. Elphont, along with six other members of his family, reportedly died within six years of obtaining the relic. It traveled westward across Europe after being purchased by a man named Ivor Manucci, whose family fared even worse than Elphont’s: all of them were dead within four years of the Goddess’s arrival. A similar fate befell the statue’s third owner, a Lord Thompson-Noel, and his entire immediate family… all of whom were dead within a few years.

The last known private buyer was said to be Sir Alan Biverbrook, who died along with his wife and two daughters over an even shorter span of time, leaving only his two sons in possession of the notorious artifact. Fearing the curse of the Goddess would strike them next, they donated the Woman of Lemb to the Royal Museum in Edinborough, Scotland… but even then, the curse apparently did not diminish in power when the museum finally put the statue on display, its curator died mysteriously within a year of handling it.

The Goddess of Death, as we should probably call her from now on, remains in a museum today, imprisoned within a heavy glass display case. Whether the curse has been appeased, if it only affected those who actually touched the stone, or if the entire lethal history has merely been a string of bizarre coincidences, no one knows for sure. Without solid proof, the curse itself may be nothing more than a macabre myth. But if you visit the museum where the Goddess resides, I’d recommend you keep a safe distance from her… you know, just in case.

Watch the video: Decorated Tomb in Cyprus


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  5. Christie

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