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Kourion- the Ancient kingdom of Cyprus

Kourion- the Ancient kingdom of Cyprus

The Kourion or as it is sometimes known, the Curium, is situated in Episkopi in the district of Limassol. Today this area is well maintained and managed by the Cyprus Department of Antiquities. The Kourion was an important ancient city on the southwest coast of Cyprus and has a limestone promontory which is almost 100 metres high. The earliest occupation of this settlement can be traced back to the Ceramic Neolithic period which was established during the Cypro-Geometric period in 1050 – 750 BC. Bellow the bluffs of the Kourion are the burial sites of the Kaloriziki necropolis which date back to the 11th century BC. These tombs provide a picture of a prosperous community with ties to mainland Greece. The kingdom of Kourion was at the time, one of the most influential in Cyprus even though the island came under the rule of the Egyptians and the Persians over this period.

Under the Romans the Kourion was used as a civic government territory which oversaw the provincial proconsul. Inscriptions found prove that the Kourion was used as the Council of the city and the people as well as the market with priests and priestesses of Apollo Hylates hailing from this area as well. As one of the most prominent cities in Cyprus, the city is mentioned by several ancient authors including: Ptolemy, Stephanus of Byzantium, Heracles and Pliny the Elder.

The Kourion was identified by Carlo Vidua in 1820 and excavations of the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates to the west of the acropolis started in 1849. The cemetery of Ayios Ermoyenis and the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates was extensively looted in 1874 by the then Ottoman government of Cyprus and between 1882 and 1887 several unauthorized excavations were undertaken prior to being declared illegal by the British High Commissioner in 1887. In 1895 the British Museum conducted the first systematic excavations at the Kourion and this was followed by further excavations between 1934 and 1954. These excavations stalled for a period of time and were again started in 1964 to 1975 and again in the 1990’s.

One of the most significant archaeological finds, is the Kourion’s Greco-Roman theatre which is still used today for concerts and theatrical shows. The majority of the area dates back to the Roman and Early Byzantine periods. The acropolis and all the remains within this area are managed by the Cyprus Department of Antiquities and are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Sanctuary and the Temple of Apollo Hylates is located 1.7km west of the acropolis and only half a kilometer from the coast. This was a Pan-Cyprian sanctuary third in importance after the sanctuaries of Zeus Salaminos and that of the Paphian Aphrodite. A structure from the late 4th century which is located south of the altar was used as a residence for the priests of Apollo and used as the temple treasury. This building was renovated in the first, third and fourth centuries AD.

The theatre which is the impressive amphitheatre that is still used today was excavated by the University Museum Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania between 1935 and 1950. The architectural building of this amphitheatre is typical of Hellenistic theatres throughout the Eastern Mediterranean with a circular orchestra and a cavea of 180 degrees. The theatre as it stands today can seat over 3000 people.

The first series of monuments that are seen by visitors who enter this archaeological park are those of the Amathus Gate Cemetery. These remains consist of primarily rock cut chambers which were used for multiple internments for the Romans. The House of the Gladiators is located south and east of the House of Achilles and this structure dates back to the late 3rd century AD. Even though the structure was severely damaged by an earthquake in the late 4th century there are still visable ruins on the east side of this structure. As it appears today, the Forum of Kourion was constructed in the late 2nd and 3rd centuries. The Forum was the center of public life and had central pavements with colonnaded porticoes set along the east, west and northern sides. The northern side provided entrance to a huge bath complex which was renovated in the early 5th century.

There are many archaeological sites to visit at the Kourion, on the west you have the stadium and on the southern end you will find the Baths and House of Eustolios which is situated just above the theatre. The Episcopal Precinct and Cathedral of Kourion is located just off the cliffs southwest of the forum. This Cathedral was constructed at the beginning of the 5th century and served as the seat of the Bishop of Kourion. You will also be able to see the remains of the Basilicas on the northwestern side and the early Christian beachfront Basilica which was constructed at the base of the southwestern bluffs in the early 6th century.

The archaeological remains of Kourion are the islands most important ancient kingdom. A day visit to the area promises to take you back in history with amazing views of the Mediterranean Sea which borders the site.

Operating Hours:     

September 16 - April 15, daily: 08.30 - 17:00

April 16 - September 15, daily: 08:30 - 19:30

Operating Period:     All year round.

Closed on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Easter Sunday (Greek Orthodox).

Entrance Fee: €4, 50

For organized groups consisting of more than 10 persons there is a 20% reduction on the entry fees.