Paphos is well known for its sun and beaches, but no trip to the Cyprian city is complete without taking the time to visit the various sites exuding the region’s great history. The region has a grand past, with tales and features from antiquity to the medieval period dotting the landscape.
Kato Paphos Archaeological Park
The Kato Paphos Archaeological Park is home to a wide array of historical remains, from the prehistoric period all the way through to the Middle Ages. It is a major site for the identity of Paphos, representing not only the multitude of peoples and conflicts which have affected the region throughout history, but acting as the central point from which a General Plan for the preservation and promotion of such sites in the area was created. Within its boundaries lie four mosaic flaws of Roman villas to Dionysos, Theseus, Aion and Orpheus, as well as Roman features such as The Odeon amphitheatre, an agora (market place) and the Saranda Kolones (Forty Columns) Fortress, a Byzantine feature from around the 7th Century AD.
Tombs of the Kings
Another feature within the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park, the Tombs date to the beginning of the 3rd Century BC, the Tombs of the Kings provide a rich archaeological find which experts are still finding new revelations about thirty years after excavations first began. Acting as the final resting place of around 100 Ptolemaic aristocrats (rather than actually being kings), the tombs have undergone some change over time having also housed various cultures from the Hellenistic Period to the Middle Ages, though their original Macedonian influences remain clear. Within visitors will find frescos (a form of mural), several excavated tombs to visit and a particularly impressive atrium (hall).
The Castle at Paphos has had a violent history, having been destroyed twice: once by an earthquake in 1222, and then demolished in 1570 by Venetians of the Ottoman Empire. Originally built to protect Paphos harbour, the castle was rebuilt again in the 16th Century AD by the same Ottomans, realising its strategic and symbolic value to the region. In the modern era, Paphos Castle continues to be of importance, designated as both a listed building in 1935 and providing the backdrop for an opera staged as part of the Aphrodite Festival every September.
The Rock of Aphrodite / The Rock of the Greek
Reputed by local legend to have been the birthplace of the ancient Greek goddess, the vertical column of rock, arcing up from the sea, is the starting point for any traveller interested in Aphrodite’s strong presence in the region. Paphos is well known for its association with Aphrodite, yet the same rock stack also has associations with the epic hero Basil, famous in the region from folk-tales originating from the twelfth century. In Basil’s mythology the rock stack is referred to as ‘The Rock of the Greek’; this feature of mythology from several cultures is prevalent to the region, and goes much of the way to understand its history and values.
The basilica, essentially acting as a prominent Christian church from its original construction in the 4th Century AD, lays further testament to the diversity of peoples and conflicts present in Paphos throughout history. Historical figures have left their mark in the area, not least St. Paul, to whom there is a pillar within the basilica’s boundaries, supposedly the site of his torture before his conversion of the Roman governor of the region. The basilica itself has been rebuilt into a smaller church for the modern era, surrounded by marble columns and mosaics which have survived the travails of history.