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New Paphos


Paphos (Greek Πάφος): name of two cities in the southwest of Cyprus, the Archaic and Classical town (also known as Kouklia) and the Hellenistic and Roman city (which is still called Paphos).

Hellenistic mosaic on the acropolis

New Paphos was built in the last quarter of the fourth century BCE, by orders of king Nicocles, who realized the potential of the sheltered harbor. A founding myth was of course invented: the city was supposedly founded by Agenor, one of the heroes of the Trojan War, who on his return had, by storm, been driven to Cyprus. If there is a historical element in this story, it is that in the twelfth century BCE, Mycenaean Greeks did indeed come to the island.

Paphos, Royal Tomb 8

After Alexander’s conquests, Cyprus became part of the Ptolemaic Empire. The old city-states were brought under control of a governor, but the local king of Paphos retained his honorable function as high priest of the temple of Aphrodite in Old Paphos. The newly founded city of New Paphos became the residence of the governor. It was not only the administrative center of the island but also its main economic hub.

The so-called Royal Tombs date back to this age. (One of them actually contained the bones of a Ptolemaic ruler, the others are equally monumental but not meant for a royal person.)

Paphos, House of Aion, wall painting of Apollo

When the Romans conquered Cyprus, the Roman governor took over the residence. Paphos was the place where the apostle Paul was interrogated by the Roman official.

In the second and third centuries, New Paphos was a powerful city with imposing temples and large public buildings, such as an agora (marketplace), an amphitheater and an Asklepion (medical center). Beautiful mosaics have been excavated from this time.

A severe earthquake hit the city in the fourth century, which was destroyed and temporarily abandoned. Salamis was to be the new capital of the island.

The House of Theseus

The House of Theseus was probably the official palace of the Roman governor.