Ancient Kourion - Limassol

Ancient Kourion - Limassol - Car Hire Cyprus

Kourion (Greek: Κούριον),  Curium, was a city in Cyprus, which existed  from antiquity until the early Middle Ages. Kourion is situated on the south shores of the island to the west of the river Kouris, 16 M. P. from Amathus.  and was well known by numerous ancient authors including Ptolemy, Stephanus of Byzantium, Hierocles, and Pliny the Elder. Today the site lies within the Akrotiri Sovereign Base Area, which forms part of the British Overseas Territory of Akrotiri,  but it is maintained and administrated by the Republic of Cyprus . On the 5th of July 2012, the Cyprus EU presidency ceremony was held in the ancient theater of Kourion.

The ruins of Kourion, near the modern town of Episkopi, is located on one of the most fertile spots in the island, with extensive ancient ruins and including well-preserved mosaics. An important place of interest are the public baths, the necropolis, the Fountain House,the House of Gladiators and the House of Achilles. The most spectacular site at Kourion is the Greco-Roman theatre, or forum , that has been completely restored  and is used today for open air musical and theatrical performances. It is one of the venues for the International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama.

History

Kourion was said to have been founded by the Argives. Stesenor, its sovereign, betrayed  his country and his people during the war against the Persians. Near the city was a cape , from which religious offenders who had dared to touch the altar of Apollo were thrown into the sea. The city has passed through different periods including Hellenistic, Roman, and Christian. Because of this the city has a very large Agora (market place) and you can find there even an early Christian Basilica within the city walls. Furthermore, large public baths which were equipped with cold, warm and hot spas were built. In the large amphitheatre which can sit up to 2000 spectators mostly gladiator games were held, therefore it is called  Palestra or a training place for gladiators. The whole town has beautiful floor mosaics and they are mostly found in the house of Achilleas and the private bath of the founder of the city.

Three kilometers from the town is the sanctuary of Hylates (the Cypriot version of the Greek god Apollo which has stunning Cypro-Corinthian columns). At the same location there is a place of worship of a woodland god dating back to 6000 BC. Between Kourion and the sanctuary of Apollo there is  a stadium which is around 400 m long ; this stadium could sit up to 7,000 spectators who would watch ancient Greek games. This magnificent city is believed to have been destroyed in the 4th century when a series of 5 strong earthquakes hit the city in a period of 80 years, and this inevitably brought an end to the city as it was known.

The Nymphaeum

The Roman Nymphaeum near Kourion is one of the biggest and the most impressive ancient monuments in its kind in the Mediterranean. It was dedicated to the Nymphs, the protectors of water. It consisted of an enormous central edifice, constructed with big hewn limestone blocks. It was built in the 1st century A.D. and renovated several times later.

Ruins

Many artifacts were removed from Kourion by the notorious treasure hunter, Luigi Palma di Cesnola, in the late 19th century who served as Consul to Cyprus for the United States. These were transported to the U.S. where they formed the bulk of the first exhibition of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Some are still on exhibition today. Thousands of other pieces however were sold to Stanford University and were destroyed by an earthquake that hit California in 1906. A third portion of this collection ended up at the Semitic Museum at Harvard University.

Excavations were also conducted by several other expeditions. The British Museum enriched its Cypriot artifact collection through excavations conducted during the British occupation of the island between 1893 and 1899. The excavations on the theater were carried out by the University Museum of Philadelphia. Works began in 1934 and were completed in 1949.

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