Ancient Cyprus, Crete: Jewels of islands.
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Ancient Cyprus,&CreteDeath at KourionIn the fourth century A.D., a huge earthquakedestroyed one of Cypruss glittering Greco-Roman cities.
Eternally frozen in a protective embrace, theremains of an ancient family vividly testify to theenduring power of love. When a powerful earthquakestruck Kourion, Cyprus, on July 21, 365A.D., a 25-year-old man (the skeleton at right inthe photo) tried to comfort his 19-year-old wife,who, in turn, attempted to shield their infantchild from collapsing walls. In his History, thefourth-century A.D. historian Ammianus Marcellinusdescribed this earthquake as a frightful disastersurpassing anything related either inlegend or authentic history.
Since the sixth century B.C., supplicants ofApollothe ancient Greek god of light, healing,prophesy, music and poetrymade pilgrimageto a sanctuary complex, located a few miles outsideKourion. By the late first century A.D., theSanctuary of Apollo consisted of a perimeter wallthat enclosed baths, an exercise ground called apalaestra, civic buildings and several sacredprecincts. In the late 1970s, author David Sorendirected excavations at the sanctuarys altar,temple (see photo of the columns of the Templeof Apollo in this article) and park.
Drawing of the Sanctuary of Appolo, a few miles outsideKourion.
The team excavating in the sactuarysaltar also found pits crammed withsmall terracotta statues which apparentlyhad been placed around the altarby supplicants. Although Apollo himselfwas not represented anthropomorphicallyat Kourion (though he wasrepresented by sacred standingstones, called baetyls), worshipersbrought both human- and animalshapedstatues to the sanctuary to askfavors of the god.
An exquisite gold-and-silver bull figurine wasfound by author David Sorens excavation teamin the sanctuarys altar, a small round structuremade of piled stones. Although Apollo himselfwas not represented anthropomorphically atKourion (though he was represented by sacredstanding stones, called baetyls), worshipersbrought both human- and animal-shaped statuesto the sanctuary to ask favors of the god.
The soaring columns of the Temple of Apollowere probably knocked flat during the devastatingearthquake of 365 A.D. The templespronaos (or front porch) was reconstructed in theearly 1980s. Although the original temple datesto the sixth century B.C., the structure wasrebuiltand the pronaos addedunder theemperor Nero (5468 A.D.).
Coins uncovered in the ruins ofKourion help to date the massiveearthquake that leveled the city. Anumber of the coins bear theimage of the Roman emperorValens (364378 A.D.) wearing apearl diadem. Coins issued duringthe first years of his reign are easilyidentifiable: The first five letters(VALEN) of the emperors nameappear to the left of his portraitwhile the S appears on theright. The so-called split-Valensbronze coin above, from the collectionof the American NumismaticSociety, is similar to thoserecovered from Kourionwhichstrongly suggests that the site wasdestroyed in 365 A.D.
In another of the sanctuarys sacred precincts, the park, stood an unusual structure dubbed the Round Building. The Round Building once consisted of a round wall enclosing a paved walkway that surrounded a garden or arbor. This garden was once planted with trees, perhaps palm trees that were sacred to Apollo. Author David Soren suggests that worshipers strolled or danced around the interior of this structurein contemplation or in ecstasy.
Reconstruction drawing of a house that had once been a lavish villa. By the time the 356 A.D. earthquake struck, squatters had divided the house up into rooms, which theyinhabited. Human remains uncovered within the house attest to the suddenness of Greco-Roman Kourions final destruction.A partial skeleton of a 12-year-old girl was found beneath the bones of a mule, both crushed by falling masonry. Most poignant of all, the skeletons of the man, woman and child shown at the beginning of this article werefound in the buildings entry corridor.
The skeleton of a 55-year-old man wasdiscovered in the ruins of a largehouse that was leveled during the 365A.D. earthquake. (Forensic anthropologistWalter Birkby is shown examiningthe skeleton in 1984.) The man probablytook refuge in a doorway next tothe buildings side courtyard (seereconstruction drawing) as the firsttemblor struck.Cypriot Land MinesMilitary, political and archaeological
A group of now-headless marble statues lines a second-century A.D. cold-water bath at ancientSalamis, in Cyprus. The original excavations at Salamis, led by Cypriot archaeologist Vassos Karageorghis,were halted in 1974 when Turkey occupied the northern part of the islandincludingSalamis. Although archaeologists from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus have continued toexcavate at Salamis, Karageorghis and his colleagues from the southern Republic of Cyprus refuse toenter what they consider to be illegally occupied territory.
Throughout the millennia, conquering peoplesPhoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans,Crusaders and Ottoman Turkshave been attracted byCypruss timber and copper resources, as well as by itsstrategic location in the eastern Mediterranean. Theislands first, Neolithic occupants probably arrivedaround 7,000 B.C. from north Syria. They have leftbehind remains of their curvilinear mudbrick homes(shown here) at such sites as Kalavasos-Tenta.
The remains of curvilinear mudbrick homes (shown here covered bya tent) at Kalavasos-Tenta.
A blanket of fine sand miraculously preserved threequartersof the 45-foot-long wood hull of this fourthcenturyB.C. Greek ship, now on display in the KyreniaCastle in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Thesunken ship was discovered in 1965 by a sponge diverabout a mile off the coast of Kyrenia. More than 400amphoras containing wine from Rhodes and oil fromSamos were recovered from the site, along with thousandsof almonds, probably harvested on Cyprus.
From the ruins of the St. Hilarion castle in northern Cyprus,one can see the Kyrenia mountain range (right background)and sometimes even the Taurus mountains of Anatolia,some 63 miles across the Mediterranean. The castleis named for a hermit monk who lived in a nearby cave inthe fourth century A.D. A Byzantine monastery and churchwere built beside the cave in the tenth century, along witha tower to keep watch for marauding Arab pirates. In the13th and 14th centuries, the castle complex was enlargedto serve as a summer palace, which was destroyed byVenetians in the 15th century.
The Late Bronze Age walls of Kition still stand 3,200years after they were erected. The construction ofthese massive ashlar (dressed stone) walls and rectangulartowers probably coincided with the arrival ofMycenaeans on Cyprusperhaps associated with theSea Peoples mentioned in Egyptian texts. After a1075 B.C. earthquake destroyed much of this city onCypruss south-central coast, Phoenicians establisheda colony on the site, restoring one of the ancient citystemples and dedicating it to the goddess Astarte.
The mythical hero Theseus, who killed the man-eatingMinotaur imprisoned by the Cretan king Minos in theLabyrinth, is depicted in the center medallion of theabove mosaic from Paphos, on Cypruss southwesterncoast. This late-third-century A.D. mosaic floor wasuncovered in a villa thought to have been the palaceof the Roman governor.
In a late-second-century A.D. mansion known as theHouse of Dionysus, the Four Seasons mosaic (adetail is shown here) was accidentally uncovered in1945 by a British military detachment. The youthshown here, from the mosaics central panel, is surroundedby poorly preserved images of spring, summer,autumn and winter.
Stripped, forced into a freezing lake and eventuallystoned to death by pagans, the Forty Martyrs ofSebaste steadfastly refuse to recant their Christianity inthis magnificent 12th-century wall painting from Asinouschurch of Panagia Phorviotissa (see photo ofchurch of Panagia Phorviotissa in the sidebar to thisarticle), in the southern Republic of Cyprus. The FortyMartyrs of Sebaste is just one of many dazzling paintingshoused within simple, barn-like Byzantine churchesin Cypruss Troodos Mountains. Ten of these churcheshave been deemed international cultural treasures andadded to UNESCOs list of World Heritage sites.
In the 1950s Cypriot archaeologist Vassos Karageorghisuncovered the remains of Salamiss second-century A.D.Roman gymnasium and baths, located on the seawardside of the colonnaded palaestra (exercise ground). Karageorghis continued to excavate at Salamis until 1974, when his work was halted by the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus. However, a Turkish team headed by Ankara University archaeologist Coskun zguner has continued to excavate the area around the gymnasium. In 1999, when zguner uncovered a Roman-period buildingprobably a villa with baths (shown here, compare with aerial photo)Karageorghis decried the action as a breach of scholarly ethics.The Guardians of TamassosRescuing Cypruss 2,500-year-old sphinxes and lions
Two serene sphinxes (shown here and in the nextphoto) stood watch over a sixth-century B.C. royaltomb at Tamassos, in central Cyprus. Since the3-foot-long limestone sphinxes are mirror imagesof one another and unworked on their backs, theywere probably placed against a wall on either sideof the tombs entrance.
Although three Tamassos royaltombs (one is shown here) wereexcavated more than a century ago,the funerary statues only came tolight recently when a maintenancecrew uncovered a stone lions head(see photos of stone lions head)near one of the tombs. In the salvageexcavation that followed,author Marina Solomidou-Ieronymidou and her team fromCypruss Department of Antiquitiesfound three other lion statues, aswell as the two sphinxes. Thearchaeologists believe that theset