PAPHOS ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE
This is an extensive
historical site covering the west side of
Paphos, containing several sites of antiquity, including the famous
Paphos Mosaic houses, Saranta Kolones Castle and
the Odeion. Admission is less
than 4 euros, covering all exhibits.
Location: near the harbour entrance at the far end of the car park.
These very beautiful and rare Roman mosaics were discovered by accident when the land was being ploughed in 1962. Over 40 mosaics have now been found, containing many interesting geometrical decorations usually surrounding a central mythological scene. The mosaics, all of which date from around the 3rd century AD, are situated in four main houses:
House of Aion
This is the smallest house, discovered in 1983, which basically contains one large mosaic showing five scenes. At the top left is Leda and the swan (Zeus is disguised as the swan). In the top right corner is a picture of baby nymphs with the baby Dionysos. The middle picture shows sea nymphs in a beauty contest, being judged by Aion. In the bottom row Dionysos appears again in a triumphal procession, and the final picture shows Apollo punishing the loser of a musical duel.
House of Dionysos
The House of Dionysos is the largest on the site and contains
impressive mosaics. The name “House of Dionysus” is taken from the many
representations of Dionysus, the ancient Greek god of wine. One scene
shows Dionysus returning from India on a chariot drawn by two panthers
and councelling the nymph Akme drinking wine. The inner set of mosaics
show some very animated hunting scenes. Towards the back of the house
is one of the best known mosaics, depicting Ganymede returning
to Olympus on the wings of an eagle.
House of Orpheus
Named after a mosaic that represents the personification of the four seasons, dating back to the third century. Only a small part of this house has been excavated, which has so far identified a peristyle atrium and several rooms. The mosaics found include one depicting Hercules and the lion of Nemea and another of Amazon. The most impressive mosaic depicts Orpheus surrounded by animals who are listening to him playing music on a lyre.
House of Theseus
The House of Theseus was named after its principal mosaic showing Theseus killing the Minotaur. These mosaics are less well preserved, and open to the elements. A viewing platform provides an excellent view of the site. The best mosaics are in the south wing, where Theseus himself can be seen within in a large intricate circular pattern.
Named after the 40 grey granite columns found on the site. The castle originally comprised a moated square keep, and a massive external wall with towers at each corner. It was built around 1200 AD on the site of an earlier Byzantine fort but was destroyed by the earthquake of 1223 and never rebuilt. It is an interesting place to explore with standing door arches, dungeons, spiral stairs and crumbling walls.
These decaying ruins were once at the very heart of the ancient city of Pafos. The small Roman Odeion (amphitheatre) was built entirely of well-hewn limestone blocks in the 2nd century, where musical performances were given. In front of the theatre are the remains of an acropolis and agora (market), which were probably built around the same time. The foundations and stumps of the columns of which are still visible. The Agora was the central square court of the city and was surrounded by porticoes of grey granite columns, with white marble Corinthian capitals. The building situated to the south of the Odeion has been identified as Asclepieion (the sanctuary of Asclepios), a medical establishment.
These buildings were badly damaged in an earthquake and abandoned around the 7th century. The recently restored amphitheatre now seats over 1000 spectators, with musical and theatrical performances regularly held in the summer season.
This disused lighthouse, which stands behind the Odeion on small hill just a few hundred metres from the sea, is visible from all over Paphos. You can take some excellent pictures from its viewing platform if you are fit enough to climb up to the top. The final flight of stairs are almost vertical and extremely difficult to climb.