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Kourion theatre from southeast.jpg
Kourion Theatre
Kourion is located in Cyprus
Shown within Cyprus
Location Limassol District, Cyprus
Coordinates 34°39′51″N 32°53′16″E / 34.6642°N 32.8877°E / 34.6642; 32.8877Coordinates: 34°39′51″N 32°53′16″E / 34.6642°N 32.8877°E / 34.6642; 32.8877
Type Settlement
Site notes
Condition In ruins

Kourion (Greek: Κούριον), also Curias (Pliny v. 13) or Latin: Curium, was a city in Cyprus, which endured from antiquity until the early Middle Ages. Kourion is situated on the south shores of the island to the west of the river Lycus (now called Kouris), 16 M. P. from Amathus. (Peut. Tab.), and was recorded by numerous ancient authors including Ptolemy (v. 14. § 2), 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 and Dhekelia but it is maintained and administrated by the Republic of Cyprus according to the Treaty of Establishment.[1] On 5 July 2012, the Cyprus EU presidency ceremony was held in the ancient theater of Kourion.[2]


Coast as seen from Kourion
Mosaic in the Complex of Eustolios at Kourion

Kourion was said to have been founded by the Argives.[3][4] Stesenor, its sovereign, betrayed the cause of his country during the war against the Persians. (Herod. l. c.) Near the town was a cape (Φρούριον, Ptol. v. 14. § 2), from which sacrilegious offenders who had dared to touch the altar of Apollo were thrown into the sea. (Strab. l. c.). The city has passed through different phases spanning the Hellenistic, Roman, and Christian periods. For this reason the city has a very large agora (market place) and you can find an early Christian basilica within the city walls. Furthermore, large public baths which were equipped with cold, warm and hot spas were built. The large amphitheater sits 2000 spectators and held mostly gladiator games, therefore in the city there is a Palaestra or training place for gladiators. The whole city has beautiful floor mosaics, but the majority are found in the house of Achileas and the private bath of the founder of the city.

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

The temple of Apollo at Kourion

The Nymphaeum[edit]

The Roman Nymphaeum near Kourion is one of the biggest and the most impressive monuments of 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 remodelled several times later.[6]


The Greek Orthodox menologium mentions a bishop of Curium who was severely tortured under the Roman emperor Licinius, but survived to live under Constantine the Great. Among the members of the Council of Ephesus in 431 was a Bishop Zeno from Curium.[7][8] No longer a residential bishopric, Curium is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.[9]


Kourion's Greco-Roman theatre.

The ruins of Kourion, near the modern town of Episkopi, is located on one of the most fertile spots in the island,[10] with extensive ruins and including well-preserved mosaics. Also of interest are the public baths, the necropolis, the Fountain House, House of Gladiators and House of Achilles. The most spectacular site at Kourion is the Greco-Roman theatre, or forum (pictured), that has been completely restored (with the Mediterranean as a backdrop) 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.[11]

Map showing the 10 ancient city Kingdoms of Cyprus

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.[12] Some are still on exhibition today.[13][14] Thousands of other pieces however were sold to Stanford University and were destroyed by an earthquake that hit California in 1906.[15] A third portion of this collection ended up at the Semitic Museum at Harvard University.[16]

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.[17] The excavations on the theatre were carried out by the University Museum of Philadelphia.[18] Works began in 1934 and were completed in 1949.[19]


Kourion is a major paragliding site in Cyprus and is flyable on most days of the year. Many pilots from all over Cyprus and visitors to the island use the area as a launching spot.


  1. ^ Treaty of Establishment, 1960,"Antiquities",p.112,p116
  2. ^ The Guardian
  3. ^ Herodotus Book 5: Terpsichore - see Herodotus
  4. ^ Strabo, Book 14, 6.1.3 - see Strabo
  5. ^ "The Day the World Ended At Kourion", National Geographic: July 1988, Vol.174, No. 1, p.30-53
  7. ^ Michel Lequien, Oriens christianus in quatuor Patriarchatus digestus, Paris 1740, Vol. II, coll. 1057-1058
  8. ^ Pius Bonifacius Gams, Series episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae, Leipzig 1931, p. 438
  9. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 877
  10. ^ Richard Pococke, Trav. vol. ii. p. 329; Engel, Kypros, vol. i. p. 118.
  11. ^ Cyprus Centre of International Theatre Institute site
  12. ^ "Permanent Collection - Highlights". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2007-03-26. 
  13. ^ The Eastern Mediterranean: 1000 B.C.–1 A.D. Metropolitan Museum
  14. ^ The Eastern Mediterranean: 2000–1000 B.C. Metropolitan Museum
  15. ^ Cesnola Collection at the Semitic Museum at Harvard University
  16. ^ The Cesnola Collection from Ancient Cyprus
  17. ^ "Department of Greek and Roman antiquities (collection's history)". British Museum. Retrieved 2007-03-25. 
  18. ^ Benson, J. L. (October 1956). "Spirally Fluted Columns in Cyprus". American Journal of Archaeology 60 (4): 385–387. doi:10.2307/500877. JSTOR 500877. |url=http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0002-9114%28195610%2960%3A4%3C385%3ASFCIC%3E2.0.CO%3B2-J&size=LARGE%7Cformat=%7Caccessdate=2007-03-26
  19. ^ Stillwell, Richard (February 28, 1961). "Kourion: The Theater". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 105 (1): 37–78. JSTOR 985354. 

External links[edit]