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Kourion theatre from southeast.jpg
Kourion Theatre
Kourion is located in Cyprus
Shown within Cyprus
Alternate name Curium
Location Episkopi, 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
Management Cyprus Department of Antiquities

Kourion (Greek: Κούριον) or Latin: Curium, an ancient city in Cyprus occupied from the Late Bronze Age until the Early Byzantine peirod. Kourion is situated atop a bluff along the southwestern coast of Cyprus, approximately 16 km west of Limassol, and west of the outlet of the Kouris River. A city of considerable importance within antique Cyprus, Kourion is well attested by ancient authors, including: Ptolemy (v. 14. § 2), Stephanus of Byzantium, Hierocles, and Pliny the Elder. The Kourion arhcaeological area lies within the Akrotiri Sovereign Base Area, which forms part of the British Overseas Territory of Akrotiri and Dhekelia. The site is maintained and administrated by Cyprus Department of Antiquities. The majority of the excavated remains date from the Hellenistic to Early Byzantine periods, though occupation within the area dates back to the Neolithic period.

History of Kourion[edit]

Mosaic in the Complex of Eustolios at Kourion

The earliest occupation within the area of Kourion is located at the Neolithic hilltop settlement of Sotira-Teppes, located 6 km northwest of Kourion. This settlement was occupied c.5500-4000 BC.[1][2] Occupation at Sotira-Teppes was succeeded by Neolithic and Chalcolithic (c.3400-2800 BC) occupation at Erimi-Pamboules, located east of the Kouris River. In the Early Bronze Age a settlement emerged at Sotira Kaminoudhia (c.2500-2000/1900 BC) and at Episkopi-Phaneromeni.[3]

Late Bronze Age settlement of Episkopi-Bamboula, located on the western bank of the Kouris River 3.5 km northeast of Kourion, was established during the 16th century BC. The settlement at Episkopi-Bamboula controlled access to the Kouris River, an integral trans-shipment point for Troodos copper production. In the 13th and 12th centuries BC archaeological evidence indicates the settlement of Achaean settlers within the town, an event perhaps previously attested in the myth of the Achaean foundations of Kourion.[4][5] The town flourished in the 13th century BC before being abandoned c.1050 BC.[6][7]

Kourion was among the most influential of the kingdoms of Cyprus during the Classical Period. In 709 BC Kourion and Cyprus were subjugated by Sargon II of Assyria. Kourion was subjugated to Cyrus of Persian in 546 BC. During the revolt of Onesilos (498 BC), concurrent with the Ionian Revolt against their Persian overlords, Stasanor, the king of Kourion, betrayed the alliance of Cypriot kingdoms which resulted in a Persian triumph (Herod. l. c.). This isolated mention is the only attestation to Kourion from the Classical period. During the Hellenistic period, Pasikrates of Kourion aided Alexander the Great in the siege of Tyre in 332 BC.[8]

During the Hellenistic and Roman periods remained a prominent urban center, this prosperity being attested within extensive public buildings. Its close associations with the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates lent the city considerable prestige as this sanctuary was amongst the most important sanctuaries on Cyprus. By the 3rd century Christianity had been introduced to Kourion, and in the persecutions of Diocletian, Philoneides, the Bishop of Kourion, was martyred. In the last-half of the 4th century a series of earthquakes devastated Kourion, resulting in the destruction of several excavated structures on the acropolis.

In the early 5th century Kourion was partially rebuilt, including the construction of the episcopal complex west of the public center. Among the members of the Council of Ephesus in 431 was Zeno, a bishop of Kourion. By the mid-7th century Kourion had begun to decline, the persistent threat of Arab raids resulting in the establishment of the village of Episkopi, 2.5 km northeast of Kourion. Episkopi was named for the seat of the Bishop of Kourion, which remained there until the bishopric was removed in 1222.[9][10][11]

History of excavations[edit]

Between 1865 and 1877 Luigi Palma di Cesnola, then U.S. consul to Ottoman Cyprus, looted some 35,000 artifacts from 50 Cypriot sites, the majority of these artifacts being taken from burials surrounding Kourion.[12] These artifacts were subsequently sold in the United States. The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased some 22,000 artifacts which constituted the core of its first exhibition.[13] Some of these artifacts remain on display.[14][15] Stanford University purchased some 5,000 artifacts of the Cesnola Collection, but 1,100 were subsequently destroyed and more damaged in an earthquake in 1906.[16] The Semitic Museum at Harvard University received 1,300 artifacts of the Cesnola Collection from Stanford in 1989.[17]

The British Museum conducted the first quasi-systematic excavations at Kourion as part of the Turner Bequest excavations between January and March 1895. These excavations uncovered 118 tombs and a rural sanctuary. Two-thirds of the artifacts were sent to the British Museum, and the other third was received by the Cyprus Archaeological Museum in Nicosia.[18][19]

The excavations by the University Museum at the University of Pennsylvania by G. McFadden, B.H. Hill, and J. Daniel between 1934 and 1953 were the first modern archaeological excavations at Kourion. The Penn excavations focused upon the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, the stadium, the theater and acropolis. The excavations of the cemetery at Kaloriziki, east of the acropolis, formerly excavated by P. Dikaios, were continued. In the 1950s excavations on the acropolis of the Episcopal Precinct began, these excavations continuing into the 1970s despite the disruption caused by McFadden's death in 1953.[20][21][22]

Between 1971 and 1974 A. Christodoulou conducted excavations at the basilica outside the walls to the northwest of the acropolis. The Department of Antiquities conducted extensive excavations on the acropolis between 1975 and 1993 under the direction of D. Christou.[23] D. Soren and the University of Arizona excavated at the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates and the 'Earthquake House' on the acropolis from 1984 until 1987.[24][25] The 'Amathus Gate' cemetery was excavated by D. Parks between 1995 and 2000.[26] Since 2012 the Kourion Urban Space Project, under the direction of T.W. Davis of the Charles D. Tandy Institute of Archaeology, has excavated on the acropolis.[27]

Main archaeological monuments[edit]

Kourion's Greco-Roman theatre.

The archaeological site of Kourion, located southwest of the village of Episkopi, is among the most visited archaeological sites in Cyprus. The archaeological area of the acropolis, its outlying monuments and the separate archaeological site of the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates are administered by the Cyprus Department of Antiquities. The extant archaeological remains on the acropolis, which date from the Hellenistic to Early Byzantine periods, include numerous public structures, and several private residences notable for their preserved mosaics.

House of Achilles[edit]

The House of Achilles, located at the northwestern extremity of the urban area, and immediately south of the road to the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, is attributed to the early-4th century A.D. The ‘house’, arrayed around a peristyle courtyard contains several preserved mosaics floors. The most important mosaic depicts the unveiling of Achilles’ identity by Odysseus in the court of Lycomedes of Skyros when his mother, Thetis, had hidden him there amongst the women so that he might not be sent to war against the Trojans. In another room, a mosaic depicting Thetis bathing Achilles for the first time has been fragmentarily preserved. The House of Achilles may have functioned as a civic reception center.

House of the Gladiators[edit]

The House of the Gladiators, located southeast of the House of Achilles, was an elite residence dating to the late-3rd century A.D. The house is arranged around a central atrium, with porticos on all side, and is adorned with numerous mosaic floors. The eastern portico of the atrium contains two panels depicting gladiators in combat, a rare theme in Cypriot mosaics. The gladiators, and a man standing between two of the gladiators are identified by names in Greek listed above their figures.[28][29]

Agora and the baths[edit]

The agora was constructed in the 3rd century A.D. over the remains of a public building of the 4th to the early-1st centuries B.C. The open agora was flanked on opposite sides by porticoes with a monumental nymphaeum along its northern side and a bath complex (thermae) constructed around the nymphaeum. The nymphaeum, measuring 45x15m was constructed in 1st century A.D. and renovated during the reign of Trajan (98-117) at which time the baths were constructed around it, along the northern side of the agora.[30] The baths are divided into undressing rooms (apodyterium), warm rooms (tepidarium), a hot room (caldarium), and a cold room (frigidarium) according to the Roman customs of bathing.

Episcopal Precinct of Kourion[edit]

The Episcopal Precinct of Kourion

The Episcopal Precinct of Kourion, constructed in the early 5th century A.D. and successively renovated in the 6th century, is among the most important Early Christian monuments yet excavated in Cyprus. The three-aisled basilica that forms the core of the precinct functioned as the seat (cathedra) of the Bishop of Kourion. A second attached chapel was intended for the receipt of the offerings of the congregation (diakonikon). Within the precinct are the baptistery and the bishop’s palace. The precinct was destroyed during the Arab Raiding of the 7th century A.D. after which the settlement was reestablished in Episkopi.

Complex of Eustolios[edit]

At the top of the southeastern cliffs is the complex of Eustolios, constructed as an elite residence in the late 4th or early 5th centuries A.D. The rooms of the building are arranged around two interior courtyards with a bathing complex occupying the northern portion of the building. The majority of the rooms are paved with mosaic pavements of exceptional quality. An inscription within the mosaic pavement of one of the courtyards identifies the Eustolios as its builder, also identifying him as a Christian. In the central room a mosaic panel contains a depiction of Ktisis.

Theater of Kourion[edit]

The theater of Kourion, located south of the Complex of Eustolios, was constructed, in its initial form, in the 2nd century B.C. and was subsequently enlarged and restored during the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. The cavea could accommodate 3,500 spectators. The stage building (scaenae frons) is preserved only in its foundations, though this would have originally obscured the view of the Mediterranean to the south.[31][32] The theatre has been completely restored and is used today for open air performances. It is one of the venues for the International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama.[33]


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. ^ "Ancient Cyprus in the British Museum: Early Prehistory, about 9000-2500 BC". British Museum. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "Digital Kourion- Sotira Teppes". Penn Museum. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  3. ^ "Ancient Cyprus in British Museum: Early and Middle Bronze Ages, c.2500-1650 BC". British Museum. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  4. ^ Herodotus. "The Histories 5.113". The Perseus Project. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
  5. ^ Strabo, Book 14, 6.1.3 - see Strabo
  6. ^ "Bamboula". Penn Museum. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  7. ^ "Ancient Cyprus in the British Museum: Late Bronze Age (c.1650-1050BC)". British Museum. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  8. ^ Christou, Demos (2008). Kourion: Its Monuments and Local Museum. Nicosia: Filokipros. pp. 17–18. 
  9. ^ Christou, Demos (2008). Kourion: Its Monuments and Local Museum. Nicosia: Filokipros. pp. 17–18. 
  10. ^ Michel Lequien, Oriens christianus in quatuor Patriarchatus digestus, Paris 1740, Vol. II, coll. 1057-1058
  11. ^ Pius Bonifacius Gams, Series episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae, Leipzig 1931, p. 438
  12. ^ Cesnola, Luigi Palma di (1877). Cyprus: its ancient cities, tombs, and Temples. London: John Murray. pp. 295–392. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  13. ^ "Permanent Collection - Highlights". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2007-03-26. 
  14. ^ The Eastern Mediterranean: 1000 B.C.–1 A.D. Metropolitan Museum
  15. ^ The Eastern Mediterranean: 2000–1000 B.C. Metropolitan Museum
  16. ^ Cesnola Collection at the Semitic Museum at Harvard University
  17. ^ The Cesnola Collection from Ancient Cyprus
  18. ^ "The British Museum Turner Bequest excavations of 1896". British Museum. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  19. ^ "Tombs from the Turner Bequest excavations". British Museum. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  20. ^ Stillwell, Richard (February 28, 1961). "Kourion: The Theater". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 105 (1): 37–78. JSTOR 985354. 
  21. ^ "Modern excavations in the Kourion area". British Museum. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  22. ^ "Digital Kourion". Penn Museum. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  23. ^ "History of excavations in the Kourion area, continued". British Museum. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  24. ^ Soren, David (1987). Excavations at Kourion. The Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates at Kourion, Cyprus. University of Arizona Press. p. 340. 
  25. ^ Soren, David (1988). Kourion: the search for a lost Roman city. Doubleday. p. 233. 
  26. ^ "Kourion’s Amathous Gate Cemetery, Cyprus. The Excavations of Danielle A. Parks". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  27. ^ "Kourion Urban Space Project, 2012". Ministry of Interior, Press and Information Office. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  28. ^ "Kourion". Department of Antiquities. Cyprus Department of Antiquities. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  29. ^ Nicolaou, Kyriakos (1976). "Kourion, Cyprus". Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  30. ^ "Kourion, Cyprus". Roman aqueducts. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  31. ^ "Kourion". Department of Antiquities. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  32. ^ Nicolaou, Kyriakos (1976). "Kourion, Cyprus". Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  33. ^ Cyprus Centre of International Theatre Institute site

External links[edit]