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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 Greek city on the southwestern coast of Cyprus, the surrounding Kouris River Valley being occupied from at least the Ceramic Neolithic period (4500-3800 BCE) to the present. The acropolis of Kourion, located 1.3 km southwest of Episkopi and 13 km west of Limassol, is located atop a limestone promontory approximately 43-51m in height along the shore of Episkopi Bay. 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.

Kourion was a city of considerable importance within Cyprus, being well attested to by ancient authors including: Ptolemy (v. 14. § 2), Stephanus of Byzantium, Hierocles, and Pliny the Elder. The most significant excavated remains on the acropolis of Kourion are dated to the Hellenistic to Early Byzantine periods.

History of Kourion[edit]

Mosaic in the Complex of Eustolios at Kourion

The earliest occupation within the Kouris River Valley is the Ceramic Neolithic (4500-3800 BC) hilltop village at Sotira-Teppes, located 9 km northwest of Kourion.[1][2] Another Ceramic Neolithic hilltop settlement has been excavated at Kandou-Koupovounos, a hilltop on the east bank of the Kouris River. In the Chalcolithic period (3800-2300 BCE) settlement shifted to the site of Erimi-Pamboules, located within the village of Erimi. Erimi-Pamboules was occupied from the conclusion of the Ceramic Neolithic through the Chalcolithic period (3400-2800 BCE).

In the Early Cypriot period (2300-1900 BCE) occupation is continuous from the Late Chalcolithic period, with occupation continuing along the Kouris River Valley and the drainages to the west. Sotira-Kaminoudhia, located to the northwest of Sotira-Teppes on the lower slope of the hill, was a settlement, dates from the Late Chalcolithic to EC I (ca.2400-2175 BC). In the ECIII-LC IA (ca.2400-1550 BCE)a settlement was established 0.8 km east of Episkopi at Episkopi-Phaneromeni. The Middle Cypriot (1900-1600 BCE)is a transitional period in the Kouris River Valley in which the sophisticated urban centers of the Late Cypriot II-III were established.[3]

In the Late Cypriot I-III (1600-1050 BCE) the settlements of the Middle Cypriot period developed into complex urban center within the Kouris Valley, which provided a corridor in the trade of Troodos copper, controlled through Alassa and Episkopi-Bamboula. In the MCIII-LC IA a settlement was occupied at Episkopi-Phaneromeni. Episkopi-Bamboula, located on a low hill 0.4 km west of the Kouris and east of Episkopi, was an influential urban center from the LC IA-LCIII.[4][5] The town flourished in the 13th century BC before being abandoned c.1050 BC.[6][7] In the Cypro-Geometric (1050-750 BCE)the Kingdom of Kourion was established, though the occupational center remains unidentified.

In the Cypro-Archaic period (750-475 BCE) the Kingdom of Kourion was among the most influential kingdoms of Cyprus. In 672 Damasos, king of Kourion, is recorded as a tributary of Esarhaddon of Assyria as Damasu of Kuri. Between 569 and ca.546 BCE Cyprus was under Egyptian administration. In 546 BCE Cyrus I of Persia extended Persian authority over the Kingdoms of Cyprus, including the Kingdom of Kourion. During the Ionian Revolt (499-493BC), Stasanor, king of Kourion, aligned himself with Onesilos, king of Salamis, the leader of a Cypriot alliance against the Persians. In 497 Stasanor betrayed Onesilos in battle against the Persian general Artybius, resulting in a Persian victory over the Cypriot poleis and the consolidation of Persian control of Cyprus.

In the Classical Period (475-333 BCE) the earliest occupation of the acropolis was established. Pasikrates of Kourion aided Alexander the Great in the siege of Tyre in 332 BC. Pasikrates ruled as a vassal of Alexander but was deposed in the struggles for succession amongst the diadochi. In 294 BE the Ptolemies consolidated control of Cyprus, imposing Ptolemaic governance.[8]

In 58 BCE the Council of the Plebs (Consilium Plebis) passed the Lex Clodia de Cyprus, annexing Cyprus to the province of Cilicia and bringing it under Roman rule. Between 47 and 31 BCE, Cyprus was returned to Ptolemaic rule under Marc Antony and Cleopatra VII, reverting to Roman rule after the defeat of Antony. In 22 BCE, Cyprus was separated from the province of Cilicia, being established as a Senatorial province under a proconsul. In the Roman period, Kourion was among the most prominent cities of the Cyprus, the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates being a Pan-Cypriot sanctuary alongside the Temple of Zeus Salaminos at Salamis and Aphrodite at Kata Paphos.

In the mid-1st century Christianity was introduced to Kourion, presumably by Saints Paul and Barnabas during Paul's first missionary journey. During the persecutions of Diocletian, Philoneides, the Bishop of Kourion, was martyred. In 341,the Bishop Zeno was instrumental in the Council of Ephesus in asserting the independence of the Cypriot church.

In the later-4th century (c.365/70) a series of several earthquakes devastated Kourion, as indicated by the archaeological remains throughout the site. In the early-5th century Kourion was reconstructed, the reconstruction including the construction of the ecclesiastical complex on the western side of the acropolis. In 649 the Arab raids resulted in the destruction of the acropolis, after which the center of occupation was relocated to Episkopi, 2.0 km northeast of the acropolis. Episkopi was named for the seat of the Bishop (Episcopus).[9][10][11]

History of excavations[edit]

The site of Kourion was identified in the 1820s by Carlo Vidua. In 1839 and 1849, respectively, Lorenzo Pease and Ludwig Ross identified the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates. In 1874-5, Luigi Palma di Cesnola extensively looted the cemetery of Ayios Ermoyenis and the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates.[12][13] Between 1882 and 1887 several unauthorized private excavations were conducted prior to their illegalization by British High Commissioner, Sir Henry Bulwer in 1887.

In 1895 the British Museum conducted the first quasi-systematic excavations at Kourion as part of the Turner Bequest Excavations.[14][15] P. Dikaios of the Department of Antiquities conducted excavations in the Kaloriziki Cemetery in 1933.

Between 1934 and 1954, G. McFadden, B.H. Hill and J. Daniel conducted systematic excavations at Kourion for the University Museum at the University of Pennsylvania. Following the detah of G. McFadden in 1953, the excavations of the Early Christian Basilica on the acropolis were continued by A.H.S. Megaw from 1974-9.[16][17][18]

The Cyprus Department of Antiquities has conducted numerous excavations at Kourion: M. Loulloupis (1964–74), A. Chritodoulou (1971-4), and D. Christou (1975-1998).[19] Between 1978 and 1984 D. Soren conducted excavations at the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, and on the acropolis between 1984 and 1987. D. Parks directed excavations within the Amathus Gate Cemetery between 1995 and 2000.[20][21] The 'Amathus Gate' cemetery was excavated by D. Parks between 1995 and 2000.[22]

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.[23]

The Archaeological Remains[edit]

Kourion's Greco-Roman theatre.

The majority of excavated remains within the archaeological site on the acropolis date to the Hellenistic through the Late Roman period. The acropolis, its outlying archaeological areas, and the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates are administered by the Cyprus Department of Antiquities.

The Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates[edit]

The Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, located 1.7 km west of the acropolis, was a Pan-Cypriot sanctuary, third in importance only to the Sanctuaries of Zeus Salaminos and Paphian Aphrodite. The earliest archaeological evidence indicates that the sanctuary was established in the late-8th century BCE, the sanctuary being dedicated to "the God," apparently unassociated with Apollo. By the mid-3rd century BCE, the sanctuary was dedicated to Apollo Hylates. The sanctuary at present was constructed in the 1st century and early 2nd century. The temple was abandoned in the late-4th century.

The Theatre[edit]

The theatre, initially constructed in the 2nd century BCE, was relatively small. Renovations in the mid-1st century and at the beginning of the 2nd century reconstructed and expanded the theatre. In the early-3rd century the theatre was renovated to accommodate gladiatorial games. The theatre was abandoned in the later-4th century.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.[24][25] 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.[26]

The Stadium[edit]

Located 0.5 km west of the acropolis, the stadium of Kourion was constructed during the Antonine period (138-180). The seating formed a u-shape around the south, west and north sides of the stadium, measuring 217m long and 17m wide. The stadium was 187m long, with a starting line marked put two stone circular posts, set wide enough to accommodate eight runners.

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.[27][28]

Forum 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.[29] 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.

The Northwest Basilica[edit]

Located northwest of the acropolis, a three-apse basilica was constructed in the late-5th century. The basilica had three-aisles and was accessed through a peristyle courtyard and narthex west of the basilica. A chapel was constructed within the church complex north of the main basilica. The basilica was destroyed by the Arab raids in the mid-7th century.

The Coastal Basilica[edit]

Located below the west cliffs of the acropolis, a three-apse and three-aisled basilica was constructed in the early-6th century. The church had an atrium to the west with porticoes on all sides of the atrium and a baptistery to the north.


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.


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  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 British Museum Turner Bequest excavations of 1896". British Museum. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  15. ^ "Tombs from the Turner Bequest excavations". British Museum. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  16. ^ Stillwell, Richard (February 28, 1961). "Kourion: The Theater". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 105 (1): 37–78. JSTOR 985354. 
  17. ^ "Modern excavations in the Kourion area". British Museum. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  18. ^ "Digital Kourion". Penn Museum. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  19. ^ "History of excavations in the Kourion area, continued". British Museum. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  20. ^ Soren, David (1987). Excavations at Kourion. The Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates at Kourion, Cyprus. University of Arizona Press. p. 340. 
  21. ^ Soren, David (1988). Kourion: the search for a lost Roman city. Doubleday. p. 233. 
  22. ^ "Kourion’s Amathous Gate Cemetery, Cyprus. The Excavations of Danielle A. Parks". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  23. ^ "Kourion Urban Space Project, 2012". Ministry of Interior, Press and Information Office. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  24. ^ "Kourion". Department of Antiquities. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  25. ^ Nicolaou, Kyriakos (1976). "Kourion, Cyprus". Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  26. ^ Cyprus Centre of International Theatre Institute site
  27. ^ "Kourion". Department of Antiquities. Cyprus Department of Antiquities. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  28. ^ Nicolaou, Kyriakos (1976). "Kourion, Cyprus". Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  29. ^ "Kourion, Cyprus". Roman aqueducts. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 

External links[edit]