Places to visit in Пафос

Historic city of Paphos


The archaeological park where the house of Aion, the house of Theseus, the house of Dionysus and numerous mosaics will drive you away to the world of myths and legends, wondrous images and terrible demons, the where gods act like people and people are not afraid of gods.

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Elizaveta Polotskaya (author)
1.56 km
1h 47 m
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Entrance to the archaeological park. Ticket price: 4.5 euros. Parking is free. The ancient city of Paphos goes back to the tales of Troy. It is believed that is was Agapenor, a leader of the Arcadians, who found the city. Even before Agapenor, they worshiped the cult of the goddess of fertility, who became the prototype of Aphrodite. According to Greek tradition, Aphrodite was born out of the foam of the sea right here in Paphos. Paphos is also famous for the fact that the Roman patrician Cicero lived here and ruled Crete from here. The Apostle Paul preached on Paphos. In the Middle Ages, the city was captured by Richard the Lion Heart during his campaign to Jerusalem. Later Paphos was ruled by the Lusignan dynasty - the founders of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Today this 5th-century Byzantine basilica houses a visitor center. Its historical name is the Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Gulf of Paphos. She was the patroness of sailors and maritime trade - the source of life of the city. It was destroyed in the 7th century during the Muslim seizure of the island and then in the 12th century during the crusades.

The blooming of yellow chrysanthemums and the blue blue sky fills the whole space with immense open expanse and it seemed that time had plunged into itself. Ahead of it lay the ruins of Greek cities, filled with myths familiar from school, and nature seems like complementing these subjects.

This house is called the house of Aion because one of the central figures on the mosaic field is the god Aion - the god of eternity personifying justice.

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This house preserved mosaics floors and partly frescoes. One mosaics describe a beauty contest between Cassiopeia and the Nereids (by the way, it is said that it took place in Yafo, which is near Tel Aviv 😊) another mosaic is about the famous Leda, the Spartan queen, and Zeus, who turned into in a swan hurried to steal her. They gave birth to Helen of Troy and the Dioscuri brothers. The third plot depicted in the mosaic is the competition of Marsyus and Apollo in the flute playing. The young man played better than the god, but a god could not allow this, especially the god Apollo. So Marsyus died a martyr's death. That's how the Greek gods are endowed with human vices!

The pointer says that ahead of us is the house of Theseus. This name was chosen by polish archeologists who excavated it here in 1966. It was a difficult time for Cyprus, when, just after gaining independence from England, the island was almost mired in a civil war between the Greeks and Turks. The archeologists named it the house of Theseus since the central mosaic depicts the duel of Theseus with the Minotaur.

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By the way, the minotaur - the bull - is one of the symbols of Cyprus. It is believed that the Crete island has a shape of a bull. Even copper ingots here were smelted in the form of a bull skin. Well, the name of the island comes to us from the Latin "cuprum" - copper. The house belongs to the procurator of Cyprus. Apparently, it was built in the 3rd century AD. Who knows, maybe traditionally at this place stood the house of another proconsul of Cyprus in the 51st year BC, the famous Cicero. This great orator was not spared by the unrest after the death of Caesar and became a mockery of the crowd.

The house of Theseus was one of the richest houses of Paphos. This is evidenced by its size and architecture. It was destroyed during the Arab invasion and was no longer restored.

The house of Orpheus got its name thanks to the mosaics depicts Orpheus playing the lyre. According to the mosaic inscription on the floor in one of the rooms, this house belonged to the noble Roman Titus Guy Restituta.

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This small house was a haven for archaeological expeditions. He keeps the adventurism of the old days, passion for discoveries and fame. But as it often happens in archeology, it turns out that the glory of the Greek gods, hidden by the earth for hundreds of years, overshadows the works of researchers. Only Indiana Johnson (whose prototype was Sir Flinders Petrie - Francis Drake's great-great-grandson buried on Mount Zion in Jerusalem) managed to outshine the glory of the ancient pyramids.

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The house of Dionysus is simply an exhibition of ancient mosaics and, most impressively, this vast territory and areas of ancient mosaics belong to the house of a wealthy Paphos from the 3rd century AD. On the two mosaics of the house, mythological creatures are located in the center of the floor, while a geometric pattern fills a large area. One of the mosaics seems to be black and white. It represents Scylla - a terrible sea creature. This is the oldest mosaic in Cyprus and it refers to the 3rd century BC. In the center of the other one, already Roman, is Narcissus admiring himself.

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The whole floor of this room covers the plot of the Triumph of Dionysus. This is one of the largest rooms in the house, and it probably served as a dining room or a grand hall. Dionysus “trumping” his “campaign” to India is a plot, clearly inspired by the Roman imagination. Next, to it is depicted brothers Dioscuri - Castor and Pollux - remember the myth of Leda and Zeus from the house of Aion? Yes, everything is connected in the world of gods, fairy tales and mysteries. The most beautiful work of t this mosaic is the peacock. Dionysus is seated on a chariot, carried by panters.

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One of the corridors of this beautiful house tells the story of Phaedra and Hippolyta. Fedra was the wife of Theseus, the king of Athens. He had a son from his first marriage, Hippolytus. And, oh, no, Fedra fell in love with Hippolytus. But the faithful son rejected the father’s wife, and then the outcast woman slandered him in front of her husband. Theseus got angry at his innocent son and he let him die by the will of Poseidon. And Phaedra, having learned about the tragedy, committed suicide. That's the whole story.

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Another corridor and another unhappy love story, story of Pyramus and Thisbe. They loved each other and agreed about a meeting near the spring. Pyramus came there, saw a lioness with a bloody handkerchief and decided that his beloved was no longer alive, so he stabbed himself with a knife. Thisbe saw the breathless body of her beloved one and stabbed herself with the same knife. It's a cruel place, these corridors. Probably, it is like a message: "stop snooping around here"!

Around the central atrium (open courtyard in the center of the villa) are hunting scenes. No love or tragedy - just hunting. By the way, I just thought that for our world hunting scenes are something very unusual. And here - a common thing. Like a picture of a person with iPhone for us.

It's so nice to go out after so many mosaics! It was stuffy there. Wooden canopy, no air conditioning. Hard to stay there for a long time. And again we've returned to excavations.

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The caves and the surrounding areas appear to have been used as sanctuaries of the gods. Something similar is in Banias in the north of Israel - one of the temples to the god Pan was built in same way. Greeks had a very influential culture, even at the dawn it carried its achievements to the peoples of Asia in the middle and front east, and its traces are visible to this day. And probably in hundreds of years, people will talk in the same way about the culture of Western civilization, which perished under the raids of barbarians. Everything flows, everything changes, all is vanity. That's the end of story.

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