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Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates

August 18, 2013

One of the main sites of religious worship on Cyprus was the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates. Evidence suggests that worship commenced here in the 8th century BC ceasing in the 4th century AD following the sites destruction by an earthquake. The sanctuary is believed to have originally been dedicated to a fertility god with the worship of Apollo commencing later. The word Hylates translates as woodland or forest and the Sanctuary is, therefore, dedicated to Apollo as God of the woodlands,

The sanctuary site covers 15,000 square meters with two entrances; either the Kourion Gate to the east or the Paphos Gate to the west. There are many buildings within the site including the Temple of Apollo, bath house, treasury, palaestra and the priests residence.

The following photos detail several areas of the site:

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The above is the Paphos Gate entrance to the Sanctuary, the monumental entrance would have been straight ahead where the steps are located. On the left hand side you can see the remains of the colonnade that would have surrounded the palaestra.

The palaestra, the training ground for activities such as wrestling, dates from approximately the 1st century AD. The photo below shows what remains of the palaestra and the rooms that came off it. I believe these rooms would have been used for changing and preparing for exercise as the space did not appear to be large enough for dormitories. However, it is possible that athletes would have been able to use them to relax in after exercise.

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The above is referred to as the South Building. The building is split into five identical rooms, the use of these rooms is unclear though given their design I would suggest that they would have been used as sleeping quarters for supplicants to Apollo. I do not believe these would have been used for another purpose such as the storage of treasure and gifts for the god. This assessment is partly based on the presence of a treasury and a second building, in the Northwest of the Sanctuary, that has been identified as a possible display hall for gifts to the god. I have not provided a photo of the Northwest Building as there is very little left of it; though you can make out the original footprint.

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From the centre of the sanctuary a path, that could be referred to as the sacred way, leads to the Temple of Apollo (the hyper-link will take you to my post on the temple). On the right hand side as you walk along the pathway, towards the temple, there are several buildings which include the priests house and treasury. On the left hand side there is a old circular monument, the purpose of which is unclear. The excavation team have proposed that it would have been used to house the sacred plants of Apollo and as such was a focus for his worship. This photo shows the view down the sacred way, with the temple behind you, and what is left of the buildings on either side:

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One of the most impressive areas of the site, after the partially reconstructed Temple of Apollo, is the bath house. These baths were constructed in approximately A.D.101/102. The footprint that remains is exceptionally clear and provides an excellent feel for the layout. The specific room types can be easily identified; unfortunately the hypocaust system has only been partially preserved. These baths are very small in comparison to those at Kourion and so may have been primarily used by the athletes, supplicants and priests of Apollo not the general public.

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With the partial reconstructions a visitor to the site certainly develops a sense of the scale of the Sanctuary and it’s purpose within the religious activity of ancient Cyprus. It is archaeological sites such as these that remind me why I have a passion for classics; the sanctuary is certainly awe inspiring. I would highly recommend a trip to the sanctuary to all visitors to Cyprus.

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3 Comments
  1. Thanks for posting this. The Sanctuary alone is well worth a visit but the additional remains (theatre, substantial late Roman private homes and more) are also quite impressive, and situated in an idyllic stretch above the sea. Access for sisitors is also easy, right off the coastal highway and plenty of parking.

    • Hello

      Glad you enjoyed the post. The site is very impressive and expansive along that coast line, absolutely love visiting there and have seen the ruins on several occasions. I think you will enjoy next Sunday’s post which focuses on Kourion, including photos of the theatre, house of Achilles, house of the Gladiators and stadium. If they came out well I will also include a night shot of the stage that was set up for the performance of Medea.

      Kind regards

      David

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