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Kourion Part 1

August 25, 2013

Whilst writing this post I realised that I would be unable to cover all of Kourion and as such have split it into two parts. This first part covers the stadium and houses on the site.

Unfortunately little remains of the Kourion stadium, a partial modern reconstruction has been undertaken in the south area and some of the original seating exists in the north. However, it is possible to appreciate the scale of the site and envisage how it would have been. The photo below is taken from the middle of the stadium.

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The stadium was built in the latter half of the second century AD and was designed in a U shape with two entrances in the middle and one on the north side.

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I would estimate that the stadium is located equidistant from the Sanctuary of Apollo and Kourion. This was likely planned in order for the stadium to be used for events by both sites. Though severely damaged the excavators have speculated that the stadium could hold approximately 6000 people.

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The usual games would have been held within the stadium; footraces, wrestling, javelin and discus throwing to name some. These would have been held in conjunction with religious festivals or to celebrate special occasions.

Within Kourion itself there are three houses that can be seen, the first of these is referred to as the House with Earthquake Evidence. The house was originally built in the 1st Century AD for use by one family but was later subdivided into separate homes. The excavations revealed that several families and a donkey had been killed in a severe earthquake in the 4th Century AD. Nine skeletons have been found of varying ages and genders both family groups and individuals.  The below photo is one section of the house, it is difficult to identify the specific rooms given their change of use but at one point it was a kitchen area.

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Photo Credit: Hannah Board

Just before reaching the other two houses on the far side of Kourion the remains of an underground water supply can be seen. Colonel Joseph S. Last identified that the aqueduct that fed the fountain used water sources located near the modern towns of Sotira and Souni approximately 6 – 7 km away. The building is impressive as it was partly carved into the rock face, this may have helped keep the water cooler. This water source provided for the entire city of Kourion and fed under ground storage areas as well.

The first house you come to after the water supply has been named the House of the Gladiators after the mosaics that adorn it. This was a large private house for a patrician family. This house dates similarly to the House with Earthquake Damage and was also destroyed around the same time (probably by the same earthquake). I have only taken photos of the mosaic remains but there is evidence of private baths, a palatial court yard and other rooms including a wine press.

The below mosaic is a representation of a match between two gladiators, the one on the left (Lydras) is about to kill the gladiator on the right with a knife but the referee (Darios) is intervening to stop the kill.

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The depiction below is a representation of another gladiatorial duel between Margarites and Hellenikos. They have either just commenced or are about to commence battle.

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The proximity of the stadium leads me to suggest that these are depictions of famous gladiatorial bouts that were undertaken nearby. Alternatively the owner of the property had some vested interest in the stadium, maybe they supported the games monetarily. This is of course a big assumption to make, but mosaics like these are very rare and as such I believe it is worth considering.

Within the courtyard and other areas of the house there were also some beautiful mosaics with geometric designs.

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The final property within the city is the House of Achilles named after the famous scene within. The scene depicts the moment that Odysseus tricks Achilles into revealing his true identity.

In order to avoid his fated death at Troy Achilles mother Thetis hid him with her friend Lykomedes on Skyros. Achilles had been living amongst Lykomedes daughters dressed as a woman. Odysseus in order to trick Achilles into revealing himself dressed as a merchant and presented goods for sale to Lykomedes including a spear and shield. Odysseus then had a fake call to arms sound, Achilles being unable to resist the call to defend the people of Skyros grabbed the spear and shield and in doing so revealed his true identity. In the depiction Achilles lover Deidameia tries to stop him, indicated by her hand having been placed on his shoulder. Odysseus can be seen on the far right.

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There is another mosaic within the house but it is not particularly well preserved. However, it is possible to make out that it is a depiction of the rape of Ganemede as the wings of Zeus are visible. The Paphos Mosaic of this myth is in far better condition (the hyper-link will take you to the post).

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There are a number of rooms which appear to be reception spaces and as such it has been suggested that the this building functioned as a reception for wealthy individuals and important guests. The layout, location towards the Paphos entrance to the city and beautiful mosaics also support this assertion. However, there is no specific archaeological evidence to confirm such an assessment.

Next Sunday, part two of this post, focuses on the House of Eustolios, The Theatre, Christian Basilica and Public Baths.

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