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Kourion Part 2

September 1, 2013

This is part two of my blog post on the Kourion Archaeological Site.

The outside wall and entrances to the theatre are the first sections of the building to be seen upon entering Kourion. The original theatre dates from approximately the 2nd century BC but over the course of 600 years its use evolved and as a result it increased in size.

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The theatre was used primarily for performances but during the third century AD fights between men and wild animals became popular among the people. The theatre was adapted to cater to these fights with the first few rows of seating removed and a safety rail built. Thankfully as the fights became less popular the theatre returned to its original use. Approximately 3500 people can be seated within the auditorium which is still used for theatrical performances today (in July I saw an amazing Flamenco version of Medea here).

View From Kourion Theatre

The above photo not only demonstrates the amazing view from the theatre but shows how it is partially built into the rock itself. This is a spectacular feet of engineering.

To the left of the theatre is the impressive building called ‘The House of Eustolios’; named after the owner of the house. Eustolios is credited with the construction of the baths and an additional annex to the building in one inscription. The property was built in several phases between the 4th and 7th century AD over the ruins of a previous residence. There were a number of rooms including service quarters, baths (frigidarium. tepidarium and caldarium), latrines, various halls and a peristyle courtyard. Photos of some of these can be seen below:

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Bust of a woman holding a measuring tool equivalent to a Roman foot in the rectangular hall of the frigidarium

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The cross shaped caldarium (hot bath)

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Semicircular cold bath in the frigidarium

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View of the whole caldarium

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The vestibule – the mosaic inscription reads ‘Enter for the good luck of the house’

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Storage spaces, proticoes and halls

It is clear that this building was not a residence but instead served as a meeting place or public space. However, due to the size of the baths I would suggest that the building was not for use by all members of the public. It may have been frequented by wealthy individuals or those doing business on behalf of the city. With the beautiful mosaics, impressive halls and private baths it would have been an apropriate place to strike a business deal or meet foreign dignitaries.

One of the largest structures at Kourion was the Early Christian Basilica. Having never studied early Christian buildings there is little I can comment on and so instead I have chosen a couple of photos to show the remains of what was once a huge complex.

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The Bapistry

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Long view of the remains of the Basilica

The Basilica was destroyed during the Arab raids of the 7th century AD. Instead of rebuilding at Kourion they rebuilt in a nearby village, the remains of this site can be seen in Serayia.

The final place of interest at Kourion is the Roman Forum, Nymphaeum and bath complex.

The Forum was a huge colonnaded space which severed several purposes; market, meeting place and a space for public business. The forum has been dated to the latter part of the 2nd century AD and was likely destroyed by the same earthquake that affected the other buildings in Kourion.

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Part view across the forum area

I unfortunately do not have a photo of the Nymphaeum. The building served as a dedication to the water nymphs who protected the springs and flow of water to the site. The building was large in comparison to other Nymphaeums in the Mediterranean and the Empire. I would suggest that this is an indication of the importance of water to the island. In recent years Cyprus has experienced a number of water shortages and I believe it is likely that these were also a regular occurrence during the hot summer months throughout the islands history .

The final building on the Kourion site is the Public Baths. These are far larger than the baths of The House of Eustolios and would have been quite impressive. The construction of the Public Baths happened in phases with the first building work undertaken in the 1st century AD, with additions made during the centuries that followed. The baths were destroyed during the same earthquake that affected the whole of Kourion. The following are a few photos of the various areas of the baths:

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Sudatorium (Steam Bath)

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Tepidarium (lukewarm bath)

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Thermae (hot bath)

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Tepidarium (lukewarm bath)

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Thermae (hot bath)

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Frigidarium (cold bath)

The baths were available for use by the entire city and an excellent meeting place both socially and for business. The baths were intend to improve health through cleanliness but it is likely that they had the opposite affect. Due to their public nature all manner of diseases were likely communicated between visitors and the general health of the population would likely have been affected as a result.

I hope that you have enjoyed the brief tour of Kourion via these two posts and the photos I have uploaded. I appreciate that nothing of course beats seeing it with your own eyes and as such would highly recommend a visit if you have the chance. One piece of advice though, eat before you go and take plenty of water.

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