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Ancient City of Salamis, Cyprus

June 23rd, 2008 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places
 
 

Salamis was an ancient city-state on the east coast of Cyprus, at the mouth of the river Pedieos, 6 km north of modern Famagusta.

The earliest archaeological finds go back to the eleventh century BCE (Late Bronze Age III). The copper ores of Cyprus made the island an essential node in the earliest trade networks, and Cyprus was a source of the orientalizing cultural traits of mainland Greece at the end of the Greek Dark Ages, hypothesized by Walter Burkert in 1992. Children's burials in Canaanite jars indicate a Phoenician presence. A harbour and a cemetery from this period have been excavated. The town is mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions as one of the kingdoms of Iadnana (Cyprus). In 877 an Assyrian army reached the Mediterranean shores for the first time. In 708 the city-kings of Cyprus paid homage to Sargon II of Assyria (Burkert). The first coins were minted in the 6th century BCE, following Persian prototypes.

Cyprus was under the control of the Assyrians at this time but the city-states of the island enjoyed a relative independence as long as they paid their tribute to the Assyrian king. This allowed the kings of the various cities to accumulate wealth and power. Certain burial customs observed in the "royal tombs" of Salamis relate directly to Homeric rites, such as the sacrifice of horses in honour of the dead and the offering of jars of olive oil. Some scholars have interpreted this phenomenon as the result of influence of the Homeric Epics in Cyprus. Most of the grave goods come from the Levant or Egypt.

The mythical founder of Salamis is Teucer, son of Telamon, who could not return home after the Trojan war because he had failed to avenge his brother Ajax.

In 450 BCE Salamis was the site of a simultaneous land and sea battle between Athens and the Persians. (This is not to be confused with the earlier Battle of Salamis in 480 BCE between the Greeks and the Persians at Salamis in Attica.)

The history of Salamis during the early Archaic and Classical periods is reflected in the narrations of the Greek historian Herodotus and the much later speeches of the Greek orator Isocrates. The city was then the capital of the island and led the other Cypriot cities in their efforts to liberate themselves from Persian rule. The most important ruler of the kingdom of Salamis was Evagoras (410–374 BCE), who became ruler of the whole island, and won its independence from the Persian Empire. Salamis was afterwards besieged and conquered by Artaxerxes III. Under King Evagoras (411-374 BCE) Greek culture and art flourished in the city and it would be interesting one day when the spade of the archaeologist uncovers public buildings of this period. A monument, which illustrates the end of the Classical period in Salamis, is the tumulus, which covered the cenotaph of Nicocreon, one of the last kings of Salamis, who perished in 311 BC. On its monumental platform were found several clay heads, some of which are portraits, perhaps of members of the royal family who were honoured after their tragic death on the pyre.

After Alexander the Great destroyed the Persian Empire, Ptolemy I of Egypt ruled the island of Cyprus. He forced Nicocreon, who had been the Ptolemaic governor of the island, to commit suicide in 311 BCE, because he did not trust him any more. In his place came king Menelaus, who was the brother of the first Ptolemy. Nicocreon is supposed to be buried in one of the big tumuli near Enkomi. Salamis remained seat of the governor.

In 306 BCE Salamis was the site of a naval battle between the fleets of Demetrius I of Macedon and Ptolemy I of Egypt. Demetrius won the battle and captured the island.

In Roman times, Salamis was part of the Roman province of Cilicia. The seat of the governor was relocated to Paphos. The town suffered heavily during the Jewish rising of AD 116/117. Although Salamis ceased to be the capital of Cyprus from the Hellenistic period onwards when it was replaced by Paphos, its wealth and importance did not diminish. The city was particularly favoured by the Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian who restored and established its public buildings.

On his first journey, Paul, the Apostle, landed here and proclaiming The Word of God in the synagogues (Acts 13:5), before proceeding further on the island.

The Cypriot-born Saint Barnabas, who figures prominently in the Acts of the Apostles brought Christianity to Cyprus in the first century CE. Tradition says that Barnabas preached in Alexandria and Rome, and was stoned to death at Salamis about 61 CE. He is considered the founder of the Cypriot Church. His bones are believed to be located in the Monastery named after him.

Several earthquakes led to the destruction of Salamis at the beginning of the 4th century. The town was rebuilt under the name of Constantia by Constantius II (337-361 AD) and became Episcopal seat, the famous of which was Saint Epiphanius. Emperor Constantius II helped the Salaminians not only for the reconstruction of their city but also he helped them by relieving them from paying taxes for a short period and thus the new city, rebuilt on a smaller scale, was named Constantia. The silting of the harbour led to a gradual decline of the town. Salamis was finally abandoned during the Arab invasions of the 7th century AD after destructions by Muawiyah I. The inhabitants moved to Arsinoë (Famagusta).

[Source: Wikipedia]

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