Tamasos was one of the most important town-kingdoms in Cyprus. Located about 21 kilometres southwest of Nicosia, the largest part of the ancient town lies under the modern villages of Politiko, Pera and Episkopio. Thanks to the exploitation of the rich copper deposits in its territory, Tamasos had been a flourishing town.
Even though various excavations uncover finds that date to different periods in the history of Cyprus, it’s still a mystery when and by whom the town was established. It seems that the area had been inhabited since the Copper Age (around 3900 B.C.) and the population grew rapidly by the Late Bronze Age thanks to the intensive exploitation of copper deposits. A number of tombs and remains of copper-processing installations date to the Late Bronze Age.
Upon the arrival of Achaeans in Cyprus and the Hellenization of the island, Tamasos had developed into a kingdom. From this period, two royal tombs, a temple dedicated to the Goddess of Aphrodite, and a part of city’s fortification and copper-processing installations have been found.
In particular, the two underground carved tombs were constructed in the mid of the 6th century B.C. and belonged to local lords. The largest tomb consists of a pathway with steps, an antechamber and a burial chamber. The other one is simpler, consisting of a step pathway and a rectangular chamber. Worth noting are the limestone sculptures (sphinxes and lions) that were found adjacent to these tombs. Since sphinxes and lions were believed to be protecting the tombs, they must have been placed at the tombs’ entrances. While lions symbolise strength, power and enforcement, the sphinx sculptures, appearing to sit comfortably with one foot on the other, represent a fusion of Egyptian and Greek art elements. Today the sculptures are exhibited in the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia.
In addition to the royal necropolis of Tamasos, there is another ancient cemetery northwest of Politiko village. The tombs are carved and consist of irregular circular chambers. From the Archaic period, the Temple of Aphrodite stands out in which an alter made of raw limestone, as well as various votive vessels, incense burners and lamps, and clay and stone statuettes were unearthed. Based on epigraphic evidence, there was one more temple in Tamasos dedicated to the Mother of Gods, Cybele. Other deities believed to have been worshiped were the 12 Olympians like Apollon, Asclepios, and Dionysus. In fact, a huge bronze statue of god Apollon was discovered but only the head survived. Unfortunately, the statue is not exhibited in Cyprus. However, these fine works of art and the brilliant sanctuaries are proofs of the prosperity and the wealth in the kingdom of Tamasos. Several findings suggest that the kingdom dwelled from its foundation till the Roman and Hellenic period. In fact, in the mid of the 1st century A.C., Tamasos became one of the first Greek Orthodox dioceses in Cyprus with the prominent presence of Saint Herakleidios and Saint Mnason.
The city’s prosperity began to decline in the 10th century, when mines faded out in the area. The city was then replaced by smaller settlements, namely the villages of Politiko and Episkopio.