Amathus or Amathounta, a great ancient kingdom and a great archaeological site right next to the sea.
In south Cyprus and approximately just 7 kilometres east of Limassol, there is the ancient city of Amathus. Amathus was one of the most important kingdoms of Cyprus, which was very rich due to the productive plains and copper mines that where located in the area. According to the myth, Amathus, was named after the son of Hercules, Amatho, or maybe after the bride Amathousa, mother of King Cinyras of Paphos.
It’s unknown when exactly the city was built for the first time. According to one version of history, it was founded by the Phoenicians between 15th to 12th century B.C. At that time, Amathounta was a small town built on a fortress-hill next to the sea. During the archaic era the town prospered and had exceptional trading routes with neighbouring countries. At that time the walls, the first port, the city’s palace on the Acropolis and the temple of goddess Aphrodite were build. On this period Aphrodite has many commonalities with the Egyptian goddess Athor, and this fact can be observed on illustrations on potteries and stone columns found on site. This piece of evidence proves the close relationship between Amathus and neighbouring Egypt.
At the entrance of Aphrodite’s temple, there are two monolithic urns, half buried in the ground, so big that were visible from afar. It’s speculated that they were about 3,50 meters in diameter. One of the urns is salvaged on site but in pieces. The second is at the Louvre Museum. It was transferred there on 1865 from the French traveller, Edmond Duthoit, because he was stunned from the size of the urns and the illustrations carved on them. As soon as he got a permit from the Ottomans, the then authorities of Cyprus, and the French government gave him a frigate from the move, it took him 16 days to transport the urn from its location to the frigate.
During the Cypriot revolution against the Persians on 498 B.C., Amathounta kept a friendly status with the Persians due to their bonds with the Phoenicians. This action led to the siege of the city from the revolutionaries under the command of the King Onisilos of Salaminas. On this battle Onisilos died honourably. The tomb of Onisilos is in the city of Amathounta.
During the Roman era Amathounta again prospers. At that time the new temple of Aphrodite, the Market with its cobbled square, a bath, fountains, administration buildings and guest houses are build. On the south of the Market the main road of the city is still visible.
The city of Amathus was permanently abandoned on the 7th century due to raids from the Arabs. Excavations on site are continued from the French Archaeological School of Athens. The site is open to the public and is interesting for one to wander through the Market, the two grave yards, the five basilicas and admire the remains of the port that can be seen on the sea bed. The whole area is claimed by the government to preserve and bring out the grandeur of the City. Plans of the Cyprus Government is the creation of an archaeological park with a Museum. The archaeological City of Amathus can be visited every day from 8.30 to 17.00 during the winter and 8.30 to 19.30 during the summer. The ticket costs 2.50€.