Kourion (Ancient Cyprus)

 About Kourion:

Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean. Located on Cyprus, is the province/town of Kourion. Kourion is set on the south of the island next to a river. The earliest evidence of settlement in Kourion dates to the Neolithic period around 4500 B.C.  The Argives founded the city of Kourion. The Argives came to Cyprus from Argos, a province on the Peloponnese peninsula; the Argives at their height were rivals of Sparta. Kourion is fortunate to have a large market and as well as some well-appointed public baths. There are beautiful mosaics to view in the private villas and baths. There is a sanctuary to Apollo where the devoted worshiped.  Kourion also boasts two amphitheaters which sat 2000 and 7000 citizens respectively where they watched the Gladiators battle.  The Gladiators trained in an impressive Palestra reserved just for them. Kourion was destroyed by a series of earthquakes in the 4th century. Today all that remains of a once beautiful city is ruins.

Since Kourion was destroyed by natural disasters a lot of artifacts have been recovered. Artifacts can tell historians and scientists a lot about a place. A jug in the shape of Isis found at Kourion tells us that the Island had an Egyptian influence at one time.

 The Earthquakes

In 365 AD there was a particularly bad earthquake that devastated Kourion. There is archeological evidence of the devastation. A skeleton of a mule was uncovered still attached to its trough where it had been tied. The stone trough had been tilted and cracked and the ground had fallen away from underneath the animal. More evidence was discovered in the ruins of the Market Place. The bodies of a family were discovered the father curled protectively around his wife and child, crushed by the roof of the marketplace.

T.W.T. Tatton-Brown 82 Metropolitan Museum of Art Cesnola Collection

The skeleton of a horse killed by the earthquake.
T.W.T. Tatton-Brown 82 Metropolitan Museum of Art Cesnola Collection


 SOURCE: D. Soren, The day the world ended at Kourion, National Geographic, 30-53, July 1988; Copyright Martha Cooper.

SOURCE: D. Soren, The day the world ended at Kourion, National Geographic, 30-53, July 1988; Copyright Martha Cooper.

Travel to Kourion

In Ancient times the fastest way to get to Kourion was by boat. To get to Kourion from Delphi it would take over seven days to get there. This is a very quick for travel in Ancient times. It would have cost around 190 denarii. (Which is around 3,800$ today).

 Today one would pay around 200.00$ to travel the same route using a combination of plane, and car. When traveling in ancient times it was mostly by foot, donkey if you were lucky or rich, and then by boat the rest of the way.  To get to Cyprus from the United States is probably more comparable to the ancient price.  Doing some quick research the airfare to get to Cyprus (from San Antonio TX) is around 1300$ about a third the ancient price but if you include the car you will have to take, to get to the final destination of Kourion, you are pretty close to the ancient price. What this means is that today you can go farther for your denarii.

 What you’ll see today

 When you travel to Kourion you are able to visit some well-preserved ruins. According to the Cyprus Department of Antiquities, Kourion has been excavated and studied since 1933.  The excavation has revealed such things as a building with a mostly intact mosaic of Achilles, a theater, a stadium, a bathing complex and a home called the House of the Gladiators for the mosaics featuring them.

The House of Achilles: Only part of the building is preserved today. It is a Roman villa of the 4th century A.D. Several of the rooms are decorated with mosaic floors.  According to the Department of Antiquities, one of the most complete mosaics on the floor depicts the popular story of the revealing of Achilles’ true identity by Odysseus in the court of the king Lycomedes at Skyros. Archeologists think that this building was used as a greeting center for foreign dignitaries and honored guests.

Mosaic in the House of the Gladiators in Kourion

Mosaic in the House of the Gladiators in Kourion

The Theater and The Stadium: The theater was originally built in the 2nd century B.C. The curved auditorium houses around 3500 people. Today the theater is used for cultural events.

The Stadium’s ruins show its U-shape. It had seven rows of seats, which would have accommodated around 6000 spectators. The stadium was built in the 2nd century A.D. and was used until the end of the 5th century.

The Stadium

The Stadium

The Theater

The Theater


  1.  The Cyprus Department of Antiquities: http://www.mcw.gov.cy/mcw/da/da.nsf/All/CB2E60AEDED0A248C225719B0038B505
  2.  Historvius: http://www.historvius.com/kourion-991/
  3. Karageorghis, Vassos. The Ancient Civilization of Cyprus. New York: Cowles Education, 1969. Print.
  4. Karageorghis, Vassos. Cyprus: From the Stone Age to the Romans. London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1970. Print.
  5. Tatton-Brown, Veronica. Ancient Cyprus. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1988. Print.

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