Amathus is an archaeological site in Cyprus containing the remains of one of the island’s oldest ancient towns. Known to have been inhabited since at least 1050 BC, the origins of Amathus are unclear.
The settlement is believed to have been founded by the Eteocyprians and to have flourished and grown. Over time, it played host to the Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Persians, the Ptolemies and the Romans.
Today, the ruins of Amathus include several ancient sites, including several tombs, an acropolis with a 1st century AD Roman temple to Aphrodite, an agora with some public baths and the remains of the 8th century BC palace of Amathus.
The pre-history of Amathus is a mixture of myth and archaeology: humans settled there from the Iron Age around 1100 BC, but the city’s legendary founder was Cinyras who named Amathus after his wife, Amathous. According to Plutarch‘s legend of Ariadne, who was abandoned by Theseus at Amathousa where she died giving birth.
Built onto the coastal cliffs at a natural harbour, Amathus flourished early on, trading with the Greeks in grain and sheep and also boasted a rich copper mine. By the 8th century BC, a palace had been built along with a port and a tophet – a cemetery for Phoenician burials. High on a cliff a temple to Aphrodite was built for Hellenic inhabitants.
A rich and densely populated kingdom, Amathus resisted annexation several times and during the Roman era became the capital of one of the 4 regions of Cyprus. The city’s influence was such that Romans used ‘Amathusia’ generally meaning ‘Cypriot’.
After the 4th century AD, Amathus became a seat of a Christian bishop and today remains a see of the Church of Cyprus.
Today, a new settlement close to Amathus called Agios Tychonas has replaced the ancient city, but the borders of the ruins meet that of the new town. Amathus remains strongly connected with the cult of Aphrodite and was the second most important after her homeland, Paphos. However, excavations have not yet founds the great shrines to these great female figures.
Open all hours of day and night, the ruins atop the hill are worth the climb, particularly to watch them lit up at sunrise and it takes only a little imagination to bring the city’s extensive remains back to life.
Getting to Amathus
Located just off the A1 along the B1 coastal road, Amathus is easily found today by car and multiple buses link the ancient remains to nearby city of Limassol.