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Ancient Salamis Aerial View of Ancient Salamis

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Drone photos by Jefferson Williams - 4 April 2023

Transliterated Name Source Name
Salamis Ancient Greek Σαλαμίς
Salamina Greek Σαλαμίνα
Salamis Turkish

Salamis was a fortified city on Cyprus, settled in the eleventh century BCE. It is located on the eastern coast of Cyprus on the northern side of the Pediaios River where it enters Famagusta Bay approximately 7.5 1cm (4.6 mi) north of Famagusta (David W. Rupp in Meyers et. al., 1997:456). David W. Rupp in Meyers et. al. (1997:456-457) summarized the history of Salamis as follows:

Salamis was one of the leading cities on the island from the earlier Iron Age through the Late Roman period. A portion of the city was occupied until at least the early 8th century CE and probably as late as the 12th century CE . Although the architectural and sculptural remains of Salamis always have been visible, it was not until the 1860s and 1870s that epigraphical finding of the first European visitors identified the church and monastery of Apostolos Varnavas immediately to the west of the site as part of the ruins of Salamis.

According to the legend of the eighth to fifth century BCE , the Homeric hero Teukros, son of Telamon, who was the king of the island of Salamis in tire Saronic Gulf in Greece, founded the city in 1184 after the Trojan War. Actually the settlement was established in the mid- to late eleventh century BCE , probably as a consequence of the destruction by earthquake(?) and abandonment of the nearby Late Cypriot city of Enlcomi, about 2 km (1.25 mi.) inland to the southwest. The estuary of the Pediaios River may have silted up around this time, making Enkomi inaccessible directly to the Mediterranean. The southern portion of the city was occupied continuously from the eleventh through second centuries BCE. This region then appears to have been uninhabited until the late fourth century CE . The city was the metropolis of the island under the Ptolemies from the end of the fourth through the second century BC E when this role shifted to Nea-Paphos. At its height Salamis covered about 150-275 ha. Major earthquakes shook the city in 16/17, 76/77 [JW: more likely 78/79], 342, and 394 CE . A revolt by the Jewish population in 116/117 CE caused extensive damage within the city. Under the aegis of the emperor Constantius II (344-361 CE) the city was rebuilt after the earthquake of 342. In his honor the new city was called Constantia and resumed its earlier position as the metropolis of the island. The Arab raids, beginning in 647/48 CE , resulted in more destruction. Although there is evidence for limited reoccupation in the late seventh through early eighth centuries CE , including a defensive fortification built around the basilica of Ayios Epiphanios, most of the urban area was abandoned. The remnants of tire large residence called L'huilerie ("the olive press") provide evidence of continued use in dais section after the seventh century.

Exploration and Excavation

Small sections of tire ancient city were inhabited through the twelfth century CE . Marble and granite architectural fragments and an inscribed statue base from tire gymnasium were used in some late medieval and Venetian buildings in Famagusta demonstrating that the ruins of the city were accessible in the thirteenth through sixteenth centuries. The first published description of Salamis was in 1862 by Melchior de Vogue, William Waddington, and Edmond Duthoit. Luigi Palma di Cesnola and later his brother, Alexander, were tire first non-Cypriots to "excavate" at Salamis (1866-1878). In 1888 D. G. Hogarth published his observations of his visit. Formal excavations of the western and northern cemeteries and a Roman house with floor mosaics were carried out by Max Ohnefalsch-Richter in 1880-1882 for tire British Museum under the direction of Charles Newton. H. H. Kitchener and G. Hake excavated more tombs in the western cemetery in 18 82 for the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum). The Cyprus Exploration Fund organized by the British Museum, the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford), and the FitzWilliam Museum (Cambridge) and led by J. A. R. Munro and H. A. Tubbs in 1890 and 1891 opened up many trenches within the city itself. Another British team consisting of A. S. Murray, A. H. Smith, and P. Christian excavated more tombs in 1896 in the western cemetery for the British Museum.

In 1913 J. L. Myres and G. E. Jeffrey worked at the "prison/tomb of St. Catiierine/Haghia Haikaterini" in the western cemetery. Jeffrey in 1923-1925 and Joan duPlat Taylor in 1933 carried out small-scale excavations of primarily Late Roman structures. In 1952 the Department of Antiquities began regular large-scale excavations within the city which continued until 1974. The systematic excavation of the western cemeteries by tire Cypriot Department of Antiquities began in 1957 first under the direction of Porphyrios Dikaios and then from 1962 to 1967 by Vassos Karageorghis. A French expedition from the Institut F. Courby, Universite de Lyon, dug in die southern section of the city from 1964 to 1974, focusing on tire Temple of Zeus and the Late Roman Christian basilica called Campanopetra. In 1973 N. C. Flemming undertook a preliminary underwater survey of the harbor facilities of Salamis.

Major Remains

The earliest remains of the city date to the late eleventh century BCE : French tomb no. 1, a cult place (through the sixth century BCE) , and the southern rampart. Iron age elite burials were located in various extramural cemeteries: "Royal tombs" (c. 800-500 BCE), Cellarka (c. 700-400 BCE) , and Koufoumeron (c. 550-500 BCE). There were extramural sanctuaries dating to the sixth century BC E to the west around Apostolos Varnavas (site A; Great Goddess/Aphrodite) and to the south at Toumba (site G). Tumulus/tomb 77 represents the funerary pyre and cenotaph of King Nikokreon(P), the last king of Salamis, and his family, about 311 BCE . The Temple of Zeus Olympios (Zeus Salaminios?) was first constructed in late second century BC E and a ramp was added at the end of first century CE. It was destroyed by earthquakes in 332 and/or 342 CE. T O die north of the temple there was an elongated porticoed forum or "Agora" (site C), probably constructed before 22 BC E and then reconstructed in the first or second century CE.

At the north end of the forum a large rectangular cistern or loutron widi a vaulted roof was built during reign of Septimius Serverus (fl. 193-211). It was fed by an aqueduct from the spring at Kythrea. An elevated arched section is preserved southeast of Ayios Sergios. The gymnasium (site B) probably existed in the second and first centuries BCE . There were major building phases and repairs to it at the beginning of the first century CE and again during the reigns of Trajan (fl. 97-117) and Hadrian (fl. 117-138). After damage by die fourth-century earthquakes, it was restored as public baths by Justinian (fl. 527-565) then abandoned. Adjacent to the gymnasium there was a xystos or staditim with eight rows of seats on the north. A propylaeum entrance or vestibule (c. 100-150 CE?) on the western end opened on a north-south colonnaded street leading from the gymnasium to die theater. The theater was built at end of first century BCE . It was reconstructed after earthquake of 76/77 CE with additional repairs and reconstruction under Hadrian. Furtiier modifications followed in the third century CE . Following its destruction by the fourth-century earthquakes the stage was rebuilt in a crude fashion about 375-425. Abandonment occurred in the sixth century CE . The amphitheater built in die late first century CE completed the city's entertainment complex.

Ayios Epiphanios (site H) was die earliest and largest Christian basilica on the island. It was built in 375-400 and later partially reconstructed. This "cathedral" of Epiphanios, the first archbishop of Salamis (fl. 368-403), was enclosed within a limited defensive circuit around the core of the city. The wall was built in die early seventh century in response to Arab raids. After the basilica was destroyed in 447/48 by the Arabs, a church was built immediately to the soudieast to replace it in around 698. This church was rebuilt in the ninth century and continued in use through at least 1344.

Three important edifices were built around 470-500. The "Campanopetra" Christian basilica and monastery (? site E) is one of the largest and most refined known on the island. After 647 the baptistery was turned into a chapel. Immediately to the west across a street was an official residency. Nearby was a large elite residence, "L'huilerie" (see above). Following its destruction during Arab raids squatters inhabited it in the mid- to late seventh century. Afterward the complex was divided into at least three independent structures, one of which was an olive oil pressing establishment. They were occupied through the twelfth century.

Aerial Views
Aerial Views

  • Salamis in Google Earth
  • Aerial View of Salamis from Jefferson Williams

Notes and Further Reading

Bibliography from Meyers et. al. (1997)

  • See also the biographies of Di Cesnola, Dikaios, Hogarth, Kitchener, Myres, Newton, Ohnefalsch-Richter, and Vogue.
General References

Karageorghis, Vassos. Salamis: Recent Discoveries in Cyprus. New York, 1969 . General introduction to the history of the site and the Department of Antiquities excavations in the "Royal Tombs " and Cellarka cemeteries, as well as the gymnasium and theater.

Rupp, David W. "The 'Royal Tombs' at Salamis (Cyprus).Theological Messages of Power and Authority." Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 1.1 (1988) : 111—139. Analysis of the eighth to sixth century BCE "Royal Tombs " in the context of a study of the reemergence of sociopolitical complexity in Iron Age Cyprus under the stimulus of Phoenician trade and colonization.

Wallace, Paul W., and Andreas G. Orphanides, eds. Sources for the History of Cyprus, vol. I, Greek and Latin Texts to the Third Century A.D. Albany, N.Y., and Nicosia, 1990 . Translation of Greek and Latin Texts which refer to Cyprus, including an index with references to Salamis.

Yon, Marguerite, ed. Salamine de Chypre: Histoire et archeologie, etat des recherches. Editions du Centre National de la Recherche Scientiflque, no. 578 . Paris, 1980 . Proceedings of an international colloquium held in Lyon in 19 8 on the various excavations and research relating to Salamis.

Yon, Marguerite, ed. Kinyras. Archeologie francaise a Chypre/French Archaeology in Cyprus. Travaux de la Maison de l'Orient, no. 22 . Paris, 1993 . An up-to-date summary in French and English of the results of the French excavations at Salamis; with extensive bibliography. See Yon's article "La ville de Salamine/The Tow n of Salamis," pp. 139-158 ; and Georges Roux, "Basiliques et residences byzantines/Byzantine Basilicas and Residences," pp. 195-204 .

Excavation Reports: French Expedition

Argoud, Gilbert, et al. Une residence byzanline "I'Huilerie." Salamine de Chypre, 11 . Paris, 1980 .

Calvet, Yves. Les timbres amphoriques, 1965-1970. Salamine de Chypre, 3 . Paris, 1972 .

Chavane, Marie-Jose. Les perils objets. Salamine de Chypre, 6, Paris, 1975.

Chavane, Marie-Jose, and Marguerite Yon. Testimonia Salaminia 1. Salamine de Chypre, 10.1 . Paris, 1978 .

Diederichs, Catherine. Ceramiques hellenistiques, romaines et byzantines. Salamine de Chypre, 9. Paris, 1980 .

Institute Fernand Courby. Anthologie salaminienne. Salamine de Chypre, 4 . Paris, 1973 . Jehasse, Laurence, i a ciramique a vernis noir du rempart meridional. Salamine de Chypre, 8. Paris, 1978 .

Monloup, Therese. Les figurines de terre cuite de tradition archaique. Salamine de Chypre, 12 . Paris, 1984 . Oziol, Therese, and Jean Pouilloux. Les lampes (octobre 1964-mai 1967). Salamine de Chypre, 1. Paris, 1969 .

Oziol, Therese, Les lampes du Musee de Chypre. Salamine de Chypre, 7 . Paris, 1977 .

Pouilloux, Jean, et al. Testimonia Salaminia 2. Salamine de Chypre, 13 . Paris, 1987 .

Yon, Marguerite. La Tomba T1 du XT s. av. J.-C. Salamine de Chypre , 2 . Paris, 1971 .

Yon, Marguerite. Un depot de sculptures archaiques: Ayios Varnavas, Site A . Salamine de Chypre, 5 . Paris, 1974 .

Excavation Reports: Department of Antiquities Expedition

Karageorghis, Vassos, and Cornelius C. Vermeule. Sculptures from Salamis. 2 vols. Salamis, 1.1-2 . Nicosia, 1964-1966

Karageorghis, Vassos. Excavations in the Necropolis of Salamis. 4 vols. Salamis, 1.3-5/7 . Nicosia, 1967-1978 .

Mitford, Terence B., andln o K. Nicolaou. The Greek and Latin Inscriptions from Salamis. Salamis, 1.6. Nicosia, 1974 .

Wikipedia page for Salamis