Salamis Ancient City
Salamis is an ancient city-state on the east coast of Cyprus, by the river Pedieos, 6 km north of Famagusta. The legend has it that the founder of Salamis was Teucer, son of Telamon, who could not return home after the Trojan war because he had failed to avenge his brother Ajax.
The city went under the rule of different civilizations in history such as the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, and Romans. Earthquakes in 332 and 342 caused a big damage, and the city was rebuilt by the Byzantine emperor Constantius, who named it Constantia and made it the capital of the island once again.
One of the most significant archeological sites on the island, Salamis ancient city was partly digged out with archeological excavations between 1952 and 1974. And the excavation process re-started in 1998 by Ankara University. Currently only reserach and cleaning is in progress in the site, but it is hoped that more excavation can be done in the future. Although a big part of the city is still buried under the sands, the site is still attractive, and well worth seeing.
All of the remaining ruins in the ancient city are from the Roman Period.
Located in the north of the city, the Gymnasium contains swimming pools, inscriptions dating back to Helenistic times, a colonnaded quadrangle, and latrines.
One of the swimming pools is surrounded by headless statues, about which there are varşous theories all containing a piece of truth. According to one theory, the Christians saw the statues as idols and destroyed them. Others say that in early times, statues were made headless in the beginning and their heads were made later separately. Also another theory says that the heads of the stautues were broken due to earthquakes and were stolen by treasure hunters.
Salamis Antique Theatre
Located in the south of the Gymnasium, the antique theatre was originally built at the time of Augustus and re-built later during the Roman Period.
The theatre consists of three main parts: the stage, orchestra and auditorium. Performances took place on an elevated stage whose background was decorated with statues. The orchestra contains an alter dedicated to Dionysus and two bases dedicated to Caesar Constantius, Caesar Maximanius, and Marcus Aurelius Commodus. Consisting of 50 rows of seats and holding over 15,000 spectators, the auditorium is today used for theatrical performances, with performers as diverse as Boney M and Jose Carreras.
The Roman Villa is located to the south of the theatre . It had a church-like entrance, a central inner courtyard with a columned portico and living rooms located on either side of the courtyard. A platform with a mosaic floor covered with animal figures surrounding a central motive was discovered during excavations here.
A little beyond the Roman Villa, it was once the largest basilica in Cyprus (58m to 42m). It is known to be built by Saint Epiphanios, whose marble tomb can also be found here. The basilica is divided into three by two rows of columns. At one end there is a triple-arched semi-circular apse with seats for the bishop and clergy. Rooms on either side of the apse were used for dressing and storage. Hypocaust remains in the baptistery indicates that baptisms were also carried out in the winter with warm water. The church was destroyed during the Arab invasion in the 7th century, and a very small church was built in its place.
The Royal Tombs
Lying on a 4 square mile area between Tuzla (Enkomi) and Salamis, the Royal Tombs go as far as St Barnabas Monastery. Due to some precious death gifts found, and the monumental architecture of the tombs, they were also called the Kings’ Tombs. The main common architectural characteristic of the tombs is the wide, long and inclined areas in front of the vault, where horses of the hearse were sacrificed in honor of the dead and jars of wine and honey were lined up. Research shows that the tombs wer built in the 8th and 7th centuries BC and were used until the 4th century AC. The tomb number 50 is also used as a small church dedicated to St Catherine, who adopting Christianty was imprisoned here by her uncle and for this reason, this tomb is also called St Catherine’s Prison.
Necropolis of Cellarka
While the noble or rich persons were buried in the Royal Tombs, the common town people were buried in the Necropolis of Cellarka, which is also a part of Royal Tombs but located a 500m further away. Findings here point out that before the burials, sacrifices and feast ceremonies took place in the dromos.
This monument is thought to have been built in the memory of Nicocreon, the last King of Salamis. Sources indicate that Nicocreon, instead of yielding to Ptolemeos, chose to commit suicide and his wife killed all the family and finally herself after burning up the palace. A circular platform with steps on all four sides was found, as well as a ramp on the western side. Also, remains of wreaths, carbonised wood and clay statues were found in the centre of the platform.