The Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates

The Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates is nowadays considered as one of the most important archaeological sites of Cyprus. It is located in Limassol district, east of Episkopi and west of the ancient city of Kourion.

Apollo is a God of Greco-Roman mythology, who was presented with manifold functions and signification. The name “Hylates” possibly derives from the ancient Greek word “ὕλη” (hyle), translated as the “forest”. Therefore, the site served as the place where the God Apollo was worshiped, in his capacity as the God-protector of the woodlands, and extensively of vegetation.

For centuries, this religious site appears to have endured many alterations, additions and destruction. Throughout the archaeological excavations, the earliest structures discovered, revealed that a temple was possibly constructed between the 8th and 7th centuries BC.  However, the worship of the God Apollo in the area seems to have initiated during the Late-Classical or Early Hellenistic period, around the 3rd century BC. The most significant alteration of the site took place during the Roman period, the 1st century AD, with a great expansion. Ultimately, it is believed that the Sanctuary was destroyed and abandoned during the 4th century AD.

The archaic temple was an open-air site, consisting of the holy precinct, with an enclosure. Around the 1st century AD, during the Roman period, the Sanctuary was rebuilt and took an entirely different form. The large building complex was constituted of various components. There were two entrances, one from Kourion and one from Paphos, leading towards the main temple of Apollo. The temple was the tallest structure and it was found at the end of the holy road. In the southeast part of the site was located the “palaestra”, a central courtyard surrounded by columns, providing a practice space for the athletes. Additionally, outside the temple area, it was also constructed a Roman bath complex, with 5 different rooms.

There is always something fascinating about exploring the ruins of an ancient place. The archaeological remains of the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates show that the area was a place where the culture once flourished, while the civilization of that era was conserving its religious beliefs.

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