On the west coast of Limassol, are situated the archaeological ruins of an old city-kingdom, Kourion. Providing solid evidence of the past life on the island and of a great civilization that flourished in antiquity, the site is a vault filled with history and culture.
Offering a glimpse on the island’s history and its earliest civilizations, Kourion is located in the south-western shores of Cyprus, in Limassol district. Nowadays, the ancient city-kingdom is undoubtedly one of the most impressive archaeological sites of the island.
According to Herodotus, Kourion was founded in the late-Bronze era by the Argives, citizens of Argos, that left their state following the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization, and took its name from its founder, Koureus, son of Kinyras, the king of Paphos. However, and despite the fact that no architectural remains are preserved from an earlier era, it seems that a civilization was developed even before the Mycenaean colonization of the area, from the Late-Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods. Further to the excavations in the area, the oldest remains that have been discovered are dated to the Hellenistic period (310 BC - 30 BC).
The archaeological remains today consist by a number of buildings with different functions. On the south edge of the hill is situated the most known component of Kourion, the theater. Originally being a Hellenistic theatre, which was probably constructed during the 2nd century, it was comprised by a circular orchestra, on which action took place, the proscenium - being a raised acting platform and the auditorium, providing accommodation to the spectators. The existing theatre, to a large extent, is the result of reconstructions and restorations that took place between the 1st and the 3rd century AD. Next to the theatre is located the House of Eustolius, which follows the design of a peristyle Roman villa. Significant are the mosaic floors that are preserved around the courtyard, reception areas and the general-purpose rooms.
Further on, it is located the Agora complex, representing the ancient public square, which included a series of public buildings. South of the Agora are the remains of the Episcopal Basilica. Its construction dates back to the 5th century AD and it is considered as one of the most essential early-Christian monuments. On the north side of the Agora is situated the Roman Nymphaeum (in Ancient Greek “νυμφαῖον”), which was the sanctuary consecrated to water nymphs. It was built on the 1st century AD and separated the large complex of public baths into two sections. Entering the baths, it was found the dressing room (“apodyterium”) and the cold bath (“frigitarium”). This area was also functioning as a reception hall, thus being the best decorated one. Then they followed the rooms of lukewarm bath (“tepidarium”) and finally the hot bath (“caldarium”) with the “Thermae” (steam baths).
The last part of the archaeological site consists of two residences. The first is the House of Gladiators, taking its name from the main subject of the mosaic floors. The luxurious roman house seems to have been constructed in the 3rd century AD. Moving to the north-western edge of the hill, the last building found is the House of Achilles, built on the 4th century AD. The centerpiece of this residence is the mosaic depicting the meeting of Achilles and the Greek king Odysseus, where according to the myth the first was disguised as a girl in order to avoid the Trojan war, and the second tricks him in order to reveal himself.
Once a major city-state, nowadays Kourion is standing as one of the most magnificent archaeological sites of the island. It is visited, every year, by thousands of local and foreign tourists, while the theater, the site’s centerpiece, is still used for cultural events.