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Paphos History

image : (c) istock/thinkstock

There are better known locales in the world and far more famous cities to visit, but in terms of what can claim the “creation of gods”, that has to be Paphos.   It is really two cities: one is the ancient city of the Bible and Greek mythology and the other a modern city with wonderful amenities.

It is a tale of two cities: Old Paphos (Palaepaphos) at the seaside of Petra touRomiou is the modern mythical birthplace of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. Old Paphos had become the most famous and important place for the worshipping of Aphrodite in the ancient world. In Greco-Roman times Paphos was the capital of Cyprus, and it is renowned for the remains of the Roman governor's palace, where there is extensive preservation of fine mosaics for the enjoyment and edification of tourists and students. Some of you may recall that the Apostle Paul was said to have visited the area during his 1st century AD missionary journeys.

There is evidence that the site of Paphos has been inhabited since the New Stone Age period. It became the centre of the cult of Aphrodite and pre-Hellenic (pre- Greek) fertility deities. Aphrodite's mythical birthplace was on this island, where her temple was erected by the Myceneans about the 12th century BC and would be the centre of worship until it was outlawed in 391 AD. The Islands have the remains of villas, palaces, theatres, fortresses and tombs from the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods. This makes the site a place of strong architectural and historic value. The mosaics of Nea Paphos are among the most beautiful in the world and awaiting visitors from the 21st century as it did worshipers of the time of Alexander. The port area of Paphos fell on hard times and was rebuilt by Nicocles, who would be the last king of Paphos. The history and the interconnection with Alexander the Great is interesting. After the death of Alexander, the Isle of Cyprus and the city of Paphos became a recurrent stop for people coming from Alexandria.

When you visit the new city of Paphos, you are less than ten miles from the old city. The new city is more coastal in nature and a beautiful tourist destination in its own right, but it too has a history. The New Paphos, the currently inhabited town, was founded on the sea, near the western end of the island, and possessed a more navigable harbour. It is northwest of the old city. New Paphos also had a founding myth: it was said to have been founded by Agapenor, chief of the Arcadians at the siege of Troy. After Agapenor captured the town he was driven away by a great storm that separated the Greek fleet He was driven onto the coast of Cyprus and left the city of Paphos on its own.

Like its ancient namesake, New Paphos was also distinguished for the worship of Aphrodite and contained several magnificent temples dedicated to her. Yet it is the old city that seems to have always retained the pre-eminence as a worship centre. Historical writing tells us that the road leading to it from New Paphos was annually crowded with male and female votaries pilgrimaging to the more ancient shrine, and coming from the wide areas of the ancient world.

Paphos was nearly destroyed by an earthquake but it is difficult to say to which of the towns was effected. Whichever of the two cities was destroyed during the earthquake, it was restored by Augustus, and called Augusta in his honour.Though this name has been preserved in inscriptions, it never supplanted the ancient name that has always been in popular use.

The city was mentioned in the bible book of Acts where Paul converted the governor. It remained a focal point of pagan worship for centuries, in spite of that conversion. It would fall from grace as the world went on around it after the banning of pagan worship in 391. It would meander on its own for many years.

In 1974, the city of Paphos experienced rapid economic activity in all fields, especially tourism in the Kato Paphos area. The government seized on that growth invested heavily in irrigation dams and water distribution works, road infrastructure and the building of Paphos International Airport, the second international airport in Cyprus. In the 80s, Kato Paphos experienced large outside investment. During the 1990s, the Coral Bay Resort was developed. The success of those endeavours lead to the Aphrodite Hills resort, which developed around 2000.

Today, the city of New Paphos has a population of about 33,000 and is a popular tourist resort and the home to an attractive fishing harbour. Ktima is the main residential district while Kato Pafos, by the sea, is built around the medieval port and contains most of the luxury hotels and the entertainment infrastructure of the city.

The sun and sea are still draws, but the idea of rising from the warm sea as Aphrodite was said to have done is a major connection of the past to the present. This area steeped in history alsohas a modern siren call for those who wish to experience the beauty of the age-old way of life that has been experienced here for over 3200 years.

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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.