Spring Break: The Roman Mosaics at Paphos

The Paphos Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, consists of the ruins of the former capital of Cyprus. The site itself consists of the Asklipeion, the Roman Odeon, the Agora, the “Saranda Kolones” (Forty Columns) Castle, the Basilica of Chrysopolitissa, the Hellenistic Theatre and the Paphos Roman mosaics which can be found at the House of Aion, the House of Theseus, the House of Orpheus, and the House of Dionysus. During our visit, we focused on the mosaics.

We began our tour of the site at the House of Aion. Dating back to the 4th century AD, the mosaics consist of a number of mythological scenes including the bath of Dionysus”, “Leda and the Swan”, “The beauty contest between Cassiopeia and the Nereids”, “Apollo and Marsyas”, and the “Triumphant procession of Dionysus”.

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A mosaic portraying the procession of Dionysus. Centaurs pull the cart of the god with a maenad leading. It appears to represent a religious procession following the god’s emergence as a new deity.
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This top panel depicts Hermes handing Dionysus to his tutor Tropheus and the nymphs of Mount Nysa who are preparing a bath for the child.
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The middle panel depicts the beauty contest between Cassiopeia and the Nereids. The contest was judged by Aion (the god of eternity) who declares Cassiopeia the winner. The bottom panel represents the conclusion of the music contest between Marsyas and Apollo. Marsyas lost and was condemned to death by Apollo.

The House of Theseus was situated outside with the ruins of the building surrounding a few mosaics. The biggest and most important mosaic located here was a medallion depicting the duel between Theseus and the Minotaur in the Labyrinth of Crete. The scene is framed by successive decorative zones which symbolize the Labyrinth. The frame consists of a chain of diamonds and colorful tresses, which represent the thread of Adriane.

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The ruins of the House of Theseus.
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The mosaic depicting Theseus and the Minotaur.
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A geometric mosaic leading forward with the lighthouse in the background.
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A close-up of the geometric mosaic.

Located within the House of Theseus was also the first bath of Achilles. The scene that has survived here depicts the newborn Achilles in the arms of his mother Thetis. To the left of the damages center is the nurse, Anatrophe, who is preparing to dip the infant in a basin of water. On the other side, King Peleus is sitting on his throne holding a rod and standing behind him are the three Fates.

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The mosaic depicting the newborn Achilles.

The next main site with mosaics was the House of Dionysus, named so because many of the artworks show the god.

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After finishing the main houses, we decided to explore the rest of the site seeing the smaller complexes. The whole area was beautiful as all the wildflowers were in bloom.

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Red poppies surrounding the ruins of a home.
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The path leading up to the lighthouse with yellow wildflowers on either side.
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The path forward with the lighthouse on one side and a viewing area on the other.

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My father taking a picture from the viewing area.

Beneath the lighthouse, built into the side of a hill, was the Hellenistic Theatre, consisting of seven rows of stone benches in a semi-circle.

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A view of the Hellenistic Theatre from above.

Near the exit, a discovery we made as we looped back around, was the “Saranda Kolones” Castle. Erected in 1200 AD, after the Frankish conquest of Cyprus, it was built on the site of an earlier Byzantine fort. However, it was destroyed in 1223 by an earthquake and never rebuilt.

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An overview of the “Saranda Kolones” Castle with poppies in front.
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A close-up of the arches found at the “Saranda Kolones” Castle.

The whole site was amazing to walk around, especially on as such a good day as we had. By the time we were done, we wanted to check-in to our hotel and get dinner. Finding a route open to get to the hotel proved to be an absolute nightmare, however. Due to construction in the center of downtown, it took 40 minutes to get only four blocks. And due to our following only GPS instructions, we ended up first at an apartment block. The next route we tried took us down a one-way closed road. I had to get out of the car and join a local in directing my father in a U-turn. On the way out, we met a number of people trying to get into the road, like us beforehand, not realizing it was closed. Let’s just say there was a lot of barely scraping past cars to escape. We ended up calling the hotel and having them stay on the line to get us there. Once we were all settled, we decided walking to dinner would be the best option…Good news was the Axiothea Hotel turned out to be my favourite one of the whole trip due to the friendliness of the owner, the amazing breakfast, the comfortable rooms, and the view.

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Sunset in Paphos as seen from the hotel hallway window.

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2 thoughts on “Spring Break: The Roman Mosaics at Paphos

  1. Another fabulous blog post, Xandie. You certainly had a good review of Greek mythology on this trip. How lucky that you had beautiful weather and that the wildflowers were in bloom. That the mosaics are so well-preserved after all these centuries is impressive. Your adventure in getting to your hotel sounded like a high anxiety experience. But the two of you worked things out and were rewarded with a comfortable hotel and a tasty dinner.

    Liked by 1 person

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