Paphos has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. It was a centre of the cult of Aphrodite and of pre-Hellenic fertility deities. Aphrodite's legendary birthplace was on this island, where her temple was erected by the Myceneans in the 12th century B.C. The remains of villas, palaces, theatres, fortresses and tombs mean that the site is of exceptional architectural and historic value. The mosaics of Nea Paphos are among the most beautiful in the world.
© Mario Santana
Because of their great antiquity, and because they are closely and directly related to the cult and legend of Aphrodite (Venus), who became the ideal of beauty and love, inspiring writers, poets and artists throughout human history, Paphos is of outstanding universal value. Pre-Hellenic fertility deities were worshipped in Cyprus from Neolithic times. Many of the archaeological remains are of great antiquity, as Paphos has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. The Temple of Aphrodite represents one of the earliest settlements, while the mosaics of Nea Paphos are extremely rare and rank among the best examples in the world. The architectural remains of villas, palaces, theatres, fortresses and rock-hewn peristyle tombs are of outstanding historical value as they are one of the keys of the understanding of ancient architecture.
Petra tou Romiou, or Aphrodite's Rock, is a rock that marks the site of Aphrodite's birthplace, which was a place of pilgrimage for the entire Hellenic world. Excavations have unearthed the spectacular 3rd- to 5th-century mosaics of the Houses of Dionysus, Orpheus and Aion, and the Villa of Theseus, buried for 16 centuries and yet remarkably intact. The mosaic floors of these noblemen's villas are considered among the finest in the Eastern Mediterranean. They mainly depict scenes from Greek mythology.
Nearby, the stone pillar where St Paul according to tradition was bound and beaten for preaching Christianity. The Chrysorrogiatissa Monastery was founded in the 12th century and is dedicated to Our Lady of the Golden Pomegranate. The neighbouring monastery of Agios Neofytos contains some of the world's finest Byzantine frescoes and icons as well as an interesting Byzantine museum.
The Tombs of the Kings, in Kato Paphos, is a monumental structure carved out of solid rock with some tombs decorated with Doric pillars. Spread over a vast area, these impressive underground tombs date back to the 4th century BC. High officials rather than kings were buried here, but the magnificence of the tombs gave the locality its name.
Palaipaphos (Old Paphos) was one of the most celebrated pilgrimage centres of the ancient Greek world, and once the city-kingdom of Cyprus. Here stood the famous elaborate sanctuary of Aphrodite, the most ancient remains of which date back to the 12th century BC. It is the most significant of a dozen such consecrated sites in Cyprus The glorious days of the sanctuary lasted until the 3rd-4th centuries AD. Amphoras and ceremonial bowls from here, many of which are on display in the Cyprus Museum in Lefkosia, depict exquisitely costumed priestesses as well as erotic scenes from the sacred gardens that once surrounded the temple.
Originally a Byzantine fort built to protect the harbour; it was rebuilt by the Lusignans in the 13th century, dismantled by the Venetians in 1570, and rebuilt by the Ottomans after they captured the island in the 16th century. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC