Continued From Curium, Cyprus Part II
There are a few things worth seeing that are outside of the archaeological park. Located at the foot of the rise on which the core of the city is constructed, a less than 5 minute drive from the archaeological park, and about 150 meters from the water, are the remains of a three-aisled basilica. Constructed in the 5th century CE, the basilica may have been dedicated to Filoneidi, the first bishop of Curium who was martyred during the reign of Diocletian. The basilica functioned until the 8th century CE, when an earthquake and resultant tidal wave destroyed it. There is no direct access to the basilica, it is fenced off, but it can be seen from outside the fence. There is a rather weathered, but readable, informational sign in English and Greek on the south side of the site.
About a 5 minute drive from either the archaeological park or the beach basilica, and roughly 475 meters northwest of the House of Achilles, is the stadium of Curium. The stadium was constructed in the 2nd century CE, but it is believed that the area may have hosted horse racing events related to cult activities at the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, about a kilometer away. While nothing of any seating remains, the exterior wall of the stadium is fairly well preserved to at least some level most of the way around. The structure of some of the entry gates can also be distinguished. The interior walls circling the approximately 225 meter track are mostly gone except for a few places where they have been reconstructed with modern material. The site is open access and can be explored at any time. There is one small sign in English and Greek describing the monument near the entry closest to the parking lot.
If one walks out the northern entrance of the stadium and turns onto the dirt road/path running eastward to the end of the stadium, this then connects up with a short path north and another path that can be taken to the east/southeast. About 80 meters southeast of this junction are the remains of another basilica, the At Maydan Basilica. Like the basilica at the beach, this one is fenced and not accessible, but can be viewed from outside. This basilica was built in the late 5th or early 6th century CE and functioned until it was destroyed in the 7th or 8th century CE. Limekilns were set up in the ruins of the basilica to facilitate the production of lime from the marble used in the building. Some finds here from the Hellenistic period indicate there may have been a small sanctuary dedicated to an unidentified female deity on this spot before the construction of the basilica, though no architectural remains have been found.
The final spot to visit for ancient Curium is the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates. The sanctuary is located, again, about a kilometer from the stadium; about a 2 minute drive from there and 5 minutes from the archaeological park. This is a ticketed site, and it is open the same hours as the main archaeological site; during the summer (April 16 through September 15), Monday through Sunday from 8:15 to 19:30 and 8:30 to 17:00 the rest of the year. Admission is 2.50 Euro.
Finds here attest to the presence of a sanctuary dating back to at least the 8th century BCE, perhaps as early as the Bronze Age. Hylates seems to have been an indigenous Cypriot god associated with woodlands, and perhaps the protection of animals which dwelt there, who was later conflated with Apollo when his cult was imported to the island around the 5th century BCE. Strabo relates a myth in which deer sacred to Apollo swam to Cyprus from Cilicia making their home on the lands where the sanctuary was built. Evidence also suggests that Apollo Lenaios, an aspect associated with wine pressing. It has been suggested that the sanctuary being so far removed from the city was similar to that of Apollo Maleatas at Epidaurus, further building a link between Curium and Argos. A resurgence of popularity in the sanctuary as a place of pilgrimage came during the Augustan period, reaching a pinnacle in the 2nd century CE. It was abandoned following the 365 CE earthquake.
The site is accessed through the Eastern Propylon, the gate of the sanctuary that led toward Curium. Flanking either side of this gate are a palaestra on the south and a bathing complex on the north. The bathing complex has a pretty secure construction date of 101 or 102 CE according to an inscription found there. The small baths contained the standard frigidarium, tepidarium, and caldarium as well as a laconicum. The remains of the warm rooms have visible remains of the hypocaust systems that can be viewed from the visitor path. Monochromatic mosaic and some rock floors are also preserved in the protected, covered area of the baths.
The plaestra to the south dates to a little bit earlier than the bathing complex, sometime in the 1st century CE. This building consists mainly of a porticoed courtyard flanked by a series of rooms. Some significant portions of the walls on the north side of the courtyard have been preserved or restored. Notably, the primary entrance to the palaestra appears to be outside the gate of the sanctuary.
The Eastern Propylon itself dates to the reign of Trajan. An inscription from the architrave of the gate, part of which is preserved on site, mentions the emperor by name. It was rebuilt at this time, probably following damage or destruction from an earthquake sometime in 76 or 77 CE. A large staircase leading up through the double gate remains, though not a whole lot else aside from some foundations of the structure survive.
Just inside the gate to the right (north) are the remains of a complex of structures that included what are identified as the priest’s house and the sanctuary treasury. The latter of these formed the eastern part, while the former the western. This structure, which is pretty fragmentary, dates to the Hellenistic period of occupation, roughly the late 4th or the 3rd century BCE. There is access to this building, but unfortunately not a lot of information that really contextualizes what is going on here. A semicircle rock enclosure on the south side of this building complex housed a favissa, a pit for a ritual votive deposit. This was perhaps where votives left at the core of the sanctuary were taken when they were periodically cleared out to make space.
To the south is a portico that lined an open courtyard space inside the Eastern Propylon. Beyond that portico is what is sometimes called the South Structure, but also sometimes termed the dormitories. A series of 5 relatively uniform rectangular rooms with benches made up the building. As the name suggests, these are thought to have been dormitories for the pilgrims visiting the sanctuary. They also may have just served as some sort of waiting room. They were seemingly in a state of almost constant alteration, with at least seven periods of construction noted. One of these is identified as occurring in 101 CE, initiated under Emperor Trajan and overseen by the proconsul Quintus Laberius Justus Cocceius Lepidus. Two rooms were built during this time and the construction was dedicated to Apollo Hylates and Apollo Caesar, a melding of this cult with that of the imperial cult. A baetyl was found in one of the rooms, similar to one pictured on coins of Paphos as Aphrodite’s cult image.
The so-called Display Hall or Northwest Building, which was located up a staircase across the courtyard from these rooms seems to have served a similar purpose to the South Structure. Nestled between these two dormitory buildings on the west is the Paphos Gate, through which the road from Paphos entered the sanctuary. This gate may have been built a little earlier than the Eastern Propylon, dated to the 1st century CE.
Just to the west of the priest’s house complex is the Sacred Way, a path leading to the temple and heart of the sanctuary. The majority of the paving here is reconstructed, but apparently some of it dates to an incarnation of the street constructed in the late 1st or early 2nd century CE, once again under the reign of Trajan.
To the west of the Sacred Way is a roped off circular and slightly depressed area that seems to have been a tholos. Not much remains of the actual building, but channels have been cut in the rock in the area adjacent to the tholos, though they are not currently visible. The exact nature of these cuts and this area in general is not completely clear, but it has been theorized that the cuts were planters for a sacred garden area. The mention of deer in the myth of the importation of the cult from Cilicia to Cyprus by Strabo may lend some credibility to the area being used as a space for the keeping of deer that would have been sacred to Apollo Hylates. Just beyond the tholos is a cistern dating to around 60 CE, when a number of hydraulic features were constructed through this area of the sanctuary.
The Sacred Way continues on to the Temple of Apollo Hylates. Part of the temple has been reconstructed, but the foundations of this particular building date to the reign of Nero. Previous to this temple was a small cult building that seems to date to the 6th century BCE. Part of the temnos wall around the temple are also present. On the east side of the sacred way, just before reaching the Temple of Apollo Hylates is what looks like a pile of rocks with a rather circular side. These are the remains of the archaic altar dating to about 600 BCE. All sorts of votive an animal remains have been found in this vicinity, including some pottery potentially dating back as far as 2300 BCE, which may indicate ritual use of this area dating back to that period. Though it also could just be a secondary deposit of an old object found elsewhere and gifted to the god in a much later period.
The Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates takes about half an hour to forty-five minutes to see. Most points of interest have informational signs in both English and Greek, as well as some helpful illustrations and diagrams. There were a few signs that were pretty sun damaged and illegible, and a few things had no information available.
In all, the whole excursion to Curium took me about 4 hours, including travel time between the sights. A few things are just very quick stops, but the main archaeological area, the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, and the archaeological museum are certainly worth some time. The island is fairly easy to get around to, so Curium really is basically doable as a day trip from pretty much anywhere. I combined it with a few other minor sites making my way back to Nicosia from Paphos.
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