The Kingdom of Kourion, located on the southwestern coast of Cyprus, was established at the end of the Bronze Age, after the fall of the Mycenaean palaces. The kingdom, which was built by immigrants from Argos, was an important Greek city-state, featuring divinely inspired Greco-Roman architecture that encapsulates the otherworldly and utopian ambitions of the pagans of the Antiquity.
An introduction to the Kingdom of Kourion, Cyprus’ most visited tourist attraction
A monument to the universal and timeless culture that built Kourion, much of the great kingdom still exists today, surviving millennia of wear, conflict and calamity. Visitors can see the preserved ruins and imagine what it was like to be part of a great Mediterranean island kingdom, long before Christianity.
- Location: Episkopi, District of Limassol, Cyprus / Cantonment of Episkopi, Akrotiri and Dhekelia (United Kingdom)
- Contact information: 34.6642°N 32.8877°E
- To note: The Kingdom of Kourion is occupied by two nations, Cyprus and the United Kingdom
- Anecdotes: Kourion is also known as Curium
When was Kourion built?
The Kingdom of Kourion was officially built between 1050 and 750 BC, during what is known as the Cypro-Geometric period. The architecture of this period is defined by the architectural integration of precise mathematics and geometry. This marks the rise of logos, the Greek word for “logic” or “rationality.” The integration of the logos is perhaps one of the reasons the old kingdom is still standing.
The architecture of the Kaloriziki necropolis provides the most convincing evidence of the construction of Kourion during the Cypro-Geometric period. The tombs in the necropolis date from the 10th century and give archaeologists a sense of linear progression. For example, McFadden’s Tomb 40, which was built in the 11th century, shows that about two or three generations after its founding, the Kourion Kingdom had struck down a wealthy class of aristocrats who spent lavishly on their burial chambers.
Kourion’s rapid economic success was largely due to deep cultural and commercial ties with Greece. The social organization underlying the kingdom was very advanced and involved the application of sophisticated philosophy and political science.
- fun fact: In ancient Greece, mathematics and science were considered branches of philosophy
A political history of Kourion
Given the solid foundations that have been woven into the fabric of Kourion, the kingdom has continued to dominate the region for centuries, making it a strategic target for ambitious empires.
The Assyrian Empire was the first foreign kingdom to assume administrative control of the Kourion Kingdom. This does not mean, of course, that the inhabitants were necessarily subjected to oppression. Empire rule usually meant that the ruling entity taxed all trade that crossed Kourion’s sea borders while providing military protection against invading forces and internal uprisings.
Not to be missed in Cyprus: the archaeological site of Kourion
Situated atop a cliff overlooking the southern coast of Cyprus, the ancient city-kingdom of Kourion was once one of the most important cities on the island. pic.twitter.com/sQbyaV2l9i
— Cypriot Realty (@CypriotRealty) August 17, 2018
Over the centuries that followed, Kourion was controlled and allied by the Egyptians, Persians, Greeks and Cypriots. At the turn of the millennium, the kingdom was conquered by the Romans, who took it from the Ptolemaic government.
- Anecdotes: The Ptolemies were a Greco-Macedonian royal family that ruled the Ptolemaic kingdom of ancient Egypt
Cyprus designated an independent state under Roman sovereignty. Around 300 years after being conquered by the Romans, Kourion experienced an economic boom which once again created a wealthy elite class. This societal progression has been seen by dating the construction of new ornate houses, tombs, libraries, monuments and infrastructure to this period.
A cultural history of Kourion
In this second century, the elites of Kourion had amassed exorbitant wealth compared to the plebs. Taking advantage of this disparity in population, the status quo was maintained through the use of complex social engineering. Pagan religion was central to this system, as the culture of the old world was oriented towards spirituality. Oracles, temple prostitutes, high priests and priestesses, and diviners had an important role in guiding the collective psyche of the plebeians.
Through the political manipulation of these religious symbols and figures, the practice of imperial worship became common. This was achieved by confusing the many deities of the pantheon with the many royal figures of the elite. Roman priests were installed in central positions to keep the people of Kourion in a state of submissive elation. The period of imperial worship is recognizable through the numerous epigraphic honors and the politico-religious literature and works of art.
- fun fact: The principles of good governance and social organization were considered an extension of the divine logos and therefore studied with the utmost seriousness
For example, the worship of “Apollo Caesar” was essentially the worship of Trajan as a deity alongside Apollo Hylates.
In the centuries that followed, brutal Christian persecutions, revolutions, invasions and earthquakes rocked the kingdom, forcing cultural elites and practitioners to flee and bringing the kingdom to decline.
Kourion is an archaeological site in the Limassol region of Cyprus. It is open to the public all year round.
- Management entity: Cyprus Antiquities Department
- Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. every day
- Price: 8.50 euros for a one-day ticket, 17 euros for a three-day pass, 25 euros for a seven-day access
If visitors only have one day to explore the kingdom, it’s best to know the main attractions and focus on visiting them. These include the amphitheater, bathhouse, stadium, aqueducts and cemetery. For the historically inclined visitor, it is a must to also see the House of Achilles, the House of the Gladiators, the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates and the Cathedral of Kourion.
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