The city of Famagusta is one of the finest examples of medieval architecture in the Levant and, in its present state of preservation, is equal to that of the old cities of Carcassone or Ragusa. One full day spent in Famagusta will reveal the history of Cyprus in a nutshell. Much of Cyprus is an outdoor museum, but only here is so much historical interest concentrated, that it is a showplace for all tourists.
Much of the history of the town is obscure as there are no written records and our only source of material is from travellers' accounts of merchants passing through. Some historians declare that it was founded by King Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt in 285 B.C. By the year I 300 A.D. the town was one of the principal markets of the Eastern Mediterranean, the rendezvous of rich merchants and the headquarters of many Christian religious orders as revealed by numerous churches of various denominations still to be seen in the town today. This was the time of the Crusades and when the rich Lusignan family ruled Cyprus, and hence the period I 200 to I 489 in Cyprus history is called the Lusignan dynasty. Famagusta was protected by ramparts which encircle the town and the citadel castle guarding the harbour, the best in Cyprus. This citadel or Othello's tower is the first main focus of attention for visitors.
The period I 300 to I 400 is known as the golden age of Famagusta and was regarded as such by visiting merchants. who brought back tales of fabulous wealth in the various places. After I 400, rival factions of Genoese and Venetian merchants settled there. The Genoese caused much strife until finally the Venetians took command of all Cyprus and transferred the capital from Nicosia to Famagusta in I489. The Venetians were in command for 82 years and it was from Famagusta that the whole island was governed.
The invention of gun-powder and the use of cannon made it necessary for the Venetians to remodel the entire defences for the use of artillery, the new type of warfare. The medieval square towers were replaced with round ones and all along the walls and citadel numerous cannon portholes were inserted.
The Turkish armada arrived outside the town in I 570 and put it under siege for a year. In 1571 not only Famagusta, but all Cyprus was under Turkish rule and remained so until I 878. The end of colonial rule in I 960 led to the intensification of intercommunal strife between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots which concluded in I 974 with Turkish Cypriot rule in North Cyprus.
It is interesting to note that the Turkish name for Famagusta is Gazi Magosa which means unconquered Magosa, and this is certainly true, for Greeks never entered Famagusta old town and it has remained Turkish from I 57 I to the present day. Thus we have 3 periods in the history of Famagusta:
I . The Medieval or Lusignan (from I 200 to I 489)
2. Venetian (from I 489 to I 57 I )
3. Turkish Cypriot rule (from I 57 I to the present day)
In order to avoid aimless wandering, a map is essential and Figure 5 is that of the walled city, i.e. Gazi Magosa. There are many things to see and the visitor should devote a full day. Figure 2 is a panoramic map or bird's eye view of the town as it must have appeared in I 570 and there is really not much alteration even today. As one tourist remarked to a friend, `You must see Famagusta, it's completely unspoilt'. In other words, the historical buildings have not been dwarfed by high-rise blocks of flats and hotels. The writer produced this panoramic view after doing about 40 sketches and conversing with Mr. Ali Ozel about the town's history. Some liberty has been taken in restoring the cathedral and a few churches, but this does not detract from following the guide plan round the town.
Fig. 3 Othello's tower is the medieval fortress or citadel guarding both harbour and town. This is referred to in one of Shakespeare's plays in which Othello is described as a Moor. This is not so; it is the name of a Venetian governor of I 506. However, Shakespeare knew little about Cyprus and had never been there. The entrance to the Tower is shown in Figure 3 and is pierced through the Venetian fortifications which date from between I 500 and I 550. Above the gateway is a marble slab on which is sculptured the badge of Venice, a winged lion, so frequently seen in other parts of Cyprus such as Girne Castle, Nicosia, and Bellapais Abbey.
An aerial view would show the shell of the medieval castle inside the Venetian Walls and an imaginary sketch of this is shown in Figure 4. As a result of the inventions of gunpowder and cannon, the Venetians altered the castles in order to suit the needs of their artillery. Usually they did not destroy the old walls, they were far too thick, but the old square towers were replaced with round ones. It should be obvious that a rectangular tower could easily have its corners knocked off by gunfire. Wherever the old walls were preserved, they were pierced by gunports. On entering the courtyard of the citadel there are some interesting old cannon lying on the ground and a sketch of them is shown in Figure 5. One is made of bronze and is in excellent condition after being out in the wind and rain for 400 years. It is Spanish, and this kind of alloy metal was much favoured by the Spaniards in their great galleons. Cannon were fired by a red hot poker inserted into a hole at one end, but sometimes, owing to faulty methods of casting, the guns exploded and then there was a nasty accident. The Turkish cannon had iron rings along the muzzle and one is on display here. (See sketch Figure 5.) There are some cannon balls lying about and most are of cast iron. When you see a very large stone ball it might have been a missile for a large catapult called the trebuchet.
Fig. 4 & 5
Inside the Walls there is the Great Hall, and with the large kitchen at one end, it is presumed that this was the refectory or dinning hall. It dates from about 1300 and is massively constructed with a vaulted roof supported by tall Gothic arches. How ca n such a gloomy place be called a palace? More like a prison. Windows were usually very small for defence purposes and no glass was used, pieces of cloth or carpets kept out wind and rain (see fig. 6). However, in those times it could be a quite a "comfy" place with fine tapestries on the wall and huge fires blazing away at one end, where the whole carcase of a moufflon could be roasted. Not far outside the town there is the vast interior plain of Cyprus known as the Mesarya and here the nobles went hunti ng.
Steps lead up to the embattlements where there is a fine views of both ancient and modern harbours. Modern ships still use the same harbour entrance as it was in the golden age of Famagusta, 1300 to 1400 A.D. In those times harbours were defended by a hug e iron chain slung across the water, and just by the entrance, and opposite the Citadel, can be seen a clump of rocks on a promontory where there was the chain tower. The chain was lowered into the water when enemy ships were in the offing. The other harbour in Cyprus. Girne, was also defended by chain and there the chain tower still stands in the middle of the modern harbour.
The cathedral of St Nicholas is the largest medieval building in Famagusta and was commenced in I 300 A.D. It must be noted that the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages often took more than I 00 years to complete, so possibly St Nicholas was completed about I 400. The Gothic style of architecture resembles closely the great cathedral of Rheims in France. Similarly St Sophia in Nicosia and Bellapais abbey all seem to be the work of French architects, and this is understandable when one realises that the kings of Cyprus from I 1190 90 to I 489 were all of the French Lusignan family who, at least in their churches. `Frenchified' Cyprus.
The main facade is the west front and this is shown in Figure 7, the sketch being taken from the town square. There are three large gabled and canopied doorways, two of which are shown in the sketch, the vast amount of carved stone work being very impressive. Above the main central door is a large wheel window set in decorative tracery, a common feature of French cathedrals and known as a rose window. There is a similar rose window in the refectory hall at Bellapais abbey. The upper parts of the two towers suffered damage during the Turkish bombardment of I 57 I and, when the Turks captured the town from the Venetians, the cathedral was converted into a Moslem shrine and the minaret was added. The full name now is the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque. In accordance with Moslem religion all images of the human form in stone, in fresco. or in stained glass windows were either removed or plastered over. However all aspects of the Gothic tracery have been preserved. The canopied doorways of the west front are typical of French cathedrals and the details of one is shown in Figure 8. No doubt the niches on either side of the porch contained stone statues of biblical saints as in Notre Dame, Paris. This style of ecclesiastical architecture is known as the 'Decorative Period'.
The interior is ofcourse a Moslem prayer hall, the floor being covered with carpets, and all visitors must go round with the Moslem priest. This main hall in a church is known as the nave, and here the Lusignans were crowned as kings of Cyprus. Tradition claims that they also received the crown of Jerusalem, as by about 1350 the Crusaders had failed to take Palestine and so these French knights came to Cyprus to set up a Jerusalem monarchy in exile!!
The lancet windows were probably decorated with stained glass but it was unsafe to have wide windows as Cyprus suffers from severe earthquakes. Also because of this, the nave had to be strengthened with flying buttresses; these are shown in Figure 9. In I 57 I altars and tombs were swept away and all frescoes were plastered over but the guide will show visitors tombs that have survived, in the north aisle.
Referring again to Fig. 7, behind the Turkish tomb and a very large tree, are two tall granite columns that the Venetians hauled away from Salamis about the year I 500, and on the top had placed their emblem, the Lion of St Mark; but this has now disappeared. Close to these columns is a small Turkish building which used to be a Moslem school in I 700 but is now the office of Ali Ozel Tours. It is an interesting building in the style of the Ottoman Empire period and typical of many Turkish buildings in Istanbul. Oppo site the north wall of the cathedral are the remains of the archbishop's palace which have now been parcelled off into shops and restaurants. These are on the side of the main street leading down to the Sea Gate.
`There are 365 churches in Famagusta, one for every day of the year.' The writer has heard this piece of gossip from many local people, and also found it in many guide books, but the statement is not true. It is amazing how many authors of guide books copy one another without ever bothering to verify the facts. Including St Nicholas cathedral, there are 17 churches within the town walls and these are all marked on the map, Figure I . Now it is hardly likely that any ancient church should completely disappear, foundations and all. Even if we suppose that a few have escaped detection by lurking under some later building, at the most we could say that no more than 25 ancient churches are in Famagusta.
Nevertheless, 17 churches for such a small town is quite a lot; historical analysis supplies the answer. During the Crusades there were many branches of the Christian religion and each sect had its own hierarchy of priests, its own type of church, method of service, and places of residence either monastery or convent. When the Christians were finally driven out of Jerusalem and Palestine many of these sects sought refuge in Cyprus, and they thought they would be safe in setting up their various churches in Famagusta. So, the visitor will see may different kinds of churches, mostly in ruins as a result of the Turkish bombardment in 1571.
In general, one can say that the most churches look alike, in so far as the ground plan is a cross, but it is the architecture that they differ. Many details need not bother the visitor, but if the distinction between a Greek Orthodox and Latin church can be made, then it will be an educational achievement.
The Latins is the name given to Roman Catholics who recognize the Pope at Rome as their head, while the Greek Orthodox church had its centre at Constantinople (Byzantium). Now the Moslems regarded the Greek church as the lesser of two evils, since it was the Latins who fought against them in Palestine during the Crusades. This great division of the Christian church arose in 390 A.D. when the Roman empire, having adopted Christianity, split up into two provinces, a western one centred at Rome, and an eastern at Constantinople. To stan off, the visitor must have the map, Figure I and use it all the time, otherwise it will be a desultory and aimless walk.
St George of the Greeks Church
This was probably built in opposition to the nearby Latin Church of St Nicholas, An exterior view of the apse at the eastern end is shown is Figure I 0. Here we have the typical semicircular apse while the central part of the church had a large dome which in this case has been `blown off' in I 57 I . Notice how the bombardment came from one side, and this is the side facing the distant bastion of Djamboulat, where the Turkish artillery was deployed in I 570. As we go round the various churches it will be observed that most of the damage is on the side facing Djamboulat. One must remember, also, that the town of Famagusta suffered from two severe earthquakes in the mid I 8th century. With the numerous cannon balls lying about both in among the ruins and in private gardens, one gets the impression that the siege only took place a few years ago.
This is why Famagusta as an historical centre is unique in all Cyprus. Inside the church are some fragments of wall painting, the best being in the eastern apse. In the nave are the foundations of some Roman columns where the method of binding stones with iron ties is visible. The use of iron ties for constructing masonry without cement was often used by the Romans in harbours and jetties.
Fig.11 Church ofAyios Zoni
(Ayios is Greek for saint.) This I 4th century church, Figure I I , demonstrates very clearly the main features of a Greek church, the large central dome and the barrel like vaults for the roofs with the foundation plan in the form of a Greek cross. Being rather small it escaped damage during the siege, and this is the only church in the town that is in good shape. Inside, there is little to see, just a few traces of paintings on the walls. All the Greek churches are highly decorated and with numerous framed pictures called icons, very necessary to teach illiterate people the stories in the Bible.
Church of SS Peter and Paul
This is a Latin church, very conspicuous with its huge massive buttresses (Figure I 2), the flying type of buttress so extensively used in St Sophia cathedral in Nicosia. A ruined minaret in one corner shows that at one time the church was used as a mosque. but today it is the Famagusta Municipal Library. On entering one is confronted with a huge high nave, similar to the great Refectory hall at Bellapais Abbey. it is because of its great height that there are those massive flying buttresses outside to give support. inside. the cathedral gloom and high roof supported by the Gothic pillars provide an ideal place for a library. the atmosphere of tranquillity. Have a chat with the librarian, who will show you some interesting antique books. Some Turkish schoolboys do their homework here! In the yard of Sinan Pasha Mosque is the tomb of Mehmet Efendi. He was a famous literary diplomat of the I 8th century. In I 720 he was accredited to the Turkish embassy in Paris and he died in Famagusta in I 732.
Fig.12 & 13 St George of the Latins
The sketch. Figure I 3, shows this to be a picturesque ruin, but typical of the French style of architecture. The tall lancet shaped windows are rather highly placed and this has led some historians to suggest that it was a fortified church built in the days when the medieval walls had not yet been put up. As usual the side facing Djamboulat shows the most damage, but in this case one has to appreciate the great distance which Turkish cannon could reach, for the bastion is quite a way off.
Fig.14 The Nestorian Church
Here is a church built in quite a different style and in Figure I 4 we see that the campanile or tower dominates the architecture, and the rose window in the apse is to be noted. The Nestorians were a religious sect founded in Syria and they had all their services in the ancient Chaldean language. This church is kept locked as there are still some religious furnishings remaining.
Fig.15 The Twin Church of Templnrs and Hosțitallers
These two small churches, side by side, are shown in Figure I 5 and they reveal almost no damage because restorations were made in recent times. Both churches are in a contrasting style of architecture compared with all the others. The Templars and Hospitallers were branches of the Latin church formed during the Crusades. and after their expulsion from Palestine came to settle in Cyprus. A few villages in Cyprus are named after them.
This is enough of churches to visit, and there are at least ten others, some of which are inaccessible, as they are in military areas. This is why the important Armenian church has been omitted. The writer visited Famagusta in I 970 during the days of intercommunal strife, when many Turkish Cypriots were turned out of their villages and came to Famagusta as refugees. Some were even camping inside the ancient churches and of course, once established in the nave of the church, all their precious possessions came with them, broken pieces of furniture, bicycles, sewing machines, chickens, dogs, cats, goats, and donkeys. The writer saw some boys aiming at fragments of religious paintings high up on the walls with their catapults! Fortunately, those terrible days are now over; intercommunal strife ceased in I 974, and from then onwards, these ancient churches were kept locked to prevent further vandalism and also to preserve them as the historical heritage of Cyprus.
Now let us recapitulate in a novel way. Imagine having 'done' the churches by yourself you propose to take a friend round. You are now the guide, and here are the main features you should point out to your friend:
I . How to distinguish Greek and Latin churches.
2. Show the fragments of medieval paintings that are visible in odd corners of the ceiling in many churches.
3. Always refer to the position of the Djamboulat bastion when surveying the exteriors of the buildings.
4. Interesting details, e.g. the iron ties in the Roman masonry, the terracotta vases thrust high up into the roofs-an ancient idea to improve church acoustics, occasional fragments of the Lusignan coat of arms. (Three lions in contrast to the Venetian winged lion.)
5. Some churches show traces of much older churches either just outside or incorporated within the I 4th century church. St George of the Greeks church is a good example.
6. The numerous cannon balls, some of iron and some of stone.
7. Fragments of stonework taken from Salamis, e.g. granite or marble columns.
Fig.16 & 17
The invention of gunpowder in the Middle Ages completely changed not only the type of warfare, but the style of military architecture, and in this, the military engineers of Italy reigned supreme. Gone were the days of bows and arrows, catapults, battering rams, and in came round towers and cannon. In Europe, cannon were used for the first time in the siege of Constantinople in I 453 and in the battle for Rhodes in I 480. When the Venetians took over Cyprus in I489, they started to change all the old castles into artillery forts and in I490 began the work of remodelling the walls and towers of Famagusta. This was completed about I 550.
The frst cannon were just heavy iron tubes mounted on a wheeled wooden carriage. Firing was a very crude business. Iron or stone cannon balls were inserted at the open end, and at the other a red hot iron poker was inserted to ignite the gunpowder. If the guns were fired from inside the tower or walls, the suffocating smoke was such a problem that all gun chambers had to be provided with chimneys, and in the Land Gate we shall see good examples of this, the usual size of cannon balls was that of a large grapefruit. It is on record that the Turks had a huge gun which could take a stone ball 3 feet in diameter. Probably an exaggeration, as the largest to be seen lying around Famagusta are of football size. Iron was still rather expensive and so brave soldiers would sally forth across the moat at night to recover cannon balls.
It was not necessary to have very high walls as in former days, but long sloping ramps had to be built to drag the guns up to the tops of towers and walls. There were also smaller ramps on the tower tops and along the ramparts to enable the guns to fire down, into. and across the moat. These three kinds of ramps are shown in Figure I 6. Barrels of gunpowder had to be hauled up and kept under cover and taken down to the gun chambers when no longer required. Gun ports were inserted into all the walls and all angular corners had to be rounded off to enable the cannon balls to glance off. The old square towers were soon broken up by cannon fire. Study Figure I 6 and this will enable you to appreciate the great engineering ability of the Venetians. The old saying, 'You only see what you know' applies to all tours of antique sites.
A Walk along the Moat
It will take you more than an hour to walk round the walls of Famagusta, pleasant enough in winter but in summer it is a punishment. )just stroll along the moat in the locality of the Land Gate and walk towards Djamboulat bastion; this takes less than half an hour. A general view of the walls and moat is shown in Figure I7. It is rather a wilderness and you will hardly meet anybody. From its huge length and width it must have taken hundreds of years to excavate out of the rock which is a soft limestone. It is horizontally stratified which makes it easy to quarry into rectangular building blocks. There are numerous man-made caves along the cliffs which were probably quarry workshops where stone cannon balls were made, or were perhaps dwelling caves.
Did the Venetians use these caves outside the walls? We do know that they always cleared the ground above the moat outside the walls in order to have a clear field of fire for their guns mounted on the walls. The places outside the walls are still desolate today. These caves would be ideal homes for gypsies and people who were not allowed to live within the walls.
The Djamboulat Bastion
The main road from Nicosia to the Famagusta docks passes alongside the Djamboulat bastion and a general view is shown in Figure I 8. It is a large round tower made very conspicuous by the modern lighthouse perched on top. Outside this tower and along the moat the Turkish artillery were encamped in I 570 and it is from here that the town was bombarded. This is the reason why so many churches within the wall show damage on the side facing this spot. Fierce fighting went on here for nearly a year, as the visitor can see today with the gaping cavities along the walls and towers. The Turks tried to mine into the tower at the base and the results of their efforts are still very visible, as shown at the base in the sketch Figure I 8. In spite of the use of gunpowder the attempt failed, owing to the great thickness of the walls and showers of missiles hurled from the battlements above. All around the moat here is a happy hunting ground for those wanting historical treasures. You can come across pieces of iron from cares and cannon and of course many cannon balls.
On the other side of the tower and inside the town is the Municipal Museum where you can see some relics of the battle. Nearby is the tomb of Djamboulat Bey, the Turkish general, by whose bravery this tower was captured. It is said that a miraculous fig tree grew out of his tomb, the fruit of which helped childless women to have children!
Fig.19 The Sea Gate or Porta Del Mare
The best view of the Sea Gate is from inside the town and you should enter the gateway immediately opposite the docks entrance. This way in is much used by cars wishing to avoid the traffic lights at the Land Gate. This Sea Gate was, in Venetian times, washed by the sea at its base and the Land Gate was really the only way in. A general view is shown in Figure I 9 and what a marvellous piece of military engineering it is! Even today, it would take first prize for architectural design. It shows how these Italian engineers turned an ugly fortification into a magnificent palace gate. Remember that the people who built this, knew personally that world famous painter, sculptor, and military engineer, Leonardo da Vinci. It is recorded that he visited Cyprus in I 48 I and it is likely that he advised the Venetians on the design of forts. The iron gate and portcullis is still in its original position and the fact that this gate is no longer used has led to its preservation. The stone lion near the gate is not a Venetian Lion of St Mark, but probably some medieval sculpture which stood by a medieval gate. A small stone object, though much eroded, is probably a lion cub, and a close-up sketch of lion and cub is shown in Figure 20.
The name was given to this bastion by the Turks, because it was the first part of Famagusta conquered and where the white surrender flag was hoisted by the Venetians. (Ak = White, Kule = bastion.)
This was originally a medieval gate or barbican, and the main entrance to the town during the Middle Ages. It remains so today, but mainly for pedestrians. The Venetians drastically remodelled the whole barbican for the needs of artillery and it is only in the interior that one can see parts of the older structure. The huge size of the Land Gate is shown in the sketch, taken from outside the walls, Figure 2 I . The moat is deep and wide, and today such places are ideal for football pitches, sports centres, or municipal parks. This has been done with effect in the Turkish moats of Lefkosa, while on the Greek side they are used for car parks. There are two kinds of ramparts shown in Figure 2 I , a long ramp leading up to the ramparts and two cannon ramps on the top of the walls. Also, many gun ports are on either side of the barbican.
When the Turks took over the town in I 57 I the bridge over the moat was built, but in those days for cart traffic, so today it is a one-way entrance. The grooves to be seen above the gateway are where the chains of the portcullis and drawbridge operated. Figure 22 shows that this massive structure suffered little damage in the bombardment, since the attackers avoided all strongly defended bastions and chose instead to attack between them.
Inside the barbican, one can wander around a maze of passages connecting the numerous gun chambers, one of which is shown in Figure 23. When one sees the tiny gun ports along the walls it is difficult to realise the large gun chambers inside. Numerous recesses in the walls are storage cupboards for gunpowder barrels and cannon balls, whilst overhead are the usual chimney vent holes to allow smoke to escape. In places, the old foundations have been built on natural outcrops of rock; this was a great asset in preventing attempts by the enemy to mine their way in.
The Land Gate is quite a popular rendezvous for passengers using the Mersin ferryboat, for after having done their shopping in the town they wait here and sort out their 'goodies'. It is unfortunate that the clean public latrine is the only one, and is outside the gate. People don't bother to go across the bridge and so many areas of the interior Land Gate are becoming insanitary.
The Martinengo Bastion
Fig.22 & 23
The Martinengo Bastion, so named after a Venetian commander in Cyprus, is one of the finest examples of military architecture in Mediterranean lands. it is of immense size, covering more than one square mile, and even today, in modern warfare, would make a superb defence point for the town. It is comparable with the French forts built just before the first World War at Verdun. What prompted the Venetians to build such a huge fort here? Perhaps they feared an army landing on the beach outside the harbour and attacking inland. The Italian engineer who built this fort was San Micheli who did not complete the job until I 550. He knew how vulnerable angular corners to a bastion would be, but by way of compensation he constructed two cannon flankers on either side of the triangular fort. Two of these are shown in Figure 23 and so, with two on the other side, the moat was covered with a field of fire. The flanker gunports are the largest along the entire walls for here the biggest guns were installed.
Undoubtedly, the most impressive view of the Martinengo Bastion is from the moat, but if you want to explore the top, then it is quite a long walk back to the inside of the town where the approach must be made. From the top there are passageways leading down to the gun flankers and around you will see many vent holes to allow the smoke from below to escape. The maximum thickness of the walls is 20 feet (6 m.), and all built of stone masonry, in contrast to the modern forts of reinforced concrete. The sketch plan of the entire fort is shown in Figure 24 and what a valuable gift it would have been to the Turkish commander in I 570, but to his military credit he decided not to attack strong points like this. In fact this was the general policy of Turks in the field, not to attack these highly fortified bastions, but to lead an attack on the weak in-between areas along the walls.
Pause for a moment or two, while you are having your lunch, and meditate on the following. If you are a Westerner, coming from the lands of Christendom, think of what you were taught in school from the history books. The Crusades are described as a glorious epic in history and the Moslems, Saracens. Turks, Arabs etc. as heathens, infidels, anti-Christ, anti-God, and anti-everything. These attitudes linger on in the news media today, in fact it is almost traditional in the West to be anti-Arab and anti-Turk.
No doubt you will read in the guide books and history books of the terrible atrocities committed by the Turks after the surrender by the Venetians in I 57 I . Are the Christians capable of such awful things?
In I 204 the Western Crusaders indulged in an orgy of rape, looting, massacre, and despoliation, in and around St Sophia cathedral in their fights against the Greek Orthodox people. In I982 the Christian militia men in the Lebanon entered a P.L.0. camp and massacred men, women, and children. The news media had to report this, but in later news editions the word 'Christian' was taken out and it read `militia men massacre civilians in refugee camp.' We all know that atrocities are committed by both sides in wars and that the first casualty in war is TRUTH.
The Venetians came from Italy, where, between I 400 and I 500 artists and architects began to revive the arts of ancient Rome. In their buildings they tried to imitate the ancient grandeur of Rome by the use of Roman arches and columns for both houses and churches. This was the great re-birth or Renaissance period, the time of Michaelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
The nearby ancient ruins of Salamis made it very convenient for them to drag away granite columns and pieces of sculpture to decorate the houses of rich merchants in Famagusta. They loved to put high granite columns, surmounted by the Lion of St Mark, in public squares.
However, there are only about three buildings of the Venetian period to be seen in Famagusta. This is understandable as the Venetian occupation lasted only 82 years and 50 of those years were spent in constructing the military fortifications. For example the Land Gate was not finished until I 544 and the Martinengo Bastion in I 550, leaving only some years before the Turks arrived on the scene.
Opposite the Cathedral, and across the square, only the grand facade of the Venetian palace is left, it having been destroyed in I 57 I by the Turks. There are three arches in Roman style supported by four granite columns and over the central arch are the arms of Giovanni Renie, captain of Cyprus in I 552. There was one other more ancient palace on this site in which the Lusignan kings of Cyprus were crowned. Beyond and inside the courtyard are numerous cannon balls and pieces of a large granite column.
Not far away and next to the recently renovated Turkish baths is the doorway of a Venetian house. This gateway shows the arrangement of the stones in the arch which is typical of the Renaissance style, so frequently seen in the Renaissance buildings of Florence and other Italian cities.
Farther along, and in the same street, we come to Biddulph's gate, named after Sir Robert Biddulph, British High Commissioner in Cyprus in I 879, whose efforts saved this monument from destruction. Figure 26 shows that it is really an imitation of a Roman triumphal arch and probably marked the entrance to some large merchant's house. Notice the decorative cornice above, but unfortunately the two marble columns that once stood by the gateway have now gone. In fact one has the impression that this monument has been much vandalised, stones being robbed by local builders. The only remedy is to have an iron fence enclosure.
The word antiquities is used here to imply any building or monument dated before about I 880, and thus being an antique may be worth looking at, or preserving. The Turkish conquest in I 57 I was welcomed by the Cypriot peasantry because serfdom was abolished. For hundreds of years, under the feudal tyranny of the Lusignan barons, peasants were forced to work without pay several days a week. This system was continued under Venetian rule, but again by military power, so when the Turks swept this old system away a sense of relief was felt all over Cyprus.
Christians often declare that, while they had built huge cathedrals, monasteries, and castles, the Moslems have left nothing of architectural splendour for posterity. This is of course not true, as anyone who has visited Istanbul, Tehran, and Shiraz, knows. However, Moslems in general do not go in for spectacular buildings, except in big cities, and do not create the portrayal of the human form, either in statues or paintings; these are not in accordance with the creed of Islam.
The Turks repaired the walls of Famagusta and, about I 600, built some religious colleges, where the principles of the Koran were taught. The ancient Moslem school is the Medresse and one dating from this time can be seen by the side of the Lala Mustafa Pasha mosque (St Nicholas cathedral). It is not an imposing building, but the sketch, Figure 27, shows the fine multiple-arched doorway, the conventional style of building of the Ottoman empire period. A similar kind of porch can be seen at the University of Istanbul. The Dome is supported by cross vaults inside and the building is now the offices of Ali Ozel tours.
The Land Gate is known as the Akkule Bastion meaning white tower bastion, the place where the surrender took place in I 57 1 , and by the archway of the main gate is the Akkule Mesdjid, built in 1 6 I 9. The inscription in the old style Turkish calligraphy is on a marble slab and records the foundation of this Mesdjid. The building shows the distinct style of architecture in the windows and doorway, giving contrast to the Renaissance buildings.
One of the most important achievements of the Turkish administration was to improve the water supply in all the towns of Cyprus. This was done by building aqueducts, much in the same way as the Romans had done; the famous Larnaca aqueduct built in I 750 by Bekir Pasha is a good example. Around the streets of Famagusta public fountains were constructed, and many are still in use today, as the older houses have no taps. These street corner fountains are favoured by women for daily gossips! Djafer Pasha was a well-known Turkish governor who devised these water systems, and in his memory is the Djafer Pasha fountain shown in Figure 28. It was built in I 597, the Roman sarcophagus from Salamis being used as the washbasin.
The bathhouse was always an important building in old times as there was no bathroom in the old houses. The one shown in Figure 29 is conspicuous with its domes sparkling with knobs of glass, one of the old ways to give light under a dome inside the building. Inside at night the effect of a starry sky is given when the town lights gleam on to the dome. It was built by Djafer Pasha in I 60 I and has recently been renovated; gossip says that it may be converted into a pub or cafe.
Fig.28 & 29
The prison of Namik Kemal, the Turkish Shakespeare, can be seen inside the courtyard of the old Venetian palace and part of it is used as a museum by the Department of Antiquities. There is a bronze bust of Namik Kemal facing the square. by the Lala Mustafa Pasha mosque. He was a famous Turkish poet of Istanbul and after criticising the Sultan was deported to Famagusta in I 873 and imprisoned here for 2 years.
Many tourists wander round the town in search of some quaint corner as a subject for their colour slides. These picturesque corners consist mainly of houses perched on top of an old gateway just like London Bridge in the old days. One example is shown in Figure 30 and can be seen between the Municipal Library and St Nicholas cathedral. In many other towns in Cyprus there are these old gatehouses and invariably they make an old town more attractive. What is their origin? In one case the writer was told that the old gateway was part of a farm building and when the farm was divided up, a road was put through. Another explanation is that, like Ledra street in the old days, the streets had covered-in markets and these gateways formed the entrance.
The last place of historical interest cannot be seen now! In I 974 Turkish Cypriots trapped outside the old town because of Greek gunfire. could not use the Land Gate. So a tunnel was opened up, and this led under the road, across the moat into the town. The entrance is now sealed up, but some shopkeepers outside the Land Gate will show the visitor the point of entry.
There was no damage to Famagusta in I 974; the last period of destruction was between I880 and I890 when the builders of Port Said came here to take stone blocks from the walls and ancient churches to build hotels and quays along the entrance to the Suez Canal. A law had to be passed to prevent this wanton destruction and it is to be hoped that the Department of the Environment will carry on the good work of saving the historic buildings of Famagusta. for it is still today the most interesting and historic town in Cyprus.
Imagine the scene outside the walls of Famagusta over four hundred years ago, when the vast army of Ottoman Turks was encamped only a mile away from the walls. As they crept nearer, it was impossible to get protection from the huge earth slopes, built by the Venetians in order to protect the moat. This huge counterscarp was built on the bedrock and surmounted by a stone wall parapet. Now the top of this is at nearly the same level as the ramparts opposite, so that gunfire could sweep across the moat and mow down any enemy appearing on the parapet. Furthermore, the deep moat was another secondary ditch that swept along close to the foot of the walls. This gave added protection to the moat.
However, as the Ottoman army crept closer, tunnels and ravines were constructed and when the parapet was reached, loopholes were pierced through, so that now the musketeers could fire into the moat. The situation is shown in Figure 3 I , but one may ask, `Why did the Venetians want to get into the moat?' Surely, they were safe behind the walls. The Turks did not stand idly by, and they began dumping earth and stone debris into the moat so that eventually it could be fled up, and a bridge made across the moat. This would enable the army to get across to the top of the walls and so enter the town. As fast as the attackers filled up the moat, so did the defenders sally forth to remove it, pausing at intervals to hide in the deeper secondary moat.
Then the Ottoman musketeers began to keep up a constant 24-hour musket fire across the moat and no Venetian soldier dared go into it. Notice in the sketch Figure 3 I how safe were the invading army behind the earth slopes of the counterscarp. No doubt the military engineers of the time of Leonardo da Vinci were superb in their construction of the Famagusta fortifications, but they slipped up here, and made one mistake. The tables were turned against them and the huge earthworks and parapet walls of the counterscarp at least gave protection to the attackers!
A few months later in I57I, the Ottomans filled up the moat, build a bridge across, and having got on top of the ramparts, entered the town. The Venetians surrendered at the Land Gate, the Akkule Bastion. So all these strong and very powerful bastions, bristling with cannon, were of no avail. The attackers avoided them and attacked at the weakest point, between the towers.
It was only in I 982 that these musketeer loopholes were revealed during a roadway construction. Great praise is due to the Magusa municipal council for their restoration and preservation and Figure 32 shows that they are now an added tourist attraction to the town. The writer is much indebted to the information given by Dr. Turhan Kamil, the well- known Turkish Cypriot archaeologist who is a native of this famous town.
In Figure 33 we have a sketch of an old railway engine resting on a plinth, and placed here as a memorial to the Cyprus Government Railway, which ran trains from Famagusta to Nicosia, and beyond to Morphou. The building behind the engine is the old Famagusta station which was the terminus of the C.G.R. There are many railway enthusiasts in England who worship these old engines as symbols of the past industrial revolution. There is now a division of antiquarians who study old engines, old mills, and the old machinery used one hundred years ago, the subject is `lNDUSTRlAL ARCHAEOLOGY'.
In I 904 the railway construction depot was inside the old walls, opposite the Othello tower, and now occupied by the Desdemona gardens. In order to give access to the docks three archways were driven into the old Venetian curtain walls and the traces can be seen today. Great care was shown not to use stone for the railway construction from the walls and ancient buildings although there were rumours that stone was going to be taken from Bellapais Abbey!
The railway was 371/z miles long, and there were stations at two mile intervals, the names being written in three languages, English, Greek, and Turkish. Speed was from 20 to 30 m.p.h. and the journey to Nicosia took about two hours. Two trains per day: the morning train left at 8.35 a.m. arriving at Nicosia at I 0.37 a.m. If you wanted to continue to Morphou that would be another two hours for the extra 24 miles.
Coal was the fuel, which came from England to the Famagusta docks; some even came from the Admiralty yards at Port Said in Egypt, 284 miles distant. Water had to be softened chemically so as not to damage the engine boilers and all lighting was with acetylene lamps. It was a standard railway gauge, the sleepers were of local timber but the main problem was bridge maintenance. Rivers in Cyprus are harmless dry beds in summer, but in winter torrents would sometimes damage the bridges.
We tend to think that railways were built for the benefit of passengers but this is not so. For the C.G.R. and for all railways, freight was the economic drive. The Cyprus Mines Corporation used the C.G.R. for the transport of copper and chrome ore and asbestos to the Famagusta docks until port facilities elsewhere in the Island were developed. During the Enosis troubles of I 93 I , some futile attempts were made to tear up the track as it was regarded as a symbol of British Colonial Rule.
In I 945, the railway trains were still running to time, but then, new 6 ton diesel lorries appeared, against which the C.G.R. could not compete. Road haulage meant the end of the railway, and at that time the railway was faced with the problem of new engines, new tracks and carriages, because the whole system was already 40 years old. In I 935 there was much gossip that the railway was quite efficient and that the Ford Motor Company wanted the railway to close down in order to boost their sales of motor vehicles. Very difficult to prove, but who knows, it may have been the major reason for the closure of C.G.R.
The last train left Nicosia for Famagusta on 3 I St December I 95 I and it was then that the engine no. I in the sketch was lifted to its final resting place, by the Army engineers from Dhekelia using a 20 ton crane.
It marked the end of a marvellous episode in the history of Cyprus and what a fine exercise it would be for secondary school students to find out the course of the old railway in Nicosia or Famagusta. They could find out where the old bridges and cuttings were made and there's even a tunnel, which the train used, just by the mound outside the Land Gate. All those interested in the history of Cyprus should read Lt. Col. Turner's book on the Cyprus Railway; it is a masterpiece of historical research.
The Story of the Cyprus Government Railway
by B. 5. Turner
Mechanical Engineering Publications
The writer of this article showed this book to an old Cypriot now 80 years of age and he waxed enthusiastic about the excellent photographs in the book which, he said brought back in him memories of the times when he went by train from Famagusta to Nicosia and only for a few pence.
Fig. 34 The Cathedral Fig Tree
In front of the main entrance to the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque (St Nicholas Cathedral) is a very old tree of huge size, and the sketch is shown in Figure 34. It throws magnificent shade over the courtyard, very necessary in those hot days of summer when visitors are streaming into the cathedral. This article is to try to convince the reader that the tree was planted here when the cathedral was built in I 220 A.D. making it 700 years old.
It is a variety of tropical fig tree, with the botanical name of Ficus sycomorus, a native of East Africa. Referring to the sketch, we can see that the main trunk is surrounded by smaller trunks which have grown into the main trunk, and give it added support. It appears that they have sprung up from the massive root system. An old Turkish Cypriot who has lived all his life near to the cathedral exclaimed to the writer, `There are seven of these trunks round the main trunk, one for every hundred years, so the tree must be 700 years old'. Obviously, this is just simple folk lore but there may be some scientific background to this. Enquiries are on their way. Don't be surprised if some time in February the leaves all disappear, giving the illusion that the tree has died. Yet in a month all the leaves are back, covering the whole tree with dense green foliage. The tree is what botanists call, 'minimal deciduous'.
Across the square and to the right of the Venetian palace there is a small street with the remains of a Venetian house. In the back garden is a chapel alongside which is another fig tree. As it was the custom all through the Middle Ages (in Middle East countries) to plant these fig trees by churches, we can assume that this was planted here when the house was built by some rich Venetian merchant, some time between I 520 and I 560. As this tree is only one quarter the size of the cathedral one, it can be assumed that the latter was planted at the time of the cathedral building ( I 220 A.D.).
In ancient Egypt the tree was grown for its timber, shade and fruit. It provided wood for coffins and household utensils and the fruit was held in esteem by the peasants. In Luxor, the papyrus rolls dating from I I 00 B.C. show drawings of the fruit. A Special curved knife was used by the ancient Egyptians to gash the fruit, as they discovered that this made the fruit ripen quicker. Even today, Turkish Cypriot peasants around Limassol still use the same kind of knife that was in use here a thousand years ago.
This gashing of the fruit was thought to let the insects inside escape and so hasten the ripening. Recent research has shown that the gashing of the fruit encourages the tree to produce ethylene gas, and it is the presence of this gas that ripens the fruit.
All the trees in Cyprus, Israel, Rhodes, and Crete have been planted by Man, because north of Egypt the trees do not produce seeds. The cause is the absence of the pollinating wasp which is found only in southern Egypt. Tree planting is done by propagation; a branch is stuck into humid soil.
A map showing the distribution of the fig tree coincides with a distribution map of the Egyptian fruit bat, which has the fruit as a major item of diet. The skeletons of these bats have been found in Neolithic tombs in Egypt, more than 4 thousand years old. So much for the research work on Ficus sycomorus, most of which was obtained from research workers at Kew Gardens' laboratories in London. It is surprising that the amount of literature that has been written about this tree.
What is the future of the tree? People don't like these trees around today because of the vast amount of debris from leaves and fruit. (There are daily sweepers around the mosque here in Famagusta!) The old custom of using ladders to climb up and gash the fruit is too laborious. Even by the modern use of chemical sprays to ripen the fruit, this has proved too expensive. However, we should preserve this cathedral tree for at least another few hundred years. It is the oldest living thing in Cyprus and what a story it could tell of the island's history-the Lusignan knights in their armour clanking around the yard, plagues of locusts, Venetian builders and busybodies, the bombardment of I 57 I , more earthquakes and the noises of I 974.
There are many ancient towns similar to Famagusta in France, Germany, Italy, and England, that still retain their medieval encircling walls, but of course the modern suburbs extend far outside these walls. These old towns are great tourist attractions. The best example is the ancient city of Carcassone in the south of France, but here the walls are medieval, whereas the walls of Famagusta were built much later, at a time when cannon replaced the bow and arrow warfare of former times. Now follows an interesting episode in the very recent history of Cyprus.
In I 974 the old town of Famagusta was besieged by the Greek Cypriot National Guard. Turkish Cypriots within the walls could not go out, nor could refugees enter, except by that secret tunnel mentioned elsewhere. Apparently the Greek soldiers wanted to enter the town to take the citadel of Othello's tower and then to declare that `we are defending Famagusta against the Turkish army.' However, they neglected to consider that the inside inhabitants were all Turkish Cypriots, and the siege went on until the Turkish army appeared outside the walls also. There was not much confrontation; the Greeks fled, and so their Byzantine plan to give an historical twist to the I 974 events evaporated.
As tourists, let us forget the political implications of all this, and dwell on the fact that here was a city whose ancient walls stood up successfully to a siege using modern warfare weapons. Isn't it amazing that the Venetian defences, built in I 500, withstood modern warfare? Or, if you like to put it, I 574 wins against I 974.
The region round the bay of Salamis is one of the most favoured in the whole island and Salamis city became the capital of Cyprus as far back as I I 00 B.C. The city shared the destiny of the rest of the island during the successive occupations by the various dominant powers of the Near East, viz. the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, and Romans. The ancient site covers an area of one square mile extending along the sea shore. There is still a large area awaiting excavation and this is forested with mimosa, pine, and eucalyptus trees.
The finding of some gold coins bearing the name of Evagoras, 4 I I to 374 B.C., is the first genuine evidence of the city's importance.
A severe earthquake destroyed the city in 76 A.D. after which the Gymnasium with its colonnaded Palaestra was built by Trajan and Hadrian. This is the most monumental part of the site but columns differ in size because after the second great earthquake of 33 I A.D. the Christians set up new columns which they dragged from the Roman theatre. The theatre with 50 rows of seats and a seating capacity of I 5,000 is the second most spectacular sight. All around the buildings that have been excavated are many niches which contained marble statues, and those that can be seen are headless. When Christianity was adopted as a state religion all these nude statues were to them an abhorrence and were thrown into drains or were broken up. In fact, any indications of Roman pagan religion such as mosaic pictures were effaced or destroyed.
The Romans had an obsession about baths, and in the Great Hall buildings one can make out the Sudatorium (hot baths), the Caldarium (steam bath) and Frigidarium. Before the Christian period, i.e. before 400 A.D., it was quite a colourful city; the marble columns were covered with coloured stucco, coloured statues, and numerous polychrome mosaics of which only a few are left. It was during the Christian period that walls with rectangular towers at regular intervals were built, but all that one can see of these today are mounds of sand dunes. The late Roman period after 400 A.D. up to about I I 00 A.D. is known as the Byzantine epoch when the first great Christian churches, called basilicas, were built. The visitor should see the churches of St Epiphanos and Campanopetra for they are the largest ancient churches in Cyprus.
About 674 A.D. Arab invasions brought about the destruction of the entire city and the inhabitants fled north to build the medieval town of Famagusta (Magusa). There must have been a great change in the climate as the city was overwhelmed with sand, and only the tops of the columns peeped above.
Coins of the Middle Ages, Lusignan period, were found around the basilicas, from which one can conclude that squatters lived in the ruins perhaps up to about I 300 A.D. For the next six hundred years the ancient site was looted and regarded as a quarry for building. During the Venetian occupation of Famagusta many columns and pieces of sculpture were dragged from the site. This constant looting was not halted until I952 A.D. when organised excavations by the Department of Antiquities began.
This archaeological site is the most spectacular in the island because the ruins are very extensive and are in a wonderful state of preservation. For more than a thousand years, the Roman city of Salamis lay buried in sands which saved the site from wanton destruction in the Middle Ages. It must be remembered that all the ancient ruins in Europe were 'free for all' quarries for the builders of medieval castles. It was not until the late I 9th century that various governments formed departments of antiquities which began keeping a watchful eye on ruins. In a similar way, Pompeii lay buried in volcanic ash, and was also saved from vandalism. As Pompeii is to Italy so is Salamis to Cyprus.
For heaven's sake do not try to cover Famagusta and Salamis in one day. I shrink with horror at those tourists who 'do' Cyprus in a day. The map (Figure I ) shows that there is a by-pass to Salamis from the capital and Girne (Kyrenia) so there is no need to go through Magosa (Famagusta) and spend the whole day there. Soak yourself in Salamis!
The writer spent six days on the site, sitting around sketching, but could not help noticing how confused and perplexed visitors become as they wander about, reading and walking at the same time. It is a very complex site and in order to understand it, the writer has come up with this idea. )just take the official guide map handed to you at the entrance office and with it use a panoramic map showing what the site looked like in Roman times (Figure 2). Don't start reading books at the site, leave them in the hotel for bed time reading.
Now in order to draw this bird's eye view map the writer did about 40 sketches of Salamis, and using his knowledge built up from such Roman sites as Side in southern Turkey, Baalbek in the Lebanon, sites in Algeria and Italy, he was able to reconstruct the panorama as shown in Figure 2. Problems arise when one realises that as the centuries went by, Roman buildings were pulled down or altered into Byzantine ones and so we must make our picture extend from 200 A.D. to about 900 A.D., the time when the natural catastrophe occurred. The map should be about foolscap size, and what a good souvenir you would have.
The official guide plan map will be shown later and, from then, our tour begins.
Salamis occupies quite an extensive area, being about I km wide and I 3/4 km long so that, unless you are a good walker, a car is essential. The map (Figure 3) shows that on the eastern side there is a long beach which is quite sandy and shallow, so why not combine your visit with a picnic and swim off the beach?
It is essential to have the map in your hands all the time as the writer has encountered many people hopelessly lost. There they stand in the wilderness of ruins and not a soul in sight. One answer is that their maps are snugly stowed away in their pockets or handbags. Now maps are to be used, more especially here, because there are not enough signposts directing visitors to the major sites.
Unfortunately, many visitors cover Salamis in a half-day trip. They rush in past the entrance, make a bee-line for the Gymnasium, get their girls photographed against the white marble columns, and then trip back to the hotel saying to their friends 'Yes, we've done Salamis.' Yes, what a marvellous colour slide to show a beautiful girl in a colourful dress lolling against the marble column. However, it is far more sensible to devote the whole day to this place and you can have a break with a marvellous picnic on the beach. We repeat, `Cyprus is an outdoor museum,' so take the day to drink it in.
From the map it is apparent that the major sites are: The Gymnasium, Theatre, Market (Agora), and the three Byzantine basilicas. These will be dealt with in the following chapters, finishing at the ancient Roman port.
If your visit is in the height of summer, bring sunglasses or some form of eye shade, especially if you're one of those Nordic types with blue eyes. The glare off the white rocks can be very tiring and even damaging to your eyes. Here is an idea for the day's visit:
Morning: Gymnasium, Great Hall and Theatre.
Midday: Picnic, swim and siesta on the beach.
Afternoon: Basilicas and ancient port.
Visitors to the ancient site of Salamis should be aware of the tremendous catastrophic changes that have occurred and this is the reason why it has yielded very little evidence about the history of the city in Roman times.
The visitor should look at the ancient. buildings and think of the number of times in 2,000 years that they have been taken down, torn down by earthquakes, and stones shifted from one place to another.
So: I . If you are in a frantic hurry just see the Gymnasium.
2. If you are in a slight hurry see the Gymnasium and Theatre.
3. If you have all day see, as well as the above, the market (Agora), the three basilicas, and the ancient harbour.
4. If you have 2 days spend the second day around the royal tombs and St Barnabas Monastery.
In any guide book on Cyprus the chapter on Salamis nearly always shows the view in Figure 5 of those tall marble columns symbolic of the `grandeur that was Rome.' They all toppled down in the great earthquakes of 332 and 342 A.D. and although many were re-erected in late Roman times, i.e. the Byzantine period, they fell down again and became buried in the sand that had also silted up the ancient Roman port. In I 882 these marble columns were discovered but it was not until I 955 that the task of re-erection was completed. Since then, their presence has become one of the greatest tourist attractions of the island. When the workmen were doing the restoration they could not find the proper capitals to ft on the top of the marble shafts. This was probably due to the mistakes made by the Byzantines way back in the 5th century A.D. when the Roman buildings were restored after the earthquakes. You will see that many capitals are misfits.
The Gymnasium, or the palaestra as the Romans called it, was the exercise ground, but all these public Buildings and baths were only for Roman citizens, who lived a life of luxury and ease, surrounded by several thousand slaves who lived in a special area of ancient Salamis. )just think of transporting these 50-ton shafts of marble across hundreds of miles of sea in the small sailing ships of the time. Such good sculpturing marble was not to be found in Cyprus, so it had to be imported from Turkey, Greece, and Italy. Even today, with our bulldozers and heavy machinery it is a difficult task to set up these columns and place the great capitals on top. What must it have been like then?
Some columns are smooth. others grooved or fluted, and some carved in spiral fashion or with zigzag stripes. Only one or two of the smooth shafts show traces of paintings and inscriptions can be seen, but the Romans with their majestic lettering found the shafts unsuitable for inscriptions. Not so the ancient Egyptians, who covered their columns with hieroglyphics.
The havoc from the earthquakes was so great that the emperor at the time, Constantius, gave the town exemption from all taxes and so in return the name was changed from Salamis to Constantia, the name lasting all through the Byzantine period, 390 A.D. to I I 92 A.D.
North of the Gymnasium is the swimming pool fringed with marble statues and this is shown in Figure 4. There are many of these bathing pools, all quite small, for the Romans were bathers rather than swimmers. Why have the statues no heads? It may be, as some authors suggest, that the early Christians were intolerant of the pagan ideas of Roman goddesses and took the heads off. The Romans did not hare mixed bathing! So, I suppose they could be content to gaze up at the marble goddesses, especially when you didn't have to buy drinks for them. However, a more logical explanation is to be found in the Renaissance period in European history. About the I bth century it became fashionable for people to revive the culture of ancient Greece and Rome. People liked to have some marble object of antiquity perched on a pedestal in their hall or garden. It was very easy to lop off the head of a marble statue from all these ancient ruins, easy to carry away, and above all no one stopped you.
It was not regarded as looting. Some of the marble heads from Salamis and other places are to be seen in the Nicosia museum.
Today, officials of the Antiquities Department keep a watchful eye on visitors trying to take away souvenirs, so you will see patrols going round from time to time during the day. If you want bits of antiquity as souvenirs there are thousands of souvenirs, fragments of Roman pottery along the beach, which is a few hundred metres north of the Gymnasium.
Next to the Gymnasium is a complex of buildings where the visitor will soon get lost in a labyrinth of corridors, porticoes, and blocked-up doorways. The reason for this is that during the centuries of the late Roman Empire, when polytheism was replaced by monotheistic Christianity, the Byzantines converted many of the Roman pagan buildings into other social uses. Now it so happened that the great earthquakes of 332 and 342 A.D. provided an easy opportunity to do this reconstruction. Marble columns and stone arches were transferred to other buildings and when they couldn't find a useful place for columns they were just thrust into the walls. They continued the Roman ideas on sanitation and central heating. You can still see the places where the furnaces provided the central heating (see plan, Figure 8). The hypocaust was a hollow space under the floor in which hot air from the furnaces was ventilated to heat the floors and baths. The air ducts are visible in odd places and these are made of terracotta. To maintain the system, a large number of slaves were housed in other buildings. There are no mosaic floors and, instead, decorations of tiles in the form of triangles and squares were used; called `opus sectile' by archaeologists. (In late Roman times i.e. Byzantine.)
You may pick up odd fragments for souvenirs such as pottery sherds, but of course not big chunks of sculptured marble; that is certainly forbidden. Marble statues, pieces of pottery, and coins are now all scattered in various museums in Cyprus, London, New York, Paris etc. This is the price that Cyprus has to pay for getting archaeologists from foreign universities to come here and do the excavations. Such `digs' are far too expensive for local governments.
Along the south wall (see plan Figure 8) there is a semicircular recess revealing a large mosaic picture of Apollo seated on rocks, dated about the 4th century A.D. Figure 6 shows the precise location but. as it is high up and not in good condition, a good photograph is difficult.
Today's tourists are much more educated than those of say 30 years ago. People are more knowledgeable in archaeology simply because millions watch the T.V. programmes. It is a subject that has become very popular on T.V. because of the colourful scenes and the powerful personalities doing the programmes.
Most people know the three orders of Grecian capitals but, just to recapitulate, we have here around the Gymnasium the dominant Corinthian capital. The bell shaped marble head at the top of the column is decorated with sculptured acanthus leaves, but after 2,000 years of exposure to wind, rain, and sun, the rock gets dissolved away. This is due to the rain water lying on the surface of the rock being made acid by the action of microscopic organisms. Have you noticed how clean and white marble looks after the rainy season? in Figure 7 are shown examples of `dissolved' capitals and we can see that many are too small for the columns below. Those Byzantine boys had quite a job trying to find the correct fitting capital when they were restoring the city fifteen hundred years ago.
In domestic engineering the ancient Romans were almost up to our modern standards, especially in central heating. They refused to sit in cold rooms in winter, as many Cypriots do even today. Instead they installed a central heating system in their stone houses. When excavations are in progress, the archaeologists like to do their restoration work by the 'half done' technique to expose ancient methods of building and in this way are able to show visitors a good deal of the Roman way of life. This fine example of archaeological anatomy can be seen in the West Hall and is shown in the sketch, Figure 9. A large air space has been exposed below the floor which is supported by Z-metre high pillars of terracotta tiles. This is the hypocaust and is connected by air ducts to the furnaces in the outer buildings. This system required a very large number of slaves, not only to stoke up the furnaces day and night, but to forage around the countryside collecting wood and olives. The Mesarya plain in the middle of Cyprus was well forested in ancient times and it was not until the late Middle Ages that timber became scarce in Cyprus.
A Street Aqueduct
The Romans had almost an obsession about baths and running water which, to them, was the life blood of the town. So it should be, in dry Mediterranean climates. They used running water for an excellent system of sanitation, far superior to what we see in many villages today. The example shown in Figure I 0 can be seen just outside the Great Hall and it is part of an aqueduct either feeding an underground cistern or connected with sanitation. How was it made waterproof? Clay was puddled in between the stone blocks, but in other Roman towns of the Middle East the use of bitumen was known, and was used for caulking amphorae containing wine and olive oil. There were public lavatories in Roman towns and this stone conduit could have been connected to one. Their sanitation was based on running water and is in contrast to the Cypriot methods of today of underground tanks for sewage.
This rather massive piece of stonework forms a large recess in the South Hall and, as it is one of a series, it shows how large the Great Hall was. Perhaps in the 2nd century A.D. it was covered with a mosaic picture, to be destroyed later during Byzantine restoration of the 4th century A.D. The Romans used a very strong kind of mortar that has lasted for 2,000 years. The exact method of making it is still not known.
The Sergeant's Stripes
It was common practice among Roman masons to decorate marble columns with pictures or designs if left smooth or to sculpture grooves to give a fluted appearance. Occasionally, the zigzag pattern was used and an example can be seen in the Gymnasium and the upright column by its side is the more common fluted type. The masons of ancient times knew that whatever they sculptured in stone had to be of such a design as to allow a rapid run-off of rainwater, for there's nothing more damaging to stonework than to have rainwater lying around in small pools on the stone surface. (Some historians declare the zigzag design to be the origin of the sergeant's stripes in the army. Zigzag patterns were much used to decorate stone arches of Norman churches in England in the I ! th and I 2th centuries.)
The theatre is only a few minutes walk south of the Gymnasium, and so well restored that it looks like a modern building. When it was discovered in I 959 the Antiquities Department decided to make the restoration so complete, that it could be used for plays and concert performances for modern Cypriot audiences. This is good for indoctrinating the masses of people with the rituals of an ancient culture, but rather detracts from the antique atmosphere of `the ruins of Salamis'.
In ancient times it was quite a remarkable feat of civil engineering to construct such a large building. It is obvious that a massive wall would have to be built to support the high rise of back seats which reach a height of 20 metres. Wherever possible, the Romans built their theatres into the hill side to solve the problem of supporting escalating rows of seats wrapped round the stage below. Good examples of this are to be seen in the ancient Roman towns of Termessos and Aspendos in southern Turkey.
Salamis theatre dates from 200 A.D. when Augustus was emperor and here plays were performed at intervals for 200 years until 400 A.D. when the Byzantines let it lapse into a ruin, much of the marble floor tiling and seat covers being used in the restoration of the Gymnasium which we can see today. At intervals between the orchestra and stage were large marble statues of various Roman dignitaries, two which are shown in Figure I 3 and the remainder are to be seen in various museums in Cyprus and foreign countries. The auditorium had 50 rows of seats to give a seating capacity of several thousand with special seats in the central area for Roman V.l.P.s and we presume that the show could not start until the Emperor and his flunkeys arrived. A good political move to give the Roman establishment a boost.
The plays were mainly of a bawdy nature-the `Windmill' or `Moulin Rouge' of Salamis! Perhaps this is the reason why the Byzantines tended to ignore the theatre and its crowds, preferring to attract the masses of people to congregate in their Christian basilica churches.
It is very difficult to understand the worship of many gods in Roman society; sacrifice to the gods was always given on the stage before any performances started. It was more or less a permissive society, quite in contrast to the Christian ethics, especially in attitudes to sex.
If you climb to the seats in the back row you can easily hear someone talking on the stage far below, so the Roman pop singers had no use for amplifiers and electric guitars. By our standards, it was mainly a young audience, for one must remember that the expectation of life for either a citizen or slave was only 30. Just think of becoming a senile pensioner at 30 This conclusion has been deduced from examination of the ancient skeletons found in the combs of the necropolis (cemetery). Great praise to the Romans for their baths and hygienic methods of sanitation, but there must have been something radically wrong with their eating and drinking habits to expire soon after 30. Our life span is up to 70.
The general appearance of this theatre is one of bareness and this is because nearly all the sculptures that decorated the place have been removed. It is no use leaving them here, for vandalism is almost universal, even among courists, though why people want to scratch their names on the marble columns is a mystery; perhaps it is the attraction of a white surface and the desire to impress others that `we had a happy visit here.' Some graffti in other ruins go back to the beginning of the I 9th century when only the well-to-do could travel to such distant shrines of antiquity. While sketching in a quiet and secluded corner the writer has often seen well dressed tourists complete with guide books and cameras, hastily try to remove a piece of marble flooring or scrawl on a column, to be followed by their very red faces when they discover me.
As we move away from the theatre and get an overall picture ar the site, it is possible that the back wall of the stage rose to the full height of the auditorium, and this is common in Roman theatres elsewhere.
Instead of a permanent roof to the entire theatre, awnings could have been placed across the auditorium and in this way both actors and audience were withdrawn from the outside world. This was the Roman idea in which the interior of a building was of far greater importance than the exterior. This is in contrast to the Greek idea which was to have the theatre as a structure in the open air.
The general appearance of this theatre is one of bareness and this is because nearly all the sculptures that decorated the place have been removed. It is no use leaving them here, for vandalism is almost universal, even among tourists, though why people want to scratch their names on the marble columns is a mystery; perhaps it is the attraction of a white surface and the desire to impress others that `we had a happy visit here.' Some graffiti in other ruins go back to the beginning of the I 9th century when only the well-to-do could travel to such distant shrines of antiquity. While sketching in a quiet and secluded corner the writer has often seen well dressed tourists complete with guide books and cameras, hastily try to remove a piece of marble flooring or scrawl on a column, to be followed by their very red faces when they discover me.
As we move away from the theatre and get an overall picture of the site, it is possible that the back wall of the stage rose to the full height of the auditorium, and this is common in Roman theatres elsewhere.
Instead of a permanent roof to the entire theatre, awnings could have been placed across the auditorium and in this way both actors and audience were withdrawn from the outside world. This was the Roman idea in which the interior of a building was of far greater importance than the exterior. This is in contrast to the Greek idea which was to have the theatre as a structure in the open air.
A few hundred metres to the south west of the Gymnasium are the ruins of a large baths establishment, but it has only been partially excavated, so unless you are a keen archaeologist, give it a miss and save your energies for other places.
The Water Clock
When visitors see the site marked `water clock' on the guide plan, their imagination runs riot; they become fascinated in the hope that they will see something spectacular, perhaps a huge pedestal with the remains of the clock still showing. However, all you see by the road side is a circular mass of stones partly covered by vegetation. It is only assumed that it could have been some water clock. It is not worth a photograph or a sketch; stare at it, and pass on.
The Granite Forum
A little way along the road past the `water clock' on the opposite side of the road you will see some large granite columns lying horizontally (see Figure I 2). It is believed that here was a large forum, probably all thrown down by the earthquake. Close inspection shows that the granite has a pink colour and this indicates the origin of the stone columns, upper Egypt. Why on earth did they bother to transport these (Figure I 2) 50 ton columns all the way down the Nile by barge and then 200 miles across the sea in those small sailing ships? Perhaps they wanted to create an impressive building and as a change from the white marble columns to have them in pink. The colour is due to the reddish feldspar crystals within the granite, the same kind of stone used in the obelisks of ancient Egypt, 2000 B.C.
The Byzantine Cistern
Further along the same road we come to the ruins of one of the largest stone cisterns in Cyprus. From the sketch, Figure I 3, we can see that the upper parts of the supporting piers overhang. It is assumed from these projections that the cistern was covered over, a necessary precaution in a mosquito-infested environment. The structure has been dated at about 400 A.D. and is therefore Byzantine. Why was it necessary to build such a huge cistern? After all, there was that 30-mile-long aqueduct bringing a continuous supply of water from Degirmenlik (Kythrea). Perhaps the earthquakes disrupted supplies or the inhabitants could not give protection to this vital 'pipe line'. It is quite pleasant to wander around these ruins and think of these ancient times with fine public buildings and an orderly way of life. But outside the city the countryside was full of hostility, brigands, and marauding bands in plenty who drew off the water from the aqueduct when they wanted it. In order to keep the city going huge storage cisterns had to be built! There is another interesting Byzantine cistern in north Salamis, near the coast where some fragments of Christian paintings can be seen.
A few hundred metres along the road past the great Byzantine cistern we come to the Agora or market place. This is supposed to be the largest Agora in any Roman town in Mediterranean countries. Close to the entrance there was some large public building or forum, as indicated by the solitary tall marble column shown in sketch Figure I4. In the background is the only place in all Salamis where the massive town walls which encircled the city are exposed, for elsewhere we can only see lines of mounds with but a few projecting stones. About here the main 30-mile aqueduct supplying water to the city all the way of Degirmenlik (Kythrea) entered the city close to the great stone cistern.
The Agora was the social rendezvous for both citizens and slaves, whereas elsewhere as in the Gymnasium and public baths it was for citizens only. The vast rectangular space as viewed from the podium of the Temple of Zeus is shown in Figure 1 5. There is nothing spectacular here in the way of ruined buildings but it is the great size of the market that is impressive. On both sides are stumps of columns like stone drums. and these are the remnants of a magnificent colonnade erected in front of the numerous shops and stalls. The vast open space was diversified by monuments, statues. and shrines. At the far end was the temple of Zeus, but all that is left is just the high platform or podium. The writer's reconstruction is shown in Figure I 6 to show what it must have looked like in Roman times, 2,000 years ago.
The rows of shops behind the columns had stone benches into which were carved small hollows for measuring out grain, olives etc. and marks on the stone were made for standard measurements. We cannot see them here, but in the Roman Agora in Djemila, Algeria, they can all be seen standing today. This was the place for 'wheeling and dealing' but above all for gossip. You can see in the restoration picture, Figure I 6, Roman citizens paying homage to the statue of some god or Roman senator, while others go to sacrifice in the upper temple of Zeus, or temple of Jupiter, as this is its proper Roman name.
The Roman world was rigorously capitalist in which the authority of the state was reinforced by strict universal religious observance to the many gods that the Romans had invented. Along with statues of the gods were those of well-known public figures, senators, army generals etc. and all made by the sculptors in far greater than life size. It thus gave Roman dignitaries almost divine power which we were to see in England over a thousand years later, in the doctrine of `the divine right of kings'.
Where did all the market produce come from? Here you could buy fruit, grain, olives, wine, and rolls of cloth and household goods, pottery etc. Nearby was the port of Salamis bringing in goods from Italy, Turkey, Greece, and the Middle East. A good deal of foodstuffs were obtained from the surrounding countryside where the local people could pay their taxes in the form of farm produce. Salamis was a great commercial centre of Cyprus centralised in this huge market. Outside the city the Roman legions maintained some form of order, so you felt quite safe within the walls enjoying your morning gossip in the Agora. This was the Salamis supermarket without computers.
There are three ancient basilica churches in Salamis that have been excavated and the largest, St Epiphanos, is not far from the large Byzantine cistern described previously. You are strongly advised to use the map as it is not a conspicuous ruin and many visitors tend to look at the wrong ruin. Nothing like the Gymnasium, and you will not see a ruined cathedral!
Before the Romans adopted Christianity as a state religion the basilica was an oblong building used as a court of law and the recess or apse at the far end was for the judges' assembly. This recess was either semicircular or polygonal and was an ideal sort of building for the Christians to convert into a church. The main hall became the nave and aisles, while at the far end the altar was placed in the apse, preferably facing the east.
A general view of the basilica is shown in Figure I 7 but all we see are two long rows of stumps marking the site of a magnificent colonnade forming the aisles of the church. Many large Corinthian capitals in marble were rescued from the ruin and they are now placed in their original position. It must have been a very impressive church when it was erected about 400 AD.: the 'Salisbury Cathedral' of Salamis.
In Figure I 7 at the far end we can see the semicircular apse where the altar was situated and close by is a group of buildings with smaller apses. It is thought that when the big church declined a smaller church was built here. If you want to see a much better basilica, not so large, it can be seen near the town of Erenkoy (Yialousa) in the Karpas peninsula.
For those who are not devotees of Christianity, the writer has done a series of drawings showing how the churches in Cyprus developed, Figure I 8. There are hundreds of them all over the countryside and many are of different ages. The main features of the Greek Orthodox church to distinguish it from Latin or Roman churches are the dome and the barrel-shaped vault forming the roof. Much later, separate towers were built to house the church bells. This belfry tower is called the campanile and there is a very conspicuous one in Girne (Kyrenia).
One reason for the separation of Christian and Moslem Communities in Cyprus is the Greek Orthodox Church's unchanging pattern in using religion for political purposes. The church bells in Cyprus were used during I 955-74 to promote intercommunal strife. As a result of this attitude of the so-called 'Man of Religion' in Cyprus I I 7 mosques were destroyed.
Have you noticed the large number of churches scattered all over the Cyprus countryside? Churches large, small. and very tiny, on mountain tops, out in the wilderness, in caves, and in lonely places on the seashore. What is the reason for this?
The origin lies in Salamis. Here in 395 A.D. the Byzantines built their first churches by adaptation from the Roman basilica. These early Christian communities gave the bishops political power. They exploited this by pretending to confer on the Roman governors and emperors, who were really 'Pagans' i.e. non-believers, divine power and even tried to make them God's representatives on Earth. It was a very clever move for the Roman governors seized the opportunities to give themselves more political power by welding Church and State. This has lasted to the present day, when we see the Greek Orthodox church taking a vigorous part in Cyprus politics, and even pervading both schools and the army.
The church of Campana Petra is not far from the ancient harbour (see map, Figure I 9). The church is the only one in Salamis that has part of the walls and windows still standing, as shown in Figure I 9. Obviously, the building stones come from more ancient Roman buildings and the tall marble column with Corinthian capital in the centre of the picture must have come from some Roman temple. It is very similar to the Roman columns seen in the Byzantine church inside Girne Castle and in the chapel house at Bellapais abbey. The church of Campana Petra was probably used up to about 900 A.D. after which Salamis was deserted.
Nearby is another Byzantine church with a well-preserved semicircular apse also with several large stone troughs and basins, used in baptising rites (Figure 20). Water for baptismal purposes was a feature of all the churches and so the place was conveniently built near a well. The well can be seen nearby and, would you believe it, after over I 500 years there is still water in it!
A remarkable sculptured slab can be seen close to the apse and it is grooved with various channels in the form of a Byzantine cross, the water leading off into a stone basin. Perhaps there is some common idea in worship of God in the use of water, as witness the washing of feet outside the Mosque.
In London and most cities of the world, the urban areas fulfil various functions. East London is a vast area where the working-class population lives and where there are docks and many factories. West London is the higher class residential area and adjacent is the region of government offices. Close by is another sector where we find the places of entertainment, theatres, cinemas, and other forms of amusement.
Roman Salamis was divided in a similar way. We find the Forum, Municipal Baths, and Gymnasium on the north side of the city, while to the south is a huge area of sandhills, covered with maquis scrub, which extends far away to the ancient Roman port. Deep down beneath the sand are many hundreds of tiny houses. of which at present only about 30 have been excavated. The reason for this is that archaeologists derive their best finds from the ancient villas of wealthy Roman citizens, and of course in order to make the site good for public display only large buildings are dug out. Nevertheless, if you wander round this area it is resplendent with many wild flowers, especially in spring.
One must remember that Salamis might have had about 2,000 Roman citizen who had political rights and who spent much of their time at the Municipal baths, the Forum, and the Theatre. Then there were about 6,000 slaves, some of whom lived in the back yards of large Roman villas. Some were semi-free men who travelled every day across to the northern side to do various jobs. For them, the place of social rendezvous was the Market (Agora), on the fringe of the working-class area.
The view shown in Figure 2 I is the place where some 30 houses were excavated. It is difficult to make out the pattern of the streets but aerial photos of Salamis reveal the typical chessboard pattern. There was town planning even in those days! There was no running water and so you will see numerous small stone basins lying about, and here and there huge mounds of pottery and assorted ancient rubbish. It is by carefully going through all this, with a small brush and trowel, that the very interesting parts of Roman social history can be discovered.
Unless you are a keen archaeologist, there is no need to linger here, but you could pick wild flowers. then make a bee line for the ancient port, the final visit for Salamis.
Obviously. to see this place, we must follow the coast, but you need a car, as it is about I /z km. from the entrance. Always take your map with you. as you may find yourself at a cross-roads with no signposts.
The general view is shown in Figure 22 and we can see that the Romans took advantage of a small promontory to give natural protection from prevailing winds. The long Jetty shown in the sketch consists of huge stone blocks which were formerly tied together by iron straps but only the sockets are visible today, since in the Middle Ages, when iron was in great demand, the iron pieces were detached. You must be a good swimmer, and very nimble with feet and hands, to go out and examine the jetty. It is amazing how it has lasted some 2,000 years with all the battering of winter storms.
On the beach, notice in the sketch a large oblong stone box. It is an ancient Roman sarcophagus and many of these are in use today as stone troughs for public fountains, notably in Famagusta The beach here is a paradise for a beachcomber. You can pick up fragments of Roman pottery, pieces of polished marble etc., all being washed up by the waves after every winter's gale. Last year a fine sculptured marble head was found, but of course if you find a real `goody' report to the custodian and if it is not of much importance you may be allowed to keep it. It is also an ideal hunting ground for those with metal detectors, though you must get permission to do this.
Figure 23 is an imaginative drawing of the port, showing a Roman sailing ship unloading a huge 50-ton granite column which we noticed in the stone columns now lying close to the road near the 'water clock'. To transport these huge blocks of stone for building Salamis, large numbers of slaves were necessary, and they were close at hand living in the slave area nearby. Notice the large oar on the stern end of the ship. With another one on the other side the ship was steered, as it was not until hundreds of years later that the ship rudder was invented.
This concludes our visit to Salamis, but we must wind up with the most interesting chapter giving details that are to be seen here. After all these, are you now convinced that the very minimum duration of a visit to Salamis is one full day?
Our final chapter on Salamis is about four interesting curiosities that often puzzle the visitor; I . Marble heads; 2. Burial of the dead; 3. Mosaic floors; 4. Latrines.
I . Marble heads
In the early days of Salamis, i.e. before I 00 B.C., marble heads of men and women were all done in the same style, with no representation of character. This is well shown in the statues around the Gymnasium baths. By about 200 A.D. the sculptors had learned how to portray various characters in marble. Statues of Roman Gods, Emperors, magistrates etc. show their characters in life. There are not many such marble heads to be seen of this period, for they have been taken away to various museums. At any rate, you know now how to date pieces of statue. Figures 25 and 26 explain sculpture.
2. Where were the dead buried and how was it done?
No sign of a cemetery in Salamis, nor has one been discovered outside, except of course for the very ancient Bronze Age tombs nearby. About I 00 B.C. dead were cremated and the ashes placed in pottery urns, and the cemetery, called the Necropolis, was outside the zone. Later, about 200 A.D. the dead were placed in stone boxes called Sarcophagi and this process is called inhumation, and of course this is done today in European countries. If you were an important Roman person, details of your life were often carved in relief on the side of the sarcophagus and this is one of the ways Roman history is written. There is a large stone coffin lying on the seashore near the ancient Roman port of Salamis, but many others have been taken away, for they make lovely stone troughs for public fountains. A good one is at Bellapais abbey and another is at the fountain in Famagusta. In Byzantine times people were inhumated in coffins made of terracotta because stone was too laborious to carve and wood was becoming very scarce with the destruction of forests in Cyprus.
3 Why no mosaic floors in Salamis?
In the houses of the rich Roman citizens, wall to wall stone carpets were laid down. This consisted of myriads of tiny pieces of coloured stones with pieces of red terracotta called cesserae. Pictures of hunting scenes and various scenes from Roman mythology were the main subjects. Now when the Christian Byzantines took over in 400 A.D. they did not like these mosaic floors and most were destroyed because the scenes depicted were pagan and anti-Christian. In a few odd places there are some wall mosaics, as can be seen in the Great Hall near the Gymnasium. The Byzantines decorated their floors with coloured marbles to produce a geometric design. This is called by archaeologists, opus sectile and an example is given in Figure 28. Compare this with mosaic floor sketch in Figure 29.
The Byzantines did not like pictures on floors and so they decorated the walls of their churches. These mosaic floors of Roman times must have taken many hours of labour, but no matter, there were plenty of slaves around. Later on in Byzantine times slaves were fewer and there was plenty of coloured marble stone from Roman ruins. So now you know how to tell Roman from late Roman, i.e. Byzantine. If you see floors of opus sectile, it must be after 400 A.D. and for mosaic floors any period from I00 B.C. to about 300 A.D.
4. The Roman Lotrines
The great exercise ground, the Palaestra, around the Gymnasium was crowded with Roman citizens in ancient Salamis, so where did they go for toilet facilities? In the south- west corner of the Gymnasium were the communal 'loos' and their appearance today is shown in Figure 24. The toilets formed a semi-circular colonnade in which there is a seating capacity for 44 persons. There was a perfect drainage system and the effluent discharged by masonry conduits into the sea. At certain times of the day it was for women only. Yes, it was a man's world in Roman times and so the `dollies' had to wait! Meanwhile the men chatted to each other while on the seats! When Christianity became the official religion this kind of communal lavatory was abolished, for privacy was in favour.
Fig. 25 & 26
Where were the inhabitants of ancient Salamis buried? As the site was occupied for nearly two thousand years, from I I00 B.C. to 700 A.D. there must be a very large cemetery somewhere. The necropolis is an area of about 2 square miles and extends from Yenibogazici (Ayios Sergios) in the north to Tuzla (Enkomi) in the south. This is shown on the map (Figure 30).
Enkomi was a city of the late Bronze Age. until it was superseded by Salamis in I I 00 B.C., from about 700 B.C. to 500 B.C. The kings of Salamis were buried in large tombs, and in all about I 50 have been excavated. However, only about five are on public view, for when archaeologists complete their excavations the site, unless it is of spectacular value to tourists, is covered up, to put a stop to looting. The local villagers have looted these tombs for years and in some cases tunnelled right into the mound, but they were not always successful. Let us make it a non-political issue as to whether the Turkish or Greek Cypriots did it. Just think of a poor peasant toiling on his fields to gain a few coins when he knows that just below the surface antique `goodies' will fetch him hundreds of coins.
Fig. 27 & 28
This necropolis is of far more importance to archaeologists than the spectacular site of Salamis, so beloved by tourists. These tombs have yielded rich treasures in the form of vases, ornaments, pieces of carving and decorations that reveal much more about the life of ancient times than of the ravaged site of Salamis. Hence, this site lacks much appeal to the tourist, for the `goodies' are safely housed in museums far away, though on this site there is a small museum containing some grave goods. The writer has an excellent book entitled `Salamis' but discovered that I 45 pages of the 200-page book are devoted to the Royal Tombs and Necropolis and just 55 pages to Salamis itself!
Many of the Royal tombs are seen on the surface as huge mounds, or like a big tumulus, the matrix of which is made of mud bricks. Below this is a chambered tomb, built of very large stone slabs, hence the term megalithic tomb. Whether the famous King Teucer, founder of the city, is buried here is still in doubt. In 700 B.C. the Assyrians dominated Cyprus, to be followed by the Phoenicians, and then the Egyptians from 560 B.C. to 525 B.C. Each royal tomb has a sloping carriage way leading down to the stone chamber where the king was cremated on a funeral pyre. It was the custom to have a few slave burials with the king.
Outside, one usually finds the skeletons of horses and the remains of chariots. All around are large amphorae containing the incinerated remains of the dead. Many small jars contain the inhumated remains of infants. Interesting finds are the bronze blinkers, badges, head bands, and bits from the horses and amphorae which once contained cereals, fruit, and olive oil.
The tombs have all been numbered, and in particular, tomb 79 produced the richest amount of goods. Here was found a wooden throne decorated with ivory plaques. a large bronze cauldron decorated with griffins, carved bones, figurines, and many decorated amphorae and pots. All the grave goods are in the museum in Greek Nicosia, but the small museum nearby gives one a good idea of the extraordinary achievements in art more than two thousand years ago. From other tombs come decorations and ornaments showing pictures of Egyptian sphinxes and various gods of ancient Egypt. The very large mound, which forms such a conspicuous physical feature for miles around, is tomb No. 3. It is a beehive mound made of mud bricks, and long ago some villagers tunnelled into the centre of the mound, but failed to find the tomb. The place of burial was off-centre and archaeologists believe that this was done purposely by the ancient tomb builders to deceive would-be looters.
What more could the ancient Romans of Salamis have wished for! Here was a vast array of royal tombs for them to use as their cemetery. Much was looted and cleared away to make room for Roman sarcophagi to be dragged in, and many tombs show the niches built into the underground chamber for their installation.
A special area of rock tombs, about one hundred in all, has been excavated to the south- ern of the big tumulus and called the Cellarka. They date from 700 B.C. to 400 A.D. so that people were buried here from archaic to Roman times.
The Prison of St Catherine
The name is derived from folk lore and there are no written records to prove a St Catherine was ever imprisoned here. However, there might be a small element of truth in the story. The general view is shown in Figure 29 from which is the obvious deduction that it is some ancient Greek Orthodox chapel. And so it was in use as late as I 950 A.D. Below, one can see walls composed of ver-y large stones, and at first a Roman tomb of the Augustine period was revealed, and below this was the usual dromos or carriageway leading to the still more ancient burial chamber. Outside, were the skeletons of yoked horses and so the use of this so-called St Catherine's prison began in 700 B.C. and lasted till I 950 A.D. From this place it is logical to proceed across the road to the medieval monastery of St Barnabas.
On the opposite side of the road, by the Royal Tombs, is the monastery of St Barnabas. The two domes are a prominent landscape feature and the setting among the trees makes quite a picturesque view. A general view from the road is shown in Figure 29.
The church is typical Greek Orthodox, of the fifteenth century, but there was probably an older Latin church, parts of which are incorporated into the main building. The site is named after the apostle Barnabas who was stoned to death in 75 A.D. Church history claims that Barnabas wrote the gospel according to St Matthew which was found in his own handwriting on this site about 478 A.D. At that time the old Roman capital Paphos was superseded by Salamis, now named Constantia. The rock tomb of Barnabas is I 00 yards east of the church and the building erected over it resembles a miniature Greek church.
The external architecture is the usual type of the I 400 period with a barrel vault, domes and a campanile or bell tower. The interior is well looked after by the custodian and the various icons, iconostasis, and lighting are in excellent condition. The Antiquities Department are to be congratulated on their preservation and upkeep. Some marble columns with Corinthian capitals which support the domes must have been brought from nearby Salamis and the geometric mosaic pattern of the floor is the usual 'opus sectile' style of the late Roman or early Byzantine period.
people visited Cyprus , since 15th Sept, 1995