Pafos through time

Pafos is a place full of light. This sunny coastal town on the western side of the island is the most westerly part in Cyprus. The mild climate, the luminous atmosphere, the variety of landscape, the monuments of civilization and art, which are scattered all over the land, are the most important characteristics of the area. Light, sun, sea: three very ancient words still used today by the same people in the same place, describe the area of Pafos. It is washed by the sea to the west, the south and the north. In the past these seas were called the Kilikian (to the north), the Egyptian (to the south) and the Pamfylian (to the west). The natural environment creates a climate that is unique in the whole of Cyprus. The winter, of short duration, is mild, while the summer, the longest of the four seasons, is cool. The cold north winds halt at the low mountains in the centre of the region. They cannot reach the coastal plains of Pafos. In the town of Pafos, the hill of Mousallas was, according to the geologists, only a few metres from the sea. The waves came up to the foot of the hill. Pafos was a cradle of religions. Here the eastern goddess Astarte was worshipped, Hellenised as the goddess of love and fertility and took the name of Aphrodite, a name which was so closely linked to the place of worship that she was called the Paphian. Paphian Aphrodite occurs in many ancient Greek and Latin literary texts. It was also here in Pafos that the new religion of Christianity, which also came from the east, was "officially" received. The first Christian official in the whole of the Roman Empire was the Governor of Pafos, which in those days was the capital of Cyprus.

Ancient Pafos, or PalaiPafos, now known as Kouklia, was situated at the mouth of the Diarhizos river, the only river which still flows in the summer, and was the religious centre which attracted not only the Cypriots but also the inhabitants of neighbouring countries. Homer refers to the temple of Aphrodite at Pafos in Odyssey VIII, 362-366. All these worshippers came to "the navel of the world", as they called Pafos. This was the second "navel of the world". The first was at Delphi. Isychios, who describes Pafos thus and, moreover, places it before Delphi, may have meant that Pafos drew all the Greeks there because of the very large temple of Aphrodite or because there was a cone-shaped stone resembling a navel in the centre of the temple.

The worship of the goddess Aphrodite, which originated in Pafos, spread in time all over Cyprus. There were also important temples to Aphrodite at Idalion, Soli, Golgi, Amathus, Kition and Salamis.

Various interpretations of the name Pafos were given in antiquity. We have already mentioned Homer who, apart from the reference to Pafos by name, tells us also about Aphrodite's temple. Other ancient writers state that the town took its name from Pafos, the father of Kinyras, who was the son of Kefalos and came from the east. Others allege that the name came from Pafos, a woman this time, who was the daughter of the mythical Pygmalion. Pafos was founded in the 12th century BC and there are many traditions about who the founder was. One version alleges that Kinyras, King and High Priest of the temple and the father of Adonis, the beloved of Aphrodite, founded Pafos. The Roman author Tacitus supports this view. Homer makes reference to Kinyras in the Iliad, saying that the King – High Priest sent a breastplate as a gift to Agamemnon, leader of the Greek expedition against Troy (Iliad XI, 19-23). Another tradition, which Pausanias refers to, tells of the Arcadian King of Tegea, Agapenor, the son of King Ankaeus who had gone with Jason and the Argonauts.

After the Trojan War, Agapenor was driven by the winds to the western shores of Cyprus, where he founded the kingdom of Pafos. There are similar traditions about the founding of other towns in Cyprus during the same period after the end of the Trojan War. In the archaic and classical periods Pafos was one of the seven or eleven kingdoms of Cyprus. The Kings of Pafos came from the Kinyras family who, as mentioned previously, were at the same time the High Priests of Aphrodite. In the inscriptions found in this area the King of Pafos is called "King of Pafos and Priest of Anassa".

Pafos, with the other kingdoms of Cyprus, had supported the revolt of the Ionians against the Persians. As was to be expected, the Persians invaded the island and, after winning a victory on the plain of Salamis, easily took all the kingdoms of Cyprus. In 498 BC PalaiPafos was captured by the Persians. During Persian rule it appears that the Cypriot kingdoms, including Pafos, retained some form of autonomy, to judge from the right they had to keep their own coins, as happened in the case of the kingdom of Salamis. After the defeat of the Persians at Plataea, Pausanias liberated some Cypriot towns in 478 BC. Later, in 449 BC, Kimon liberated Marion and other towns in Cyprus from their pro- Persian rulers. The Persians became masters of Cyprus again after the Peace of Callias in 448 BC and ruled the island by using the Phoenician element against the Greek. Later, Pafos and the other towns united and became one kingdom under Evagoras.

Pafos was one of the towns that helped Alexander the Great to capture Tyre. The victorious commander left the towns of Cyprus free and used their mints, particularly that of Pafos. The excavations at the villa of Dionysus in New Pafos, now Kato Pafos, brought many coins to light, indicating along with other finds that a mint of some importance was there. The Pafos mint continued to be the most important one in Cyprus throughout the Ptolemaic period. Archaeological excavations in the area of PalaiPafos have shown that in the 4th century BC the area was very prosperous. From the various objects found it also appears that at this time there were important commercial transactions between Pafos and Athens. Attic pottery is particularly abundant. The influence of Attic art is also especially evident on the various Paphian archaeological objects.

The Ptolemies, who conquered Egypt at the beginning of the 4th century BC, took Cyprus at about the same time. The King of Pafos was Nikokles, the son of King Timarchos, the last king of the Kinyras family and great High Priest of Aphrodite.

The accession of Nikokles brought a significant development for the seat of the kingdom of Pafos. Nikokles abandoned PalaiPafos and founded New Pafos (Kato Pafos today), without of course the old town losing its importance as the centre of the worship of the goddess of love. The founding of New Pafos in about 320 BC was considered necessary chiefly because the old town did not have a suitable harbour. The harbour of the new town could serve the trade which had developed significantly during the 4th century.

A new era began for the town of Pafos, which grew into an important cultural, financial and administrative centre. The decision of Nikokles to move the seat of the kingdom of Pafos westwards because it needed a harbour proved to be correct. The town saw a great expansion of its trade and became the largest commercial centre not only in the south west of the island but in the whole of Cyprus. For about 400 years Pafos was the capital of Cyprus, supplanting, chiefly from the 2nd century BC, Salamis which was on the east coast of the island. Nikokles had also fortified the town and the course of this wall can be seen today in its ruins. The town could be entered through one of the four gates in the wall. With the death of Nikokles the most important dynasty of the Kings-High Priests of Cyprus also came to an end. The Kinyras family vanished from the history of Pafos and with them the tradition of King-High Priest also came to an end. The life cycle of the Kingdom of Pafos, which had lasted about 1000 years, was also completed.

With the conquest of Cyprus by the Ptolemies a new period began for the whole of the island. The kingdoms were abolished, including that of Pafos, Cyprus was incorporated as a unified administrative area into the Ptolemaic kingdom and Pafos was designated as the capital of the island, as the "metropolis" of all the towns of Cyprus. The reasons why Pafos was chosen as the capital of Cyprus were, primarily, financial and strategic: the temple of Aphrodite continued to attract worshippers from all parts of the then known world and the state collected money. Pafos was very near to Alexandria, the capital of the Ptolemaic state and communication was easier than with any other town in Cyprus, it was far from neighbouring countries from where attacks could be made and it also had abundant forests for the building of warships.

Pafos had a noteworthy cultural life during the Ptolemaic period. The theatre flourished and the only Cypriot playwright of antiquity of whom mention is made was Sopatros, who lived in the 3rd century BC and came from Pafos. Remains of the theatre are preserved in the north east part on the town, on the side of the hill called Fabrika.

New Pafos remained the capital of Cyprus during the period of Roman rule. Life in the town did not change much because Rome did not wish to change the method of administration or the habits of the people. The Romans felt proud to be near the temple of Aphrodite because, according to their mythology, the Julian family was descended from Aphrodite. The Roman pro-consul, the governor of Cyprus, had his seat in Pafos. One of the most famous pro-consuls of Rome, who stayed for a while in Pafos, was Cicero, the great orator of antiquity, who in one of his works praised the good character of the Paphians.

A great disaster befell Pafos fifteen years before the birth of Christ. A strong earthquake reduced the town to ruins. The new town, built in the place of the old, was called Augusta, perhaps after the emperor of Rome, Augustus Caesar. Augusta grew rapidly and its population reached 30,000. Inscriptions from this period refer to Pafos as "the holy metropolis of the towns in Cyprus".

At the beginning of the 1st century AD a very important event occurred in Pafos, which continued to be the capital of Cyprus. The Apostle Paul visited the town. He preached first in the synagogues and at other gatherings of Jews. The Roman pro consul of Pafos was Sergius Paulus, an educated man and an authority on natural science. Sergius Paulus summoned the Apostle of the Gentiles so that he could hear what he had to say. Among those listening was the sorcerer Elymas, who reacted strongly to Paul's teaching. Then the Apostle was forced to strike him blind. The proconsul Sergius Paulus needed no other proof to be convinced and become a Christian.

Cyprus seems to have become a Christian island after the 4th century, although quite a number of ancient Greek rites survived even after that period. Following Paul's visit, a bishopric was established in Pafos, which today still takes precedence among the bishoprics of the island. Pafos, with the whole of Cyprus, was incorporated in the Byzantine Empire, where it remained for about eight centuries.

The transfer of the capital in the 4th century weakened Pafos not only financially and politically but also with regard to the church. The earthquakes which hit Pafos during the 4th century brought not only destruction and depopulation but also its downgrading as the capital of Cyprus. While in the early years of the Byzantine Empire, after its reorganization by Constantine, the governor resided in Pafos, in the middle of the 4th century Salamis, renamed Konstantia, was rebuilt by the Emperor Constantine II and became the administrative and ecclesiastical capital of Cyprus. Salamis was probably preferred for strategic reasons. As a result of the earthquakes which the Pafos area suffered, the buildings in the market place, the Odeon, Asklepeion and the House of Dionysos were destroyed. These earthquakes, in combination with the order issued by the Emperor Theodosis for the closure of all the ancient sanctuaries, seem to have given the final blow to the worship of Aphrodite at PalaiPafos. After functioning for many centuries, one of the ancient world's most important centres of worship ceased to exist and with it Pafos ceased to be the "navel of the earth" and to attract worshippers from all the countries of the Mediterranean.

The harbour of Pafos began to acquire some importance again in the 5th and 6th centuries because of the export of silk. The silk industry, which developed in Pafos mainly because of the favourable climatic conditions and which flourished from the time of the Byzantine Empire till the end of British rule, helped to increase the low income of the inhabitants of the area.

The Arab raids, however, which began in the 7th century and continued till the 10th , brought much destruction to the town of Pafos. The Byzantine fort of Kato Pafos shows the huge effort the inhabitants made to repel the ruthless invaders who left nothing in their wake. A result of these incursions was the move to a new town, Ktima, the present-day town of Pafos, about which we will speak later. The man who saved the inhabitants of Pafos and the other coastal towns from the Arab raids in the 10th century was the general and Emperor Nikiforos Fokas. In the course of his campaign in Cilicia and northern Syria, the Byzantine Emperor took Cyprus decisively and made it a province of the Byzantine Empire. It is worth noting that during the three centuries in which the Saracen raids occurred, Pafos was invaded more than twenty times.

In the Byzantine period, and especially in the 10th century, the harbour of Pafos became an important port of call for pilgrims going to the Holy Land. A large church dedicated to Panayia Limeniotissa (Virgin of the Harbour) was the shrine for all those pilgrims going to Jerusalem. Many of these pilgrims were kings or important figures in the west. Erik III of Denmark breathed his last in Pafos, unable to endure the hardships of the long and difficult journey. A guest of the Emperor of Byzantium, Alexis, he was on his way from Constantinople to the Holy Land. He died in Pafos in 1103 and was buried in the cathedral there. Welfo, Duke of Bavaria and Amadeo, Count of Saxony are also recorded as having died in Pafos.

A major saint of Orthodoxy who lived in Pafos in the 11th century was Neophytos Enkleistos. His monastery is situated just a few kilometres north of the present-day town of Pafos.

At the beginning of the Frankish occupation of the island, which lasted for four centuries, Pafos was one of the four original provinces of the kingdom. The harbour of Pafos, though it could not be compared in importance with that of Famagusta, was the most important one on the western coast of Cyprus. It was one of the harbours of Cyprus included in the commercial privileges granted by the Lusignans to the Genoese in 1232. Among the buildings left by the Lusignans in Pafos was the Fort of Forty Columns which dominated the harbour. This fort was destroyed completely in the earthquake of 1222.

During the coronation of Peter II in 1372 in Famagusta there was a clash between the Venetians and the Genoese. During the war that ensued between the foreign rulers of Cyprus, Pafos paid its own price in men and destruction. The Genoese captured the forts at Pafos harbour. Despite all the attacks made by the Cypriot forces, who also used "Greek fire", the Pafos forts held out. By the terms of peace agreed in 1374, however, the Genoese gave up all the fortifications except for the harbour of Famagusta. A few years later, in 1391, King James repaired the fortifications of Pafos. Important monuments of Frankish rule in Pafos are the Frankish baths, the Frankish cathedral and the Franciscan church.

When Queen Charlotte of Cyprus fought her brother James the Bastard over the throne of the island, Pafos found itself sometimes under the control of one and sometimes of the other. On the victory of James, Pafos, like the rest of Cyprus, became subject to the Venetians because James had used Venetian and Mameluke troops against his sister. This was the end of the Lusignans in Cyprus. James II married Caterina Cornaro, the daughter of a noble family of Venice. After the death of James, which occurred a few months after the marriage and was due to poisoning, Venice officially became the ruling power in Cyprus. The forts of Pafos, with those of Kyrenia and Limassol, were captured by the fleet of the Most Serene Republic.

Pafos fell into decline after the earthquake of 1222. This decline continued during the years of Turkish rule as well. We should, however, note that during the Venetian occupation Pafos remained the financial and commercial centre of south west Cyprus and its harbour continued to play an important role in the military life of the region. The goods exported from Pafos harbour during this period were mainly silk, cotton and sugar.

In the 15th century the Mamelukes invaded Pafos and laid waste Kouklia (PalaiPafos). This area was planted with sugar cane and had a factory for the production and processing of sugar. The first evidence of the existence of the present-day town of Pafos, which is also called Ktima, appears in Frankish authors, although it is certain that this area had been inhabited since very ancient times. The excavations carried out in the area of the new capital of the Pafos district brought to light objects which go back to the Neolithic period and to the Mycenean civilisation. It is likely that in the distant past Ktima was a huge necropolis. In any case, up to the Turkish conquest, the town of Pafos was a suburb of New Pafos. The name of the new town would have come from "vasiliko ktima" (royal estate), as it was called during Frankish rule, because it had been granted by the first Frankish king of Cyprus, Guy de Lusignan, to Aimery, former Conestable of Jerusalem. When the adjective "vasiliko" was dropped, the noun "ktima" remained. In the years of Frankish rule there were many orchards and quite a lot of water, a fact which made courtiers retreat there for the summer or for permanent residence. The first reference to the town of Pafos was made by Piero Tafour, a Spanish nobleman who visited Pafos in 1436. With the rest of Cyprus Pafos fell into the hands of the Turks and became the centre of one of the five administrative regions of the island. Four kadiliks (administrative areas) came under Pafos: Pafos, Kouklia, Chrysochous and Avdemou. A pasha was in charge of military affairs and later, in the middle of the 17th century, a bey. The whole of Cyprus was under the administration of the Grand Vezir, who appointed the governor general of the island, the Pasha, who had his seat in Nicosia. The Kadi, the district judge, had his seat in Pafos.

During Turkish rule Kato Pafos was abandoned and the present-day town of Pafos became the capital of the district. All the authorities came to Pafos and the town began to grow. One of the two subordinate governors of Cyprus had his seat in Pafos. The other lived in Famagusta. In the middle of the 18th century Ktima included 45 villages in which a total of 691 tax-paying Christian families lived. From the beginning of the 19th century Pafos was one of the six administrative districts of Cyprus and this continued under British rule. The Turks converted a number of Christian churches into mosques. On July 9th 1821 Pafos, like the other towns and villages of Cyprus, paid a heavy toll to the Turks who had begun to suspect that a revolt would break out in Cyprus as had happened in Greece. For this reason they arrested the leaders of the Cypriots in Nicosia, some of whom they beheaded and some they hanged. Among the senior clergy who were beheaded by the savage Turkish governor of Cyprus, Küchük, was Chrysanthos, the Bishop of Pafos. As well as the Bishop, Christoudias and Hadjizacharias, clerks of the elders of the town of Ktima, were beheaded in Seraglio Square. There is a column with the names of those executed by the Turks outside the cathedral of Ayios Theodoros in Pafos. Panaretos, who later became Archbishop of Cyprus, succeeded Bishop Chrysanthos at this difficult time for the church and all the Greeks in Cyprus. During this period of Turkish rule and also later, the church leaders of the Cypriots were also their political leaders. The Turks always consulted with them over the administration of the island and held them responsible for whatever happened in Cyprus.

When they moved out of Cyprus in 1878, the Turks left behind them a poor and down-trodden people and a country that was almost a desert. The only monuments they left in Pafos were some minarets on Christian churches.

The new rulers of Cyprus, the British, divided the island into six districts and subdistricts. Pafos, one of the six districts, was divided into the sub-districts of Ktima, Kelokedara and Chrysochous. A rudimentary form of self-administration was allowed to function. A mayor was elected in the town of Pafos. The first mayor elected was a Turk but from 1880 onwards the mayors of the town were Greek, with the exception of the period 1895-1907 when the chairman of the municipal council was English.

Pafos took part in every Greek struggle. From the revolution of 1821 to the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, the town declared its readiness with men from the town of Pafos or from the villages in the district to fight for the freedom of Greece, which they considered their motherland. The same happened in 1940, with the war in Albania and later in the Middle East.

In 1922, after the Asia Minor disaster, a number of refugees came to Pafos. The people of Pafos embraced with affection their fellow men who had been uprooted from their homes. In 1925 Cyprus was declared a Colony of the British Crown. In 1931 there was an uprising in Cyprus against British rule. The slogan was "Enosis" and Government House in Nicosia was set on fire. The events resulted in bloodshed. In Pafos there were rallies addressed by various speakers who stressed the need to drive out the British rulers. Some of the results of the 1931 uprising were the imprisonment or exile of the instigators, the intolerable suppression of the people, the imposition of restrictions on the operation of Greek schools of secondary education and on the free practice of the medical profession and the decision of the colonial government that law could only be studied in England. When the Archbishop of Cyprus died in 1922, the Bishop of Pafos, Leontios, who later became Archbishop, was appointed locum tenens in accordance with the statutes of the Church of Cyprus. Yet again the desire for freedom was demonstrated in Pafos at the celebrations in honour of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953. The people, with the pupils of the Greek Gymnasium of Pafos taking the lead, poured out into the streets to show their strong opposition to British rule. The celebrations, which were to have been held with great splendour at the Iakovian Stadium, were essentially cancelled because the pupils pulled down the symbols of Great Britain and prevented those invited from entering the sports ground. A leading role in these events was played by Evagoras Pallikarides, the hero of 1955-1959. The events in Pafos showed that the people were ready for the uprising which was not slow to come. Pafos was the only town in the whole of the vast British Empire in which such events took place on the day of the Queen of England's coronation.

In September 1953 Pafos suffered a severe earthquake. Forty people were killed and another hundred were injured. Thousands of houses, public buildings and churches were either completely destroyed or severely damaged.

Pafos played an important role in the armed struggle of the people of Cyprus against the British from 1955-1959. The first boat which came secretly from Greece bringing weapons for the Cypriot fighters was seized off the coast of Pafos, near Chlorakas, and its crew were arrested by the colonial police, tried and imprisoned. The last hero of the struggle to be hanged by the British was Evagoras Pallikarides, a pupil at the Greek Gymnasium of Pafos. During British rule Pafos had developed considerable intellectual and educational activity thanks to the efforts of the enlightened people of the town. Writers from Greece visited Pafos and gave lectures on subjects which preoccupied the intellectual life of Greece and Cyprus. Intellectual associations, such as "Kinyras", which was founded by Loizos Philippou, had a noteworthy presence and activity, newspapers circulated from the early years of British rule, literary journals such as "Pafos" had Panhellenic range, there were important works of poetry and prose and literary events such as the "Palamikes Yiortes" ("Palamas Festival") organised by Christodoulos Galatopoulos are worthy of mention.

On the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960, Pafos entered a new period growth, feeling particularly proud because the first President of the Republic, Archbishop Makarios III, came from Panayia in the Pafos district. New roads and bridges were built, new industries established and agriculture developed. During this period the tourist industry began to take an upward course. In general, the period 1960-1974 was one of the best for the economic growth of Pafos.

Several unpleasant events, however, occurred during this period, which had a negative effect on the economic growth of the whole island and, naturally, of Pafos. In December 1963 there were violent clashes in Nicosia between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. A few months later, in March 1964, there was an armed clash between the Greeks and Turks of Pafos. The clashes had begun on 27thDecember and culminated in the battle of Ktima, which lasted three days, from March 9th-11th 1964. The centre of the clashes was the market place of Ktima and the Turkish quarter of Moutalos. The Greeks and Turks, who had lived together for centuries and cooperated in all areas without problems, clashed violently and left many casualties on the battlefield. A few months after the battles in Ktima, in August 1964, the Paphians fought in Tillyria against the Turks who bombed the area. Pafos paid a heavy toll in blood in the battles of Tillyria for the capture of the heights of Lorovounou. A number of Greek Cypriots were killed in the strikes by the Turkish airforce, which used napalm bombs. Most of the dead belonged to the medical unit which was bombed at Pachyammos Hospital.

On July 15th 1974, following the coup d'état by the Greek Junta and their Cypriot collaborators against the President of the Republic, Archbishop Makarios III, Pafos was transformed into a veritable stronghold of resistance. After the Presidential Palace had been bombed and set on fire, President Makarios took refuge in Pafos and through the Free Radio Station there, which had begun operating immediately after the coup, sent a live proclamation to the Cypriot people, asking the citizens to resist the coupists.

A direct result of the coup d'état was the Turkish invasion on 20th July 1974, which caused huge destruction in Cyprus. There were thousands of dead and missing and tens of thousands of Greek Cypriots were forced to leave their homes and properties and become refugees in their own country. Pafos was bombed indiscriminately by the Turkish air force during the invasion. There were also battles in many areas of Pafos between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, especially in the Turkish quarter of the town. After the Turkish invasion, which brought a number of refugees who settled temporarily in the Turkish quarter of the town, the struggle began for survival and economic recovery. Since the two main tourist areas of Cyprus, Famagusta and Kyrenia, were occupied by Turkish forces, great importance was attached to the tourist development of Pafos. The International Airport was constructed and new hotels and facilities built to serve the tourists who come from all over the world to enjoy the natural beauty, to relax and to visit the historical and archaeological sites of the district.

Pafos today, as full of light as ever, spreads over the hill which dominates the small valley stretching green down to the sea. It enjoys the cool and fragrant air which starts from the sea, passes across Mousallas and the cathedral, the market place and the squares, bringing with it the voice of bygone centuries, each of which leaves its own traces. The entrance to the town, with the memorial to the fallen, Solomos Square, the Public Garden, the row of the neo-classical buildings of the schools, Kostis Palamas Square and 28th October Square, the Town Hall and the Public Library, are reminiscent of a town of classical Greece transferred to a modern period centuries later. One can trace the history of this town in its broken marble, its old buildings, the stones which have survived time and the devastation brought by the various conquerors, and in its people. The citizen of Pafos, who lives a comfortable life thanks to the prosperity which exists as a result of the economic growth of the town and who has no cause to envy any town in Europe, continues to be the same as the citizen described by Cicero in his letter to Gaius Sextilius Rufus: a citizen whom you should get to know to appreciate.

A.K. Fylaktou (original text in greek)

Newsletter Signup

* indicates required