The Kingdom of Kourion, located on the southwestern coast of Cyprus, was established at the end of the Bronze Age, after the fall of the Mycenean Palaces. The Kingdom, which was built by immigrants from Argos, was an important Greek city-state, boasting divinely inspired Greco-Roman architecture that encapsulate the otherworldly and utopian ambitions of the pagans from antiquity.
An Introduction To The Kingdon Of Kourion, The Most Visited Tourist Attraction In Cyprus
A monument to the universal and timeless culture that built Kourion, much of the great kingdom still stands today, surviving millennia of wear, conflict, and calamity. Visitors can see the preserved ruins firsthand and imagine what it was like to be a part of a great Mediterranean island kingdom, long before Christianity.
- Location: Episkopi, Limassol District, Cyprus / Episkopi Cantonment, Akrotiri and Dhekelia (UK)
- Note: The Kingdom of Kourion is occupied by two nations, Cyprus and the United Kingdom
- Trivia: Kourion is also known as Curium
When Was Kourion Built?
The Kingdom of Kourion was officially built between 1,050 and 750 B.C., during what is known as the Cypro-Geometric period. The architecture of this period is defined by the architectural integration of precise mathematics and geometry. This marks the rise of logos, the Greek word for "logic" or "rationality". Perhaps the integration of logos is one of the reasons why the ancient kingdom is still standing.
The architecture of the Kaloriziki Necropolis provides the most compelling evidence for Kourion being built during the Cypro-Geometric period. The tombs of the necropolis date back to the 10th century and give archaeologists a sense of linear progression. For example, McFadden's Tomb 40, which was built in the 11th century, shows that about two or three generations after its founding, the Kingdom of Kourion had minted a wealthy class of aristocrats who spent lavishly on their burial chambers.
The rapid economic success of Kourion was largely due to deep cultural and trade ties with Greece. The social organization underlying the kingdom was highly advanced and involved the application of sophisticated philosophy and political science.
- Fun Fact: In ancient Greece, math and science were considered branches of philosophy
A Political History Of Kourion
Given the strong foundations that were interwoven into the fabric of Kourion, the kingdom continued to hold regional prominence for centuries, making it a strategic target for ambitious empires.
The Assyrian Empire was the first foreign kingdom to assume administrative control over the Kingdom of Kourion. This does not, of course, mean that the residents were necessarily subjected to oppression. Empire rule usually meant that the dominating entity would tax all of the trade that crossed the marine borders of Kourion while providing military protection against invading forces and internal uprisings.
In the centuries that followed, Kourion was controlled by and allied with the Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, and Cypriots. By the turn of the millennium, the kingdom was conquered by the Romans, who took it from the Ptolemaic government.
- Trivia: The Ptolemies were a Greek-Macedonian royal family who ruled the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Ancient Egypt
Cyprus has designated an independent state under Roman sovereignty. About 300 years after being conquered by the Romans, Kourion experienced an economic boom that, once again, created a wealthy class of elites. This societal progression was ascertained by dating the construction of new, ornate homes, tombs, libraries, monuments, and infrastructure to this time period.
A Cultural History Of Kourion
In this second century, Kourion's elites had amassed exorbitant wealth relative to the plebians. Leveraging this disparity in the population, the status quo was maintained with the use of complex social engineering. Pagan religion was central to this system, as the culture of the old world was spiritually oriented. Oracles, temple prostitutes, high priests and priestesses, and divinators had an important role in guiding the collective psyche of the plebians.
Through the political manipulation of these religious symbols and figures, the practice of imperial cult worship became mainstream. This was achieved by conflating the many deities of the pantheon with the many royal figures of the elite. Roman priests were installed in central positions to keep the people of Kourion in a state of submissive exaltation. The period of imperial cult worship is recognizable through the extensive epigraphical honors and politico-religious literature and artwork.
- Fun Fact: The principles of good governance and social organization were considered an extension of divine logos and thus studied with the utmost seriousness
For example, the cult of "Apollo Caesar" was essentially the worship of Trajan as a deity alongside Apollo Hylates.
In the centuries that followed, there were brutal Christian persecutions, revolutions, invasions, and earthquakes that shook the kingdom, forcing the elites and cultural practitioners to flee and leading to the decline of the kingdom.
Kourion is an archaeological site in the Limassol region of Cyprus. It is open to the public all year round.
- Managing Entity: Cyprus Department of Antiquities
- Hours: 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM every day
- Price: 8.50 Euro for a one-day ticket, 17 Euro for a three-day pass, 25 Euro for seven-day access
If visitors only have a day to explore the kingdom, it's best to know the main attractions and focus on seeing them. These include the amphitheater, bathhouse, stadium, aqueducts, and cemetery. For the historically inclined visitor, it is a must to also see the House of Achilles, House of the Gladiators, Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, and Cathedral of Kourion.