Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.02.55

Marguerite Yon, Kition dans les textes. Testimonia littéraires et épigraphiques et Corpus des inscriptions. Publications de la Mission Archéologique Française de Kition-Bamboula, V.   Paris:  adpf - Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 2004.  Pp. 380.  ISBN 2-86538-292-3.  €44.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Céline Marquaille, King's College London (
Word count: 1619 words

The French mission has been excavating at Kition-Bamboula in modern Larnaca since 1976 and greatly contributed to illuminating the history of the city since its foundation in the 13th century. This volume is the fifth in a series started in 1982, which has been collecting and analysing material from the Bronze Age to the Roman period.1 Kition dans les textes catalogues written documents found in the territory of the ancient Cypriote kingdom of Kition, covering more than 20 centuries, although a large majority of the material dates from the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The specificity of this volume, which necessitated the participation of scholars from different disciplines rarely brought together, truly mirrors the particularity of cosmopolitan Kition. Though an important Phoenician settlement and city-harbour in the 9th century, Kition remained open to the Hellenic culture of its Greek neighbours, before the occupation of the Ptolemies, the Hellenistic masters of Egypt and of a Mediterranean empire, permanently integrated Cyprus into the Greek world. The scope of languages (Phoenician, Greek in syllabary and alphabetical forms, Cypro-Minoan, Latin, Assyrian, Egyptian, and Ugaritic) and the new finds produced by French excavations since the 1970s made this catalogue of written documents necessary. One of the great qualities of this volume is the editorial reflection and parti pris in the definition of what constituted the territory of Kition throughout antiquity. The epigraphical material presented in part II contains inscriptions found in Kition itself but also its immediate surroundings, the Kitian chora. When compiling Kition dans les textes, editors reconsidered the geographical and symbolic boundaries of this ancient city-kingdom across the centuries, therefore implicitly exposing the validity and meaning of political and religious space.

The volume has been divided into two main parts: Part I, Testimonia (nos. 1-1000), includes literary or epigraphical documents mentioning or alluding to the city, the kingdom or the inhabitants of ancient Kition; Part II, Corpus of Inscriptions (nos. 1001-7001), contains contributions by several specialists who present the entire corpus of inscriptions found in the territory of Kition. The numbering system remains deliberately open, attesting both the editor's acknowledgement of the possibility that documents may have escaped her attention and the fundamental 'work in progress' nature of such corpus.

Part I is organised by topics, according to a historical chronology rather than by type or date of documents. The interpretation of events gains from cross-references to other documents in the volume, especially when the classical tradition can be challenged by archaeological finds, for example the victory trophy of King Milkyaton found in 1990 (no.1144), attributing a victory to the Kitians against Salamis and Paphos where Greek authors had remained silent. The layout remains the same throughout the volume. Each item includes the source, date, a brief description of the material for non-literary sources, the text in its original version followed by a translation in French, and a brief bibliography. A last section includes a general but concise discussion, extremely helpful to the non-specialist for it illuminates the context of the document, elaborates on specific words or names, and presents controversial interpretations when necessary. Texts in Part I are organised according to topics: geographical references (chap. I); the city's origins and foundation (chap. II); Kition in history, with references to historical events such as the Assyrian domination, the Ionian Revolt, the Persian Wars, the time of the Diadochoi and the integration of Kition to the Ptolemaic empire (chap. III). It ends with a section on famous and less famous Kitians in antiquity (chap. IV).

Several points are highlighted in this first section. Generally, Greek authors seldom mentioned Kition and only did when the city played a role in Greek affairs, while in Biblical literature Kittim / Kition stood as a symbol for Cyprus. The name Kittim may have been originally used to designate the Cypriote population as a whole (for Phoenicians from Tyre, Kition was the first port of call in the Mediterranean), while in later biblical texts from the Hellenistic and Roman periods, for example the Qumran manuscripts (no. 30), Kittim was used to designate the Hellenistic kings (the Macedonian Perseus was 'king of the Kitians' in I Macc. 8.5, no. 28b). The strategic position of Kition as the Semitic door to the West is therefore epitomised by her association with Cyprus in the biblical tradition. M. Yon provides a useful update on the controversial location of the Cypriote 'Quartihadasht' / Carthage ('New Town') and its identification with Kition (pp 19-22, nos. 34, 35 and 39). If Kition could not boast an Evagoras, it was the native city of one of the greatest philosophical figures in antiquity, Zenon of Kition, who receives special treatment in chapter IV as the most famous of all Kitians (nos. 92-146); a useful bibliography is supplied, as well as, in addition to the complete passages from book 7 in Diogenes Laertius' Lives of the Philosophers, a separate list of the fragments mentioned by the bibliographer (nos. 102-126).

Part I ends with an index of sources and an index of museum provenance.

Part II accurately illustrates the diversity of languages attested in Kition, while disproportions between them reflect the city's historical development. The autonomous status of Cyprus within the Assyrian empire and the likely absence of an imperial administration, perhaps gained thanks to the strategic and economic assets offered by the island, seems to be confirmed by the scarcity of Assyrian documents, while the preponderant use of Greek from the Ptolemaic occupation onwards confirms the island's integration into the wider Hellenistic world. The introduction to part II contains useful remarks on the context of the material on which these inscriptions were engraved, as well as the nature and quality of the stone, particularly the various types used for statue bases.

The first section includes Phoenician inscriptions and supplements the epigraphical corpus published by M.G. Amadasi Guzzo and V. Karageorghis in 1977,2 to which M. G. Amadasi herself, in Appendix 1, provides additional comments, a bibliographical index, and concordance with CIS and RES; unpublished inscriptions have been collected by M. Sznycer in Appendix 2. The second section on Greek inscriptions is by far the largest. The first part on alphabetical Greek inscriptions opens with a relevant introduction to the history of archaeological missions and epigraphy in Cyprus. It is organised by topics: Divinities (2001-2012), Rulers and Public Life (2013-2067), Funerary Inscriptions -- mainly Roman cippi -- (2068-2226), followed by an appendix listing inscriptions whose provenance needed to be revised, an index of names, and finally plates. As for documents in Cypriote Syllabic, the editors provide a new document that did not appear in Masson's Inscriptions Chypriotes Syllabiques. This whole section is particularly significant since the Greek inscriptions from Kition, first collected by J. Pouilloux, whose dossier Th. Oziol here revises and discusses, are published together for the first time. The third section on Latin inscriptions presents few examples, showing the preponderance of Greek in the Roman East. The last four sections offer even fewer items and include inscriptions in Assyrian (ed. F. Malbrant-Labat; it includes the complete version of the famous Sargon Stele, followed by a lengthy commentary and plates), Egyptian, Cypro-Minoan, and Ugaritic (P. Bordreuil).

Considering the number of disciplines involved in this volume, to achieve a homogenous presentation with a clear layout, supported by numerous plates and transcriptions, was a difficult task that the editor achieved with remarkable success. The quality and thoroughness of the discussions entails frustration on several occasions, when important issues are not explicitly raised or unusual expressions or exceptional inscriptions even tentatively explained. It is regrettable for example that the editor did not more acutely clarify how Kition / Kittim specifically came to designate the Greeks or the Romans, i.e. western populations. Not all Phoenician inscriptions are systematically accompanied with comments in Appendix 1, and the reader is therefore rquired to consult the corpus published by Guzzo Amadasi and Karageorghis for further details. Some rare documents such as the epitaph of the Lycian Smyrnos inscribed in both Phoenician and Greek (no. 2068/1061; 4th-3rd c. BC), lack more detailed comments: it is pointed out that the epitaph was meant to be understood by a 'bilingual society' (p. 160) but it may have been useful to further enunciate the reasons why a Lycian, perhaps a Ptolemaic mercenary in the case of a late dating, would choose to be remembered in both Greek and Phoenician, or whether the use of Phoenician may have been more widespread among Greeks living in Kition.

Yet, both the high standard of the presentation and the quality of the specialists involved in the production of this volume makes Kition dans les textes not only an essential achievement in the history of Kition and Cyprus but also a methodological model for a multi-disciplinary approach to the history of a state (much needed in studies of Hellenistic and Roman Egypt for example). The main quality of this work lies in the many possibilities it offers to researchers from different fields and in the various purposes with which it can be used: to document the social, political, and religious history of Kition, and even more generally Cyprus and its long-lasting strategic importance in the relations between East and West; as evidence for Phoenician influence in the Mediterranean; finally as a social and political study of a multi-cultural society.

Some minor errors:

p 76: end of note 7 is missing.

p 90: 'Remarques' no. 83: despite recent use, the more standard form Ptolemy XII Auletes is still favoured to 'Ptolémée XI'.

p 170: volume III of Fouilles de Kition is Inscriptions phéniciennes, not Inscriptions de Kition.

p 238: 'Remarques' no. 2002 : Mitford '1961a' for references to thiasoi in Cyprus.

p 240: 'Remarques' no. 2005: Masson '1979' should read 1990 (Onomastica graeca selecta, 2 vols., Paris).


1.   Kition-Bamboula. I. Calvet, Y., Les timbres amphoriques, 1982; II. Salles, J.-F., Les égouts de la ville classique, 1983; III. Yon, M. and Caubet, A., Le sondage L-N 13 (Bronze récent et Géométrique I), 1985; IV. Salles, J.-F., Les niveaux hellénistiques, 1993.
2.   M.G. Amadasi Guzzo and V. Karageorghis, Fouilles de Kition. III. Inscriptions phéniciennes, Nicosia 1977.

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