Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2019.07.39 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2019.07.39

Anna Cannavò​, Ludovic Thély​ (ed.), Les royaumes de Chypre à l'épreuve de l'histoire: transitions et ruptures de la fin de l'âge du Bronze au début de l'époque hellénistique. BCH. Bulletin de correspondance héllénique: supplément, Vol 60​.   Athènes​:  École française d’Athènes​, 2018.  Pp. 356.  ISBN 9782869583078.  €35,00.  


Reviewed by Christian Körner​, University of Bern (christian.koerner@hist.unibe.ch)

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

Thanks to the French excavations begun in 1975, our knowledge about the city of Amathous on the southern coast of Cyprus has deepened considerably in the last few decades. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the French mission, a congress was held in Athens in 2015 to establish the position of Amathous in relation to the other Iron Age city-kingdoms of Cyprus. The wide range of topics covered by the papers that were given reflect this broad interest. What all papers have in common is the question raised in the volume’s subtitle: transitions, changes and breaks in the development of the Cypriot kingdoms.

Many papers are strongly influenced by the scientific approach of recent years, instigated mainly by Maria Iacovou and others. This approach may best be described as having two main characteristics: viewing the history of the so-called “city-kingdoms” in a longue durée from the late Bronze Age to the Hellenistic period and explaining their development using endogenous factors (“from within”, as Maria Iacovou aptly titles her own essay in the volume).

The volume is a collection of archaeological as well as historical papers. The first section focusses on the transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age. The second presents topographical studies of several kingdoms (Paphos, Amathous, Salamis, Idalion and Marion) based on archaeological evidence. The third section is dedicated to historical topics, while the final one deals with the transition from the 4th century to the Hellenistic period.

Considering the enormous impact her work has had on Cypriot archaeology, it is only fitting that the first contribution is by Maria Iacovou herself — it almost reads like a condensed summary of the results of the many research projects she has published over the last few years. Iacovou shows how the Cypriot Iron Age kingdoms developed out of the economic and political landscapes of the late Bronze Age. She emphasizes the continuities in Cypriot culture from the late Bronze Age to the early Iron Age. There was no general break between LCIIC and LCIIIA (13th–12th centuries BC); while certain areas suffered economic breakdowns, others flourished. These local differences may have produced domestic migration, which could help to explain changes in settlement structure.

Anna Georgiadou’s study of pottery imports from the Levant between the 11th and the 8th centuries BC also helps to illustrate the transition that occurred at the beginning of the first millennium BC, as well as the development of the island’s urban centres: Paphos, Amathous, Kition and Salamis. These were later recognized as cities of major importance in the written sources, already participating in overseas trade with the Levant during this early period.

The essays devoted to selected urban centres attempt to reconstruct the respective topographies and their development over the centuries. Eustathios Raptou’s paper on Palaipaphos gives an overview of recent surveys and excavations, mainly of tombs. Its results help to establish a preliminary topography of the town and its surroundings. It seems that the settlement structure of Paphos remained rather loose until Classical times, the town consisting of several urban nuclei.

According to literary sources, Salamis was the most important kingdom on the island. Sabine Fourrier’s article focusses on the archaeological evidence for the town, a complicated task indeed, since Salamis lies in the Turkish-occupied territory, making legal excavations impossible. Fourrier therefore has to rely on the results of the excavations carried out by the French mission from 1964 to 1974. She is rather cautious in connecting the archaeological evidence with historical events described in the literary sources.

Not much is known from written sources about the inland kingdom of Idalion. This makes Anna Satraki’s overview of its urban development from the late Bronze Age to the 4th century BC all the more welcome. She convincingly argues that the conquest of Idalion by the kings of Kition did not lead to a rupture — the new rulers respected local traditions and even adopted the royal title of “Kings of Kition and Idalion”. Satraki therefore refers to the kingdom as the “Kingdom of Kition and Idalion” for the last 150 years of its existence.

Of merit as well are the papers concerning historical topics, which prove a difficult task given the scarcity of written sources. The absence of Cyprus in Persian texts has often been noted. Antigoni Zournatzi now convincingly argues in her lucid article that the formula “(those) who (are) of the sea” encountered in Achaemenid inscriptions refers to Cyprus and — later on —other islands as well, and not, as often suggested, to a satrapy or province in Western Asia Minor. As Zournatzi shows, the Achaemenid Great Kings were rooted firmly in the tradition of the Assyrian monarchs, whose presentation of conquests in far-flung regions served to enhance their glory. Formulas like “(those) who (are) of the sea” or even “(those) who (are) beyond the sea” were more effective at evoking the splendour of the Great King’s conquests than prosaic, bluntly geographical terms like “Cyprus”.

Cypriot coinage is an difficult field of research. Evangelini Markou’s paper on the coinage of Amathous is striking in its clarity and precision. She argues convincingly that the mysterious coin inscription Ε should not be connected with an assumed conquest of Amathous by the Salaminian king Evagoras I, but rather that the coins should be seen as mintages of an otherwise unknown Amathousian king. On the basis of the numismatic evidence, Markou further demonstrates that the episode reported by Hesychius and the Suda concerning an Amathousian king named Rhoikos, who was taken prisoner by the Athenians, should not be dated to the middle of the 4th century, but clearly earlier. This is a fine example of how numismatic evidence helps in clarifying events known from the literary tradition.

The last section of the collection, which deals with the transition from the 4th century to Hellenistic times, reveals a striking difference between Ledra and Amathous. In her report on the excavations at Nicosia — ancient Ledra — Despina Pilides emphasizes an astonishing continuity there. The middle of the island seems to have been of major importance for the new rulers. Amathous, on the other hand, develops in a different fashion, as pointed out by Claire Balandier and Pierre Aupert. First of all, Amathous was obviously of major strategic importance for the Antigonids: moles were built, the city wall reinforced. When the island was reconquered by Ptolemy I, construction work at Amathous seems to have stopped. His successor, Ptolemy II, established a cult for Aphrodite near the Northern gate. While this particular cult of course refers back to Cypriot traditions, Ptolemy II seems nevertheless to have distanced himself from the old Amathousian monarchy, which had worshipped Aphrodite atop of the acropolis.

The volume closes with an intriguing essay devoted to the transition from Classical to Hellenistic times in Cyprus by two leading experts on the topic, Demetrios Michaelides and Giorgos Papantoniou. Based on a few but striking examples, they show the coexistence of Cypriot traditions and new achievements borrowed from the Hellenistic koine. With good reason, they also question how representative these cultural “highlights” were for the silent majority of the island’s population.

The volume is a most welcome addition to the publications on Cypriot kingdoms. It contains well-written essays summarizing the knowledge gained from the important fieldwork of recent years and combines them with revealing articles on historical questions. Furthermore, this is a fine example of a collection of papers which is more than just the sum of its parts. Instead it forms a unified whole: the subtitle of the volume, “transitions et ruptures”, is always at the centre and runs through the volume like a common thread. Future research on Cypriot kingdoms will profit enormously from this publication.

Table of Contents

Introduction, Anna Cannavò, Ludovic Thély 91-4)
De la transition Bronze / Fer aux royaumes du premier millénaire (5–85)
Maria Iacovou, From the Late Cypriot Polities to the Iron Age “Kingdoms”. Understanding the Political Landscape of Cyprus from Within (7–28)
Artemis Georgiou, Ceramic Fluidity and Regional Variations: Elucidating the Transformed Ceramic Industry of Finewares in Cyprus at the Close of the Late Bronze Age (29–48)
Anna Georgiadou, La dimension régionale des échanges entre Chypre et le Levant à l’époque chypro-géométrique (XIe-VIIIe s. av. J.-C.) (49–65)
Elisavet Stefani and Yiannis Violaris, New Evidence on the Early History of the City-Kingdom of Amathous: Built Tombs of the Geometric Period at the Site of Amathous- Loures (67–85)
Les royaumes de l’âge de Fer: approches topographiques et archéologiques (87–186)
Eustathios Raptou, La ville et ses nécropoles: contribution à la topographie de Palaepaphos (89–110)
Isabelle Tassignon, Le grand dépôt “à l’amphore” du palais d’Amathonte, marqueur d’une ère nouvelle? (111–128)
Sabine Fourrier, Salamine de l’époque géométrique à la fin de l’époque classique: les espaces urbains (129–145)
Anna Satraki, Ptolin Edalion: Transitions and Breaks in the Life of an Inland Cypriot City-State (147–165)
Joanna S. Smith, The Changing Urban Landscape of Marion (167–186)
Les royaumes à l’épreuve de l’histoire: Les transformations de l’époque classique (187–235)
Antigoni Zournatzi, Cyprus in the Achaemenid Rosters of Subject Peoples and Lands (189–200)
Artemis Karnava, The Syllabic Inscriptions of Amathous: Past and Present (201–212)
Massimo Perna, La grande inscription d’Amathonte (ICS 194 + 195): une nouvelle étude épigraphique. Rapport préliminaire (213–220)
Evangelini Markou, Quelques réflexions sur le monnayage d’Amathonte de l’époque classique (221–235)
Vers une nouvelle époque? La transition classique/hellénistique (237–290)
Despina Pilides, The Transition from the Classical to the Hellenistic Period at the Settlement of the Hill of Agios Georgios, Nicosia (239–250)
Pierre Aupert and Claire Balandier, Amathonte après la fin du royaume: la ville sous les Antigonides et les premiers Lagides (251–265)
Demetrios Michaelides and Giorgos Papantoniou, The Advent of Hellenistic Cyprus (267–290)
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