BMCR 2023.02.43

Classical Cyprus

, , , , Classical Cyprus: proceedings of the Conference, University of Graz, 21-23 September 2017. Kypriaka, 5. Wien: Verlag Holzhausen, 2020. Pp. 497. ISBN 9783903207462

The volume Classical Cyprus collects the proceedings of a conference held at the University of Graz in September 2017, and is part of the series Κυπριακά, Studies on ancient Cyprus (vol. 5; Wien), to which other crucial volumes on Cypriot archaeology belong. It is subdivided into 26 articles, with the relevant bibliography and, in most cases, images and photos of the finds analysed following each of them. The articles offer preliminary studies of recently excavated materials, propose new methodologies for the conservation of Cypriot artefacts held in museums all over Europe, and review early excavation reports by comparing them with recent archaeological data. The topics tackled may be traced back to two main subjects: the Phoenician/Levantine presence in Cyprus in the late Archaic and Classical periods, and the increasing Hellenisation of Cypriot customs in the 5th and 4th centuries BC.

Stephan Schmid and Caroline Huguenot, as an example of the first main subject, show that a significant Phoenician/Levantine influence affected Cypriot building technologies in specific areas of the island. They study the Idalian burial monuments, 12 chamber tombs excavated by Max Ohnefalsch-Richter (1850–1917) and described in a notebook on Tamassos and Idalion that was never fully published. Through a sound analysis of the architectural structure of the tombs, Schmid and Huguenot date these monuments to the Classical or even the Archaic period, challenging Ohnefalsch-Richter’s first interpretation, which dated them to the Hellenistic era. Schmid and Huguenot link these tombs to a specific typology from southeastern Cyprus, also attested in Tamassos, Kition, Salmis, and Amathus, the architecture of which is closer to that of Achziv and of Levantine burial monuments.[1] Through this analysis Schmid and Huguenot corroborate Anne Marie Carstens’ theory, which argues for a significant Phoenician cultural influence among the elites of Idalion and Tamassos, and of the southeastern part of the island.[2] Finally, this article contributes to a better understanding of the influence of Kition, Salamis, and Amathus on Cypriot inland cities such as Tamassos and Idalion, which lost their independence during the Classical period, most likely because they were forced to use foreign harbours.[3]

Giorgos Bourogiannis’ article analyses the geopolitical development of the island in similar terms. He investigates the sanctuary of Ayia Irini (Northern Cyprus) at the end of the Archaic period, and discusses its strategic position, the visual impact of the sanctuary on the devotees as sign of power and authority of the local dynasty, and whether it belonged to the territory of Soloi or Lapethos. The first evidence of the existence of the city-kingdom of Lapethos are coins dated to the late 6th century BC—and part of the Persepolis hoard—the legend of which bears the name of the city. Conceivably, if the Ayia Irini sanctuary had been under the control of Lapethos, it would have developed further at the end of the Archaic age, as the city did, and not been abandoned. Bourogiannis, therefore, concludes that Soloi was managing Ayia Irini. The paper, however, would have benefited from a section on the development of Lapethos—a city-state which employed Phoenician as its official administration language—probably endorsed by the Phoenician/Levantine Kitian leadership to count on a close ally also in the north of the island.[4]

Three other pivotal articles contribute to demonstrating how considerable the Phoenician presence on the island was in the Classical period. Among them, Giorgos Georgiou’s study of the site of Terra Umbra in Kition (modern Larnaca)—the most ‘Phoenician’ of the Cypriot city-kingdoms—demonstrates that the site was continuously occupied from 1200 BC to 300 BC. The findings from the excavations—e.g. a bone figurine, terracotta figurines, a scapula, and an Archaic scarab—and the analysis of the structure of the buildings demonstrate that in the site, religion was interwoven with the political-economic administration of Kition. This is, however, not surprising, since the royal palace paid for the maintenance of local sanctuaries, as the analysis of the ostraka of the Idalion archive and of the Kition accounting tablet show.[5] In Terra Umbra, an architectural re-arrangement happened around 500 BC, when the Kition royal dynasty strengthened his power, as also happened in Bamboula.[6]

One of the most remarkable and informative contributions of the proceedings is Pauline Maillard’s investigation of inscriptions and material culture from the Kition salt pans. Maillard demonstrates that the cult-site of the Salines of Kition, located on the shores of the salt-lake of Larnaca, initially associated with Artemis Paralia on the basis of Roman inscriptions, was instead dedicated to the ‘pregnant mother’ goddess in the Classical period; this is based on a reading of a Phoenician dedication, which may be interpreted as LRBTY L’M H’ZRT, ‘to his lady, Umm’zrt, the pregnant one’. The inscription was found in Phaneromeni, a location close to the salt lake, 900 meters north of the place where kourotrophoi coroplastic figurines were discovered. As Maillard shows, the divinities of the salt pans Umm’zrt and Eshmoun-Melqart were linked to propitiation of births.

Isabelle Tassignon tackles the thorny question of the Egyptianisation of Amathusian customs, claiming that the iconography of the Lord of Amathus, linked to royal authority, was probably influenced by the Egyptian Bes during a wave of Egyptomania that affected this city-kingdom; contemporary facsimiles of Egyptian cartouches were also found in a sealed room of the Amathus palace. However, as Carolina López-Ruiz recently demonstrated, such a massive presence of Egyptian iconographic elements in the Mediterranean and particularly in Cyprus and Amathus, from the Archaic period onwards, may be due to Phoenician cultural influences rather than Egyptian ones.[7] As Antoine Hermary already noticed, the great amount of Phoenician pottery found in the oldest levels of the city may suggest that Amathus had a Phoenician origin.[8] Furthermore, the recent re-edition of the Cypro-syllabic legends of Amathusian coins showed that at least one king  of the Classical period  had a Phoenician name, Apipalos, the Greek equivalent of ’abiba‘al.[9]

In Classical Cyprus, the presence of Phoenician cultural and iconographic elements goes side by side with increasing contacts with the Greek poleis and the consequent Hellenisation of Cypriot customs, which gradually affected the whole Levant (e.g. Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos too). [10] Such Hellenization is the second major topic addressed by the book. The mingling of Phoenician and Cypriot cultural elements with recently introduced Greek customs, mostly in iconographic terms, emerge from Hermary’s analysis of four unpublished Cypriot objects. First, he studies a sarcophagus from Kition and demonstrates that, although dated to the 4th century BC, it still shows Phoenician iconographic influences. Then, he examines a funerary lintel from Golgoi, which bears original syllabic signs in Eteocypriot—as suggested by the reading of Egetmeyer, who inspected the monument with Hermary—and fake contemporary syllabic signs, probably engraved in the nineteenth century to increase the value of the monument.[11] Finally, Hermary analyses two sculptures bought by the Rijksmuseum in Leiden and dated to the Classical periods: a fragment of a female head from the palace of Vouni, held in the Museum of Stockholm, which bears a crown decorated with dancing maenads and satyrs; and the head of a Cypriot dignitary, similar to those found in Golgoi and Idalion. Their iconography constitutes a transition point in the development of Cypriot stylistic features from the Archaic ones, similar to those of Levantine and Near Eastern sculptures, to a Cypriot late Classical style, when Hellenising elements emerged predominantly. Hermary’s study, therefore, shows the coexistence of Classical Phoenician, Near Eastern, and Cypriot autochthonous elements and their gradual merger with newly introduced Greek trends.

Similarly, the six contributions by Maria Christidis, Viola Lewandowski, Eustathios Raptou, Olympia Bobou, Anja Ulbrich and Giorgos Papantoniou focus on the shift of Cypriot iconography from Eastern to Western canons, and on the increasing interest of Cypriots in the Athenian world. Christidis, for example, analyses an Attic vessel, a Classical lekythos found in Cyprus and now held in the Museum of Nicosia, the iconography of which shows a dancer with a thyrsus, one of the few representations of Greek theatre in the 5th century BC. Although theatres appear in Cyprus only after Alexander’s arrival, Christidis reasonably argues that the Cypriots had interest in Greek theatrical performances: numerous masks were found in archaeological excavations in Cyprus (though probably used for religious purposes) and music played a significant role in Cypriot rites, as the iconography of several coroplastic figurines shows.[12]

Finally, textual analyses also reflect the Hellenisation of Cypriot customs. Gabriele Ambros studies the Cypriot representations of Demeter and Kore. He demonstrates that their cult was more significant than what was previously assumed by analysing Cypriot inscriptions written in alphabetic Greek, dated from the end of the 4th century BC onwards. The author could have also mentioned the existence of the goddess wo-lo-we-a, attested in a Cypro-syllabic inscription from Tala, a village in the territory of Paphos, also dated to the end of the 4th century BC. The etymology of wo-lo-we-a may be linked to the terms ‘spelt’ and ‘harvest’, and therefore this goddess was probably related to Demeter, or the respective cults overlapped.[13]

The Tala inscription mentioned above is written according to a new Paphian syllabary that Agnieszka Halczuk analyses. As Halczuk points out, Nicocles, the last king of Paphos (325[?]–306 BC), reformed the local syllabary and developed an archaicizing form of the scripts to legitimize his power, endangered by the Diadochoi’s power struggles, which marked the end of the Cypriot dynasties.[14]

Pavel Evdokimov underlines Aristotle’s interest in the Cypriot city-kingdoms and their governments. Such an interest was probably triggered by the friendship between Aristotle and a fellow student of Plato’s Academy, Eudemus the Cypriot, to whom Aristotle dedicated one of his early works. Aristotle also dedicated the Protrepticus to a Cypriot ruler called Themistion, perhaps the sovereign of Marion, as Evdokimov suggests. Although the subject would have deserved a longer examination, Evdokimov’s preliminary research has the merit of highlighting the peculiarity of the Cypriot political systems in the eyes of the Athenians, and the great interest that the Aristotelian Academy had in them.

All in all, the volume provides an overview of the ongoing research on Classical Cyprus. It deals with several different subjects, and sometimes data may be scattered. The lack of a common thread and of a systematic organisation hinder the reading and certainly, it would have been helpful to subdivide the articles into thematic sections for an easier consultation. Despite the lack of cohesion, some articles provide significant information and are worth the book. For example, the studies of Maillard, Schmid and Huguenot, and Ambros significantly contribute to a better understanding of the socio-political structure and religion of the Cypriot city-states in the Classical period. Other articles, such as Hermary’s contribution, analyse unpublished materials, the publication of which open new avenues of investigation in Cypriot epigraphy and archaeology. The volume therefore is going to play a considerable role in Cypriot studies.


Authors and Titles

Giorgos Georgiou: Larnaka Terra Umbra: New Evidence for Kition During the Cypro-Classical Period (7–24)

Pauline Maillard: La Mère hzrt dans le corpus cultuel de Kition (25–36)

Giorgos Bourogiannis: Ayia Irini at the End of the Cypro-Archaic Period: Between Mirage and Archaeological Testimony (37–64)

Julien Beck and Patrizia Birchler Emery: Kataliondas Kourvellos à la période classique: un sanctuaire rural au coeur de Chypre (57–64)

Stephan G. Schmid and Caroline Huguenot: Max Ohnefalsch-Richter´s (1850–1917) Contribution to the Study of Cypriot Built Chamber Tombs—the Case of Idalion (65–94)

Claudia Lang-Auinger: Archäologie der Feste (95–108)

Anna Reeve: Following Object Itineraries: Recontextualising Antiquities From Classical Cyprus (109–124)

Viola Lewandowski: Attische Keramik aus Marion in der Antikensammlung Berlin. Neue Aspekte zu einer alten Grabung (125–138)

Maria Christidis: “νῦν γὰρ ἐμοὶ μέλει χορεῦσαι” / nun will ich tanzen. Beobachtungen auf einer Lekythos im Cyprus Museum, Nikosia (139–160)

Cheyenne Peverelli: Attische Keramik von Alt-Paphos: Untersuchungen zu den Importen in der Stadt anhand des Materials der Deutsch-Schweizerischen Grabungen (161–176)

Antoine Hermary: Remarques sur une peinture de sarcophage et sur quelques sculptures chypriotes inédites (Ve–IVe siècles av. J.-C.) (177–194)

Isabelle Tassignon: Égyptomanie d’époque classique à Amathonte? À propos de deux nouvelles statues chypro-classiques du “Seigneur d’Amathonte” (195–208)

Georg A. Plattner and Walter Prochaska: Der Amazonensarkophag von Soloi (209–244)

Anja Ulbrich: Adoption and Adaptation of Greek Iconography in Cypriot Votive Sculpture of the Late Archaic and Classical Periods (221–244)

Olympia Bobou: A Girl From Cyprus: Protection and Devotion From the Classical to the Hellenistic Period (245–258)

Eustathios Raptou: Terres cuites classiques de Marion. Importations grecques et fabrications locales. Fouilles récentes à Polis Chrysochous (259–280)

Nicole Reitinger, Gabriele Koiner and Paul Bayer: Cypriots in Stone and Terracotta. Ancient Sculptures From Nicosia and Surroundings (281–300)

Gabriele Koiner: Mural and Related Crowns in Cyprus. Their Ancestors and Meaning (301–334)

Andreas Charalambous: Compositional Study of 5th–4th Century BC Silver Coins From Vouni Hoard (IGCH 1278) (Cyprus) Using pXRF Spectrometry (335–352)

Yannick Vernet: Le statut de Kourion à l’époque chypro-classique (353–370)

Gabriele Ambros: Demeter in Cyprus—Tracing the Evidence (371–384)

Agnieszka Halczuk: The Late Paphian Syllabary Under the Reign of Nicocles, the Last King of Paphos (385–408)

Pavel Evdokimov: The Cypriot Politeia of Aristotle and Royal Power in Cyprus (409–424)

Giorgos Papantoniou: Cypriot Kings and Greek Art During the Classical Period: A Political Economy Approach (425–438)

Ergün Laflı and Maurizio Buora (with the assistance of Panagiotis Chatzidakis): Classical and Hellenistic Containers by Alabaster From Cilicia and Other Regions in Asia Minor (439–474)

Anastasia D. Serghidou: Muséification, antiquités nationales et humanités classiques en Chypre au tournant du XXe siècle (475–497)



[1] Yasur-Landau, A., Press, M.D., and Arie, E., ‘Rethinking Tel Achziv: an Iron II Architectonic and Ceramic Sequence from Southern Phoenicia’, Tel Aviv 43 (2016), 192-224.

[2] Carstens, A.M., ‘Cypriot Built Chamber Tombs’—Evidence of Multiculturalism?’ Medelhavsmuseet. Focus on the Mediterranean 89 (2009), 89-97.

[3] Pestarino, B., ‘A Cypriot city-kingdom for sale’, Kadmos 59 (2020), 63-76.

[4] Fourrier, S., ‘Phoenician identity in Classical Cyprus’, in Garbati, G., Pedrazzi, T. (eds.), Transformations and crisis in the Mediterranean III.  ‘‘Identity” and interculturality in the Levant and Phoenician West during the 5th-2nd centuries BCE, (Rome) 2021, 123-135.

[5] Amadasi, M.G., Zamora López, J.A., ‘Pratiques administratives phéniciennes à Idalion’, CCEC 50 (2020), 137-155. Pestarino B., Kypriōn Politeia, the Political and Administrative Systems of the Classical Cypriot City-Kingdoms, (Leiden) 2022, 70-107.

[6] Caubet A., Fourrier S., Yon, M., Kition-Bamboula VI: le sanctuaire sous la colline, (Lyon) 2015.

[7] López-Ruiz, C., Phoenicians and the Making of the Mediterranean, (Cambridge US) 2021.

[8]Hermary, A., ‘Amathonte de Chypre et les Phéniciens’ in Lipiński, E. (ed.), Phoenicia and the East Mediterranean, (Leuven) 1987, 375-388.

[9] IG XV 1.1, n°92.

[10] Bonnet, C., ‘The Hellenistic Period and Hellenization in Phoenicia’, in Doak, R., López-Ruiz, C. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Phoenician and Punic Mediterranean, (Oxford) 2019, 98-110.

[11] Egetmeyer by personal comments.

[12] Papantoniou, G., Religion and Transformation in Ancient Cyprus, (Leiden) 2012; Franklin, J., Kinyras the divine lyre, (Washington) 2015; Mikrakis, M., ‘Musical Performance and Society in Protohistoric Cyprus: Coroplastic and other Visual Evidence’ in Bellia, A., Marconi, C. (eds.), Musicians in Ancient Coroplastic Art, (Pisa-Roma) 2016, 57-72; Averett, E., ‘Blurred boundaries: Zoomorphic masking rituals and the human-animal relationship in ancient Cyprus’, World Archaeology 52:5 (2021), 724-745.

[13] Egetmeyer, M. ‘Zur kyprischen Onomastik’, Kadmos 32 (1993), 19-38.

[14] Elvira Astoreca, N., ‘Escritura e Identidad: el caso de Pafos’, in Balda Baranda, A., Redondo Moyano, E. (eds.), Opera Selecta: estudios sobre el mundo clásico, (Vitoria) 2018, 35-43; Pestarino, B., Kypriōn Politeia, (Leiden) 2022.