Friday, 23 September 2016

Day 6: Back in time, again

After yesterday's long day we decided to stay closer to home today with a trip into Paphos to see one of the most historic sites on the whole island: the Paphos mosaics.  I've visited a couple of times in the past but as with all historical sites, there's always work going on and it was so exciting that they were excavating!  I've never seen a "live dig" before and there was certainly a buzz around the place.

It's amazing to think that these mosaics (just back from Paphos harbour) were discovered by accident in 1962 by a ploughing farmer!  They are now considered to be the finest mosaics ever discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean: dating from the 2nd to the 5th century, most of them are in stunning condition.  It's believed they were originally the floors of Roman noblemen's villas and you can see the excavated outlines of rooms and corridors and let your imagination take over.  There were really big earthquakes in 332 and 342AD which is blamed for the destruction of the actual buildings but around 40 mosaics have been found and excavated so far.  Some are now housed in big shed-like structures to protect them from the elements and the outdoor ones are protected by raised platforms so that you can look at them from above.  

We didn't visit the House of Aion as there was a large tour already inside, so we moved straight on to the House of Theseus - the main mosaic shows Theseus brandishing a club after defeating the Minotaur (above) - note to self: MUST visit Crete and the Palace of Knossos. 
There are really good information signs showing the layout, how big each house was and where you are standing, along with a description of the mosaic you are looking at...

The Romans would usually establish colonies in their territories to strengthen their hold over them, however, in Cyprus this did not happen and is proven by the words on the mosaics being in Greek.
Further back the team were working on the excavations - lots of expensive looking equipment for measuring as well as the familiar tools of a dig ...

We stood watching for a while and then headed past the House of Orpheus to the shaded area for a drink and some respite from the sun and then on to the House of Dionyssos.

The biggest and best preserved villa is the House of Dionyssos and has been under protective cover since I started visiting here over 17 years ago.  All of the mosaics are easily viewed from the raised platforms and are absolutely breathtaking, the tiles (tesserae) are so small and precise and the colours are beautiful.  My two favourites have always been the peacock for the colours and intricate design ...

And Narcissus, I love the stories associated with him ...

The Roman tale goes a bit like this ... Narcissus was so beautiful that everyone fell in love with him, his parents were worried about his extraordinary beauty and were told by the prophet that he would grow old "if he didn't get to know himself". 
Aged 16 he was out hunting one day when he was seen by Echo (the talkative nymph) who fell madly in love with him.  Of course, proud Narcissus rejected her and poor Echo hid in the woods and mountains never to be seen again.  Tormented by her love for Narcissus, she became thinner and thinner until her body withered into the air, only her voice was left: heard by everyone but seen by none.
Nemesis the Goddess of Revenge heard how Narcissus had caused so much unhappiness and decided that he had to be punished; one day he saw his reflection in a clear pool and immediately fell in love with himself, realising is was his reflection and that his love could not be addressed, he killed himself.  The Gods took pity on him and turned him into a flower that grows near to water so that he can always see his reflection.

We left the House of Dionyssos and followed the path towards the lighthouse and the Roman Odeon

And then past the agora area to the Saranda Kolones Castle ...

Built on the site of a Byzantine fort, the castle was completed around 1200AD but was destroyed in the earthquake of 1223 and never rebuilt.  The name literally means "Forty Columns": the original castle was built on a base of 40 granite columns with an external wall with eight towers and a moat.  

Dusty, hot and worn out we walked along the harbour for a frappé and some shade before going home for a swim!

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