On the SW coast, about
16 km W of Limassol. The ruins cover a large area on
a bluff overlooking the sea to the S. Kourion was surrounded by a city wall but of this very little survives;
the rocky scarp on the E and S sides has been vertically
cut. There was probably no proper harbor but the remains of a jetty, about 80 m long, are still visible at
low tide to the W of the town and Strabo mentions the
existence of an anchorage. The necropolis extends E
One of the ancient kingdoms of Cyprus, Kourion was
founded by the Argives (Hdt. 5.113
; Strab. 14.683
The connection between Kourion and Argos is further
illustrated by the worship at Kourion of a god called
Perseutas. Excavations have yielded evidence of an
Achaian settlement in the 14th c. B.C. at the Bamboula ridge at the nearby village of Episkopi. A tomb
within the necropolis of Kourion yielded material of the
11th c. B.C. including the well-known royal gold and
enamel scepter which is now in the Cyprus Museum.
The name of Kir appears in an Egyptian inscription at
Medinet Habu of the time of Rameses III (1198-1167
B.C.), if the correlation with Kourion were beyond dispute. The name is also mentioned on the prism of Esarhaddon (673-672 B.C.), where the reading Damasu king
of Kuri has been interpreted as Damasos king of Kounon.
During the revolt of Onesilos against the Persians at
the time of the Ionian Revolt King Stasanor of Kourion,
commanding a large force, fought at first on the Greek
side but at the battle in the plain of Salamis (498 B.C.)
he went over to the Persians and his betrayal won them
the day. Nothing is known of the other kings of Kourion
until Pasikrates, probably its last king, who sailed in the
Cypriot fleet, which went to the aid of Alexander the
Great at the siege of Tyre in 332 B.C.
The city flourished in Hellenistic and Graeco-Roman
times. It was badly hit by the severe earthquakes of A.D.
332 and 342, which also hit Salamis and Paphos, but it
was soon rebuilt. Before this time Christianity was well
established at Kourion and one of its bishops, Philoneides,
had suffered martyrdom under Diocletian (A.D. 284-305).
Zeno, a later bishop, was instrumental in securing at the
Council of Ephesos (A.D. 431) a favorable decision on
the claims of the church of Cyprus to independence. As
a bishopric the city flourished once more until it was
gradually abandoned after the first Arab raids of A.D. 647.
Kourion was the birthplace of the poet Kleon, who
, from which Apollonios Rhodios, in
his epic of the same theme, was accused of copying; it
was also the birthplace of Hermeias, a lyric poet.
The principal monuments uncovered to date include
the House of Achilles, the House of the Gladiators and
the House of Eustolios, all paved with mosaics of the
4th and 5th c. A.D., a theater, an Early Christian basilican
church, and, near the city, the stadium and the Temple
of Apollo Hylates.
The existence at Kourion of a gymnasium is attested
by inscriptions but its location is not known at present.
The worship of Hera, Dionysos, Aphrodite, and the
hero Perseutas has also been attested by epigraphical
evidence but again nothing is known of the site of the
sanctuaries. The Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore, also
attested by inscriptions, has been located on the E side
of the Stadium.
The remains of the House of Achilles lie on the N
part of the city close to the main Limassol-Paphos road.
The house consists of an open courtyard with rooms on
either side and a colonnaded portico on the N. In the
portico, whose floor is paved with mosaics, a large panel
depicts in lively manner Achilles disguised as a maiden
at the court of King Lykomedes of the island of Skyros
unwittingly revealing his identity to Odysseus on the
sounding of a false alarm. In another room a panel
shows Ganymede being carried by the Eagle to Mt.
The House of the Gladiators, farther S, consists of
a complex of rooms and corridors with an inner court,
probably an atrium. Some of its rooms were paved with
mosaics, including figure representations. In one of
these rooms are two panels depicting gladiatorial scenes.
The first panel shows two gladiators fully armed with
helmets, shields, and swords facing each other and ready
to strike. Above them are indicated their names or nicknames, ΜΑΡΓΑΡΕΙΤΗΣ
. The second
panel shows again two gladiators facing each other but
with an unarmed figure between them. The left-hand
figure is called ΛΥΤΡΑΣ
, the central one ΔΑΡΕΙΟΣ
of the right-hand figure only the initialΕ
At the SE end of the bluff are the remains of a large
house paved with mosaics, commanding a splendid view
over the fields and the sea beyond. It is known as the
House of Eustolios and includes a bathing establishment. In one of the porticos an inscription gives the
name of Eustolios, the builder of the baths, and refers
to Phoebus Apollo as the former patron of Kourion;
another inscription specifically mentions Christ, an interesting commentary on the gradual transition from
paganism to Christianity. The bathing establishment lies
on higher ground to the N. Its central room has its floor
paved with mosaics divided into four panels, one of
which depicts Ktisis in a medallion.
To the W of the House of Eustolios lies the theater
built on a slope overlooking the sea to the S. The theater
consists of the cavea, a semicircular orchestra, and the
stage-building. A vaulted corridor around the back of
the theater provided access through five gangways to
the diazoma. Access was also effected from the parodoi
lower down. The orchestra is paved with lime cement.
Of the stage-building only the foundations survive. The
theater as it stands today dates from Graeco-Roman
times, but the original one, smaller and on a Greek
model, was built in the 2d c. B.C. The orchestra at this
period was a full circle and the cavea encompassed an
arc of more than 180 degrees. The theater provided accommodation for ca. 3,500 spectators; it has been recently reconstructed up to the diazoma.
The stadium lies to the W of the city on the way to
the Temple of Apollo. The outline of its U-shaped plan
is well preserved. Its total length is 233 m and its width
36 m. Its total capacity was ca. 7,000 spectators. The
stadium was built in the 2d c. A.D. during the Antonine
period and remained in use until about A.D. 400.
The Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, about 3 km W of
the city, displays a large group of buildings. The precinct is entered by two gates, the Kourion Gate and the
Paphos Gate. The remains of the long Doric portico
extend the whole way between the two gates. South of
this portico is the S Building consisting of five rooms
entered from the portico and separated from each other
by corridors. Each room had a raised dais on three
sides, divided from a central paved area by Doric columns. The inscription set in the front wall over one of
the doors tells us that two of the rooms were erected by
the emperor Trajan in A.D. 101. A room of similar design is the NW Building, reached by a broad flight of
steps. The function of these rooms is not certain but
they may have been used to display votives or to accommodate visitors.
The main sanctuary lies to the N of the precinct.
From the Doric portico a paved street leads straight to
the Temple of Apollo. The temple stands on a high
stylobate reached from the Sacred Way by a flight of
steps occupying the whole width of the temple. It consisted of a portico with four columns and of two rooms,
the pronaos and the opisthodomos. At the E of the
precinct lie the baths. At the SE, by the Kourion Gate,
lies the palaestra, which is composed of a central peristyle rectangular court surrounded by rooms.
The worship of Apollo at this site began as early as
the 8th c. B.C. There are still a few remains of the archaic period but most of the ruins seen now date from
the Graeco-Roman period or ca. A.D. 100, having been
restored after the disastrous earthquakes of A.D. 76-77.
These new buildings were themselves destroyed during
the severe earthquakes of A.D. 332 and 342, when the
sanctuary seems to have been definitely abandoned.
Finds are in the site museum at Episkopi village and
in the Cyprus Museum, Nicosia.
Luigi Palma di Cesnola, Cyprus, its
Ancient Cities, Tombs and Temples
(1877); A. Sakellarios, Τὰ Κυπριακά
I (1890); J. F. Daniel & G. H. McFadden, “Excavations at Kourion,” The University Museum Bulletin, University of Pennsylvania
7 (1938) 2-17;
J. F. Daniel, The University Museum Bulletin, University of Pennsylvania
13 (1948), 6-15; G. H. McFadden
& De Coursey Fales, Jr., The University Museum Bulletin, University of Pennsylvania
14 (1950), 14-37PI
G. H. McFadden, “A Late Cypriote III Tomb from
Kourion, Kaloriziki no. 40,”AJA
58 (1954) 13 1-42MPI
Richard Stillwell, “Kourion: The Theatre,” Proc. Phil.
. 105 (1961) 37-78MPI
; Robert Scranton, “The Architecture of the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates at Kounon,”TAPA
57 (1967), 3-85MPI
; Anonymous, Kourion:
(1970); T. B. Mitford, The Inscriptions of
(1970); M. Loulloupis, “Ἀνασκαφαί εἰς Κούριον
, s.v. KurionM
J. L. Benson, The Necropolis of Kaloriziki
Mediterranean Archaeology, 36; 1973)MPI