previous next

LAPETHOS (Lampousa) Cyprus.

On the N coast, E of the Monastery of Acheiropoietos and 10 km W of Keryneia. The ruins cover a large area along the seashore. Substantial remains of a harbor with its breakwaters still survive and the city wall can be traced for most of its course. The necropolis extends E.

The site extends mainly along the shore for a considerable distance, but also inland. Part of it may lie under the cultivated land. The rest of the site is now a field of ruins overgrown with scrub. A rocky hill near the center of the city may have been its acropolis. The site has been badly damaged by looters in search of stone and treasure. Lampousa is well known for its Early Byzantine silver treasure, most of which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

It appears that there was originally a rocky ridge running E-W a little farther back from the sea. It began at the rock-cut chapel, probably a tomb, at Acheiropoietos on the W, included the acropolis about halfway, and extended E to the Troulli hill. In this mass of rock there were tombs dating probably from the 6th and 5th c. B.C., an indication that the earlier city was still nearer the coast and that when it expanded in later Classical and Hellenistic times this part was also inhabited so that most of the tombs were then quarried and destroyed.

Lapethos, one of the ancient kingdoms of Cyprus, was, according to tradition, founded by Praxandros from Lakonia in the Peloponnese. Excavations on the acropolis have shown that the city was inhabited during the Late Bronze Age, which accords well with its traditional origin. A Late Bronze Age settlement has also been located higher up within the modern village of Lapethos while Early Geometric tombs surround the village.

Little is known of the history. The name appears for the first time in 312 B.C. when its king Praxippos, who was suspected of being on the side of Antigonos, was arrested by Ptolemy. From coins, however, we know the names of some of its kings of the 5th and 4th c. B.C., and the name is mentioned by Skylax the geographer (mid 4th c. B.C.). After that it is frequently mentioned by other ancient authors. Lapethos seems to have flourished mainly from archaic down to Early Byzantine times, when it became a bishopric. The city was gradually abandoned after the first Arab raids of A.D. 647.

To Lapethos are attributed coins of the mid 5th c. B.C. with Phoenician legends and heads of Athena. Some of them name a king Sidqmelek, thus indicating a temporary Phoenician rule. Earlier coins show Athena and Aphrodite. To the later king Praxippos are attributed coins with the head of Apollo on the obverse and a krater on the reverse. The temporary Phoenician rule, however, does not prove the existence of Phoenician settlers in Lapethos.

From inscriptions we learn that there was a gymnasium, and it is possible that there was a theater, but nothing is known of the location of either. It seems strange that no evidence has been forthcoming so far of the existence at Lapethos of sanctuaries nor do we know anything of the worship there of any deity. Lapethos is one of the Cypriot cities mentioned in the list of the theodorokoi from Delphi (early 2d c. B.C.). According to epigraphical evidence quinquennial games were held at Lapethos. These were known as the Aktaion games, held in celebration of the victory at Aktion.

Very little survives in the way of monuments and only minor excavations were carried out on the city site. Part of the acropolis was investigated in 1913; and in 1915 a small excavation was carried out at Troulli hill; the results in both cases, however, were disappointing.

The upper part of the acropolis was of solid rock deeply dissected by house basements with rock-cut doors and staircases; there were chamber tombs on the E face and deep quarries on the N.

The results of the excavations at Troulli hill were much the same. Again chambers had been cut in the solid rock and rubble walls. One such chamber had a long and thick wall resting on solid rock. Opposite this wall, the rock, 11 m high, had its side cut straight so as to form the other parallel wall of a long and narrow chamber, 4 m wide, with the door at the broader side opening to a small antechamber.

Probably the best preserved remains are those of the harbor, where both the ancient breakwaters still survive for a considerable distance. The W arm measures about 155 m; the N one is shorter, measuring about 40 m. In this way was created a small but safe harbor protected from the N winds. This is undoubtedly the anchorage for small craft mentioned by Strabo. The breakwaters were recently reinforced with new blocks of stone in order to make a safer fishing shelter.

To the E of the city lie a group of ancient fish tanks right on the rocky coast, all cut in the solid rock. They communicate directly with the sea or with one another by canals. The largest one 30 x 13.25 m and ca. 1 m deep, is fairly well preserved. It communicates directly with the sea by three side oblique canals and by a front (sea side) system of openings and sluices of complicated mechanism.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

A. Sakellarios, Τὰ Κυπριακά (1890); I. K. Peristianes, Γενικὴ Ἱστορία τῆς νήσου Κυπρου (1910); Menelaos Markides, “Excavations at Lampousa,” Annual Report of the Curator of Antiquities (1915) 11-12; John L. Myres, “Excavations in Cyprus, 1913: Lapethos,” BSA 41 (1940-45) 72-78PI; RE, s.v. Lapethos; A. Stylianou & K. Karmanta, Karavas (1969) especially ch. II.

K. NICOLAOU

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: