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KARPASIA (Haghios Philon) Cyprus.

On the N coast of the Karpass peninsula ca. 3 km from the village of Rizokarpasso. The ruins of the town, nearly 3 sq km in area, are now largely covered with sand dunes; the rest is under cultivation. The town extended mainly along the shore but also inland as far as the foot of the high plateau. The town had a harbor; its ancient moles are still visible. Traces of a city wall, which begins and ends at the base of the two moles, can be followed for its whole course. This wall, however, built to protect only a small part of the town on the N side, should date from Early Byzantine times. Nothing is known so far of a bigger circuit. The necropolis extends W at the locality Tsambres.

Karpasia was founded, according to tradition, by Pygmalion. Present archaeological evidence precludes an earlier date than the 7th c. B.C. for its founding. Little is known of its history. The first mention of it dates from 399 B.C., when a man from there led the mutiny of Conon's Cypriot mercenaries at Kaunos. It is mentioned in the list of the theodorokoi at Delphi, and appears on inscriptions of the 2d c. B.C. Among early writers the town is frequently mentioned (Skyl. GGM 1.103; Diod. 20.47.2; Strab. 14.682; Steph. Byz.; Plin. HN 6.30; Ptol. 5.14.4; and in the Stadiasmus). Karpasia is better known in history as the place where Demetrios Poliorketes, coming from Cilicia, landed his forces in 306 B.C. He stormed Karpasia and Ourania and, leaving his ships under sufficient guard, marched on Salamis. The town flourished in Classical, Hellenistic, Graeco-Roman, and Early Christian times, when it became the seat of a bishop. It was finally abandoned in Early Byzantine times after the first Arab raids of A.D. 647.

There is no evidence so far for the worship of any deities in Karpasia, but there can be no doubt that sanctuaries existed. The remains of marble columns, now covered by sand, to the S of the town may well belong to a temple. Further evidence comes from casual finds of sculptures, among others a sandstone head of Tyche of the Late Classical period. From an inscription found in recent years we know that there was a gymnasium to be located at a short distance to the SW of the Church of Haghios Philon. Apart from minor excavations carried out in the 1930s around this church, when remains dating from Early Christian times were uncovered, the town site is unexcavated. The principal monuments now visible, apart from the church and the excavated remains of an Early Christian palace attached to it, are the harbor and some important rock-cut tombs in the W necropolis.

The two moles in the harbor are the most considerable works of their kind in Cyprus. That of the E side can be followed for about 100 m from its base on the shore; it is made for the most part of large well-dressed rectangular blocks of stone rivetted to each other by clamps of lead. The outer end had been reinforced in later times with more blocks including fragments of columns of marble and basalt. These walls rest on natural rock. The width of the mole was about 3 m; its original height cannot be determined. It projects W from the shore towards the point of the other mole which runs due N. This latter mole, built in a similar manner, extends from the shore to a large rock in the sea known as Kastros. This W arm is longer than the E one, measuring ca. 120 m including the rock. The town was supplied with water from springs W of Rizokarpasso. Remains of the aqueduct still survive in many parts.

The W necropolis occupies a large area extending from the cliffs at Tsambres to the plain below as far as the shore. In the cliff of Tsambres itself there is a series of fine rock-cut tombs with unusual features. The chambers of the tombs are of the usual type but their facades seem to be unique in Cyprus. The face of the rock is carefully scarped and on the right or left of the tomb doors plain stelai are cut in relief, either simply or in groups of two or three. Sometimes they are of the conventional shape with pediment or they are anthropoid. These stelai were not inscribed but were probably painted. The tombs may be dated to the Late Classical or Early Hellenistic period.

Finds from the excavation of the necropolis are in the Cyprus Museum, Nicosia, but certain tomb groups have been allocated to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, to the Museum of Classical Archaeology in Cambridge, and to the Institute of Archaeology in London.


D. G. Hogarth, Devia Cypria (1889); A. Sakellarios, Τὰ Κυπριακά I (1890); E. Dray & J. du Plat Taylor, “Tsambres and Aphendrika,” Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus (1937-39) 24-123MPI; T. B. Mitford and K. Nicolaou, “An inscription from Karpasia in Cyprus,” JHS 77 (1957) 313-14I; I. Michaelidou-Nicolaou, “. . . Inhabitants of Ronas,” Vestigia 17 (Acta des VI Internationalen Kongresses fur Griechische und Lateinische Epigraphik, 1972) 559-61M.


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  • Cross-references from this page (1):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 20.47.2
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