Salamis: waiting to be discovered

salamis street

Salamis was a city with 100.000’s of inhabitants in ancient times. Only a small part of the city has been excavated, showing Roman and Byzantine remains. Much more is to be discovered as Salamis was founded already in the 11th century BC, ruled by Assyrians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Persians and Alexander the Great.

salamis unexcavated

Salamis lies next to the sea, at a not very proper but well accessible sand beach. As temperatures can be quite high here in the summer season, this offers a great opportunity to combine a visit to hot Salamis with a good swim to cool down. The site of Salamis is a deserted place. The first excavations here date from 1880 and all excavations stopped after the division of Cyprus in a Turkish and Greek part in 1974. The largest part of Salamis is still covered under sand and bushes. Visitors are scarce.

salamis baths
salamis statue of persephone

The part I liked most is the bathing complex from the 1st century BC, as it has several statues around it with the beautiful dark marble statue of Persephone (on the right). Salamis prospered during 15 centuries until it was destroyed by earthquakes and tidal waves in the 4th century AD. Only some Byzantine activity persevered in Salamis but Arab raids in medieval times brought islam and made an end to christian domination. Many stones from Salamis were used to build Gazimagusa (Famagusta) and other buildings all over the island. All other remains were covered under sand dunes and bushes.

salamis basilica of campanopetra

Worth your attention is also the 6th/7th century AD Basilica of Campanopetra. Cyprus was a very early christian island, as the apostle Saint Barnabas was born in Salamis from a Jewish family. There was a large Jewish community in Salamis, most probably due to its nearby location to Israel.  Saint Barnabas spent time in Israel, became a christian and an active apostle, traveling to major 1st century cities. He returned to Cyprus together with the famous apostle Saint Paul in 46 AD.

salamis mosaic basilica of campanopetra

They created a thorough basis for christianity in very early times in Cyprus. Saint Barnabas’ grave is very near to Salamis and open for visitors although rather disappointing. From the Basilica of Campanopetra site you can see the enormity of the Salamis site as well as the blue Mediterranean Sea. There is a very fine mosaic here (photo on the right), do not leave before you found it – a bit on the side of the ruins.

salamis gymnasium

The gymnasium of Salamis was among the largest of Roman era. Byzantines rebuilt it upon an older complex, destroyed in 4th century AD earthquakes. The marble columns do not match with the capitals on top, most probably the rebuilders just took pieces from elsewhere in the Salamis ruins. To be honest, the gymnasium itself is not very special to visit except for the impression of the large size; however the 44 (!) latrines where people would sit side by side in a semi-circle is a unique place to see.

salamis latrines
salamis latrines

They had good plumbing systems to secure hygiene, fortunately, that are still visible here. Note the funny sign in Turkish, Antik Tuvalet = antique toilet.

salamis the colonnade street

Particularly interesting are the roads that have been excavated. They show how well the roads were made, and also how large the city of Salamis must have been (for example in the 1st century AD it problably had 350.000 inhabitants).

Here some pictures of beautiful streets.

salamis harbour street
salamis street
salamis unexcavated

However, the best may still be uncovered here. Salamis has known Assyrian, Egyptian, Persian and Greek times: all I saw were the much more recent remains of Roman and Byzantine times. The nearby Royal Tombs and other excavations show that deep down there is more to see; much more. Salamis is waiting to be discovered.

Other blogs you may like:
* Harran, nothing to see?
* Göbeklitepe, zero point in time
* Vesunna Museum in Périgueux

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