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 and S.
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 wrote Argonautica, 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. Olympos.
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 and ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΟΣ. 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 survives.
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), 14-37
G. H. McFadden, “A Late Cypriote III Tomb from
Kourion, Kaloriziki no. 40,”AJA 58 (1954) 13 1-42 MPI;
Richard Stillwell, “Kourion: The Theatre,” Proc. Phil.
Soc. 105 (1961) 37-78MPI; Robert Scranton, “The Architecture of the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates at Kounon,”TAPA 57 (1967), 3-85MPI; Anonymous, Kourion:
A Guide (1970); T. B. Mitford, The Inscriptions of
Kourion (1970); M. Loulloupis, “Ἀνασκαφαί εἰς Κούριον
1967-1970,”RDAC (1971) 86-116PI; RE, s.v. KurionM;
J. L. Benson, The Necropolis of Kaloriziki (Studies in
Mediterranean Archaeology, 36; 1973)MPI.
NA , The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites (Trustees of Tufts University, Princeton, N.J.) [word count] [princeton11].