Amathus (Limassol)

The ancient town of Amathous is situated on the south coast of Cyprus, about 7 km east of the town of Lemesos. Traces of the earliest human presence, dating to the Neolithic period, have been detected during archaeological excavations on the hills neighbouring Amathous. However, we do not know with certainty the exact moment of the foundation of the town of Amathous, which is not included in the list of towns founded by the Greek settlers in the 11th century B.C. It seems that the acropolis of Amathous, which possesses a natural defense, was inhabited since 1050 B.C. by the autochthonous population of Cyprus, the Eteocyprians. During the Archaic period the town aquired special wealth as one of the Kingdoms of Cyprus, and had remarkable commercial relations with neighbouring countries. Already in the 8th century B.C. a strong group of Phoenicians settled in Amathous, probably sharing power with the Eteocyprians and the Greeks. During the Persian occupation of the island Amathous maintained a pro-Persian stance, a fact that led to its siege by the other Kingdoms of Cyprus. The abolition of the Kingdom of Amathous, as well as of the other Kingdoms of Cyprus, was sealed during the Hellenistic period due to the annexation of the island by the Ptolemies.

The acropolis was almost completely abandoned and the living quarters were concentrated downtown. Amathous enjoyed temporary prosperity during the Antonine and Severian periods but the transition to Christianity found the town in a poor condition. Although the town survived the Arab raids of the mid 7th century A.D., it seems that it was definitely abandoned towards the end of the same century.

The first important excavations at Amathous began in 1893-1894 under the direction of British archaeologists A.H. Smith and J.L. Myres, who excavated many tombs. After the independence of Cyprus, in 1969 many rescue excavations, accidental discoveries and systematic excavations continued by the Department of Antiquities. From 1975 the French School of Athens undertook systematic excavations on the acropolis and other places of the ancient town.

Margarita Mitella

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