Paphos is one of Cyprus‘s most mesmerising archaeological sites and the most accessible to visitors. Located in the resort of Paphos on the island’s southwest coast, Nea Pafos -as it was called in antiquity- is home to a treasure trove of some of the most lavish ancient mosaics in the world.
Coordinates: 34° 45′ 26.85″ N 32° 24′ 33.85″ E
Founded in the late 4th century BC, Pafos became the island’s capital, replacing Salamis during the Hellenistic and Roman eras. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the site is a vast archaeological area with remains of four Roman villas, an odeon, an agora, an Asclepeion (a healing temple sacred to the god Asclepius, the god of medicine) and royal tombs.
Like Salamis, Nea Pafos was severely damaged by earthquakes on several occasions and went into decline following the devastating earthquake of the 4th century AD. The city originally occupied an area of about 950,000 square metres and reached its zenith during the Antonine and Severan periods (second half of the 2nd / early 3rd century AD). This is reflected by the number of public and private opulent buildings that survived this period. A chance discovery made in 1962 by a farmer ploughing his field has brought exquisite light mosaics that decorated the floors of wealthy residences of the Roman period.
One of the most exquisite and best-preserved mosaics unearthed at the site is the round mosaic of Theseus and the Minotaur in the Villa of Theseus, named after the representation of the Athenian hero fighting the Cretan monster in the Labyrinth. The most spectacular group of mosaics comes from the House of Dionysus. The building occupies an area of about 2000 square metres, of which 556 are covered with mosaic floors. A short walk away lies the Agora (forum), the Asclepeion and the Odeon, where musical performances were held. These buildings constituted the heart of the ancient city.