|Nea Paphos, modern Kato Paphos, lies on the Southwest coast of Cyprus. It was founded by Nicocles, king of Palaepaphos, towards the close of the 4th century B.C., and soon became one of the most important cities of the island. From the mid 2nd century B.C. to the 4th century A.D. it was capital of the island, and as such was the centre of political, economic and cultural life.|
The systematic excavation of the city started about a quarter of a century ago, and although only a relatively small number of structures has come to light so far, it is clear that floor mosaics were a main feature of their decoration. These mosaics span the period from the late 4th century B.C to the 6th century. A.D, and amongst them those decorative three houses and a villa are of prime importance. The Houses of Orpheus and Dionysos date to the late 2nd - early 3rd century A.D. and the House of Aion to around the middle of the 4th century A.D. The nearby Villa of Theseus, the residence of the Roman Proconsul, started its life probably in the second half of the 2nd century A.D. It was added to, altered and redecorated several times up to the 5th century A.D and was later taken over by squatters.
The large number of mosaics found throughout the island leave little doubt that Cyrus was a major centre of this art. The style of these mosaics and the choice of subjects represented in them show that they belong to the East Mediterranean tradition. They do, however, form a distinct, recognizable group and they must have been made by local craftsmen.
Mosaics are made of small cubes of stone, known as tesserae, set in a bed of plaster. In Cyprus, the tesserae are made of local stone, but exceptionally, some imported marble is also employed. In more luxurious floors, and where more unusual, strong colours, such as some shades of blue, green, orange, etc were needed, the tedderae were made of glass paste. Most mosaic floors are decorated with geometric patterns. Cyprus moreover has a rich array of floors decorated with figured mosaics, illustrating, amongst other things, episodes from Greek mythology. The richest collection of these is found amongst the mosaics of Paphos.
Text: Dr. D. Michaelides, Archaeological Officer.
Source: Department of Postal Services, Republic of Cyprus.