In W Cyprus, ca. 1.5 km from the sea, some 16 km SE of Nea Paphos. The ruins cover a large area, part of which is now occupied by the modern village of Kouklia. A vast necropolis extends NE, E, and S of the city. Palaipaphos or simply Paphos was the capital of the kingdom of Paphos and the celebrated center of the cult of Aphrodite.
The traditional founder of Paphos was Agapenor, king of Tegea in Arkadia in the Peloponnese, who founded the Temple of Aphrodite in that city.
According to another legend, the cult of Aphrodite was established earlier by Kinyras, the proverbial king of Paphos or of all Cyprus, who, as the Iliad tells us, sent to Agamemnon a notable cuirass when he heard of the expedition against Troy. The priest-kings of Paphos traced their origin to Kinyras, and a dynasty called the Kinyradai ruled Paphos down to Ptolemaic times.
The Temple of Aphrodite was the most notable sacred edifice in Cyprus and the most famous Temple of Aphrodite in the ancient world. There, according to tradition, Aphrodite first set foot upon the shore after having been born of the foam of the sea. The Holy Grove and Altar of Aphrodite in Paphos are mentioned by Homer; since then many historians and geographers of antiquity have described and mentioned this Shrine of the Goddess of Beauty and Love, often called Paphia. The very Tomb of Aphrodite was shown in Paphos.
Strabo and Pausanias confuse Old and New Paphos and refer to Nea Paphos as the city founded by Agapenor. Archaeological evidence, however, is against this view for, whereas the presence of the Mycenaeans in Old Paphos is well attested, the founding of New Paphos cannot be earlier than the 4th c. B.C.
Recent excavations have shown that heavy fighting took place at the NE defenses of the city at the time of the Ionian Revolt (499-498 B.C.). Nikokles, son of Timarchos, the last king of Paphos, was also the founder of New Paphos. He remained faithful to Ptolemy and when in 312 B.C. Marion was razed, its inhabitants were transferred to Paphos, most likely New Paphos. Old Paphos, however, still flourished in Hellenistic and Graeco-Roman times and retained its status as the principal center of the cult of Aphrodite. In fact, Strabo tells us that at the annual festival of Aphrodite men and women, from other cities as well as from Paphos walked from New to Old Paphos, a distance of 60 stadia.
Very little is known of the earlier history of Palaipaphos. The name appears on the prism of Esarhaddon (673-672 B.C.) where Ituander, king of Pappa, is interpreted as Eteandros king of Paphos. Two gold bracelets of the late 6th or early 5th c. B.C. which are said to have been found at Kourion bear in Cypriot script the name Eteandros, king of Paphos. The sequence of its kings from the beginning of the 5th c. B.C. is fairly well fixed from coins and from inscriptions.
The principal monuments uncovered up to the present day include part of the fortifications of the city excavated in recent years and the Temple of Aphrodite, which was excavated towards the end of the 19th c. Most of the ruins of this large city, however, remain unexcavated. The existence of a gymnasium and of a theater is attested by inscriptions but their sites remain unidentified. The oracle is known both from an inscription and from literary sources.
Of particular importance are the NE fortifications of the city. The sector uncovered thus far is at the Marcello hill, due NE of the village of Kouklia. A wall running for ca. 90 m in a SE-NW direction was cleared. At the SE end a rectangular tower projecting from the outward face of the wall was uncovered. At the NW end are two bastions with a gate in between. But most important perhaps of all the fortifications is the siege mound between the gate and the tower. The city defenses date from Late Geometric or early archaic down to Late Hellenistic times.
Of particular interest are the fortifications of the time of the Ionian Revolt (499-498 B.C.) with the construction of siege and countersiege works. The mound was raised by the Persians when besieging the city. The most striking feature of the siege mound is the variety of its contents: stones, earth, ashes, burnt bones, carbonized wood, and numerous architectural, sculptural and epigraphical fragments, many of which were damaged by fire.
The architectural finds include fragments of Proto-Ionic volute capitals, acroteria, architraves, and various moldings. There are a number of altars, bases, and many votive columns. More remarkable are the great quantities of limestone sculpture, among which are Kouroi clad in the Cypriot 'belt'; and parts of sphinxes and lions. All the sculptured remains date from the archaic period, mostly of the middle or the later part of the 6th c. B.C. To the same context belong over 190 syllabic inscriptions, many of them obviously dedications. The large amount of sculptural and architectural debris proves that there existed an important archaic sanctuary in the vicinity outside the walls and that this shrine was used by the Persians as a quarry for building the ramp in a hurry. The siege mound also contained a large number of rough, round-shaped stones, probably used as ballistic missiles. Besides the materials described the mound contained great quantities of weapons: javelin points, spearheads and arrowheads both of iron and bronze, and an exceptionally well-preserved late archaic bronze helmet of the Greek type with engraved ornaments, resembling the so-called Miltiades helmet from Olympia.
On the other hand, a series of underground sally ports were made by the besieged for mining the mound. Severe fighting took place during the construction of the ramp, to judge from the quantity of missiles found, and the defenders were able to mine the ramp by setting fire to the support of the tunnels, thereby causing it to collapse.
The set-back NE gate has an outer (N) cross-bastion and an inner (S) cross-bastion on the opposite side. The presence of many spearheads and arrowheads and the extensive damage to the gate also indicate heavy fighting at the time of the Ionian Revolt. In the 4th c. B.C. a series of guard rooms were built on the N side of the gate.
The temple of Aphrodite lies on a hill at the SW sector of Palaipaphos. Unfortunately very little of this temple survives and most of its ruins date from Graeco-Roman times (excavated in 1887).
The plan as uncovered to date may be divided into two sections: the S wing, of which very imperfect remains exist; and the great rectangular enclosure to the N; its sides are ca. 9 m long, within which area are included the S stoa, several chambers of various sizes, the N stoa, a large open court, and the central hall.
The great rectangular enclosure seems originally to have consisted of a range of buildings extending along the whole of the E side with a great open court to the W of it, which was flanked on the N by a wide stoa extending along its whole width and probably originally by a similar stoa extending along the S front. Whether this court ever had a W wall it is impossible to say without further investigation.
When in Roman times the temple was restored after its destruction by earthquakes on two separate occasions all traces of the S stoa were destroyed and a new one of large proportions was built. The central hall dates also from Roman times but the chambers running up the E side belong to the pre-Roman period. To the same period may be assigned the walls of the N stoa.
Very little of the plan of the temple can be worked out from the existing remains and our knowledge of the temple is better derived from coins of the Augustan and later periods.
A large conical stone, now in the Cyprus Museum, came from the area of the Temple of Aphrodite and may be an aniconic representation of the goddess. It is possible that this stone once stood in the central room of the temple. The central feature of the shrine is shown on representations of the temple on Cypriot coins of the Roman era.
Many Greek alphabetic inscriptions of the Hellenistic and Roman era were found in the area of the temple. Of these some are dedications to Aphrodite Paphia while others are honorific. An important inscription of the Early Hellenistic period is a dedication of Ptolemy II to his naval architect Pyrgoteles son of Zoes. A house of the atrium type of the 3d-4th c. B.C. to the W of the Temple of Aphrodite was excavated in 1950 and 1951.
The finds are in the Cyprus Museum, the Paphos District Museum, and the site museum at Kouklia. (K. NICOLAOU) Chronique des Fouilles link
Info: Princeton Encyclopedia
(Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, from Perseus Project)