Soloi (Cyprus) 27 Karavostasi/Yedidalga - Σόλοι

Σόλοι - Soloi, Archaic to Late Antique polis near Karavostasi/Yedidalga, Nicosia Cyprus
polis

Modern description Princeton Encyclopedia

On the NW coast in the area of Morphou Bay. The ruins cover a large area, part of which is now occupied by the modern village. The city extended on the summit of a hill, a little back from the coast and over its N slope overlooking the bay; it also extended over a narrow strip of flat land below as far as the harbor. The city consisted of two parts, the acropolis and the lower city.
The city wall can still be traced along the S ridge of the acropolis. To the E it follows the edge of the hill down to a point ca. 100 m E of the theater, where it disappears in the plain. In all likelihood it reached the coast and was continued by the E breakwater of the harbor, the end of which is still visible above the water. The W part of the city wall runs from the acropolis in a NW direction and disappears in the village near the modern main road. Near the middle of the last portion of the wall traces of the W gate have been located. This wall must have also reached the coast, where it was continued by the W breakwater, the end of which is again visible above the water. These two extremities formed the entrance to the harbor, now entirely silted up. A similar arrangement of walls and breakwaters is to be seen at Nea Paphos (q.v.). This then was the winter harbor of Skylax (GGM 1.103), also mentioned by Strabo (14.683). The necropolis extends E and S, with the earliest tombs found in the E necropolis.
Soloi, one of the ancient kingdoms of Cyprus, was, according to tradition, founded by Akamas and Phaleros. According to another version, a city called Aipeia (supposed to have been the predecessor of Soloi) was founded by Demophon, brother of Akamas. The name is connected with the visit of the Athenian lawgiver Solon to Cyprus and to Philokypros of Aipeia. Solon advised the king to remove the city of Aipeia from its inconvenient position in rough country to the plain by the sea. Philokypros took the advice and founded a new city, which he called Soloi in honor of his friend.
Owing to the existence of copper mines, the richest in the island, the area was inhabited at an early date and the presence of Late Bronze Age settlements in the vicinity is well attested. On archaeological evidence available today, the city site has been occupied since Geometric times and like some other cities in the island such as Salamis, Soloi may have succeeded a Late Bronze Age town in the neighborhood. It owed its prosperity to the nearby copper mines, and flourished down to Early Byzantine times, when it was gradually abandoned after the first Arab raids of A.D. 647.
Little is known of its earliest history, though from Classical times onwards the city played an important role in the history of Cyprus and at least in the times of Alexander the Great seems to have been the most important city of the island after Salamis.
During the rising against the Persians at the time of the Ionian Revolt the king of Soloi, Aristokypros, son of Philokypros, was killed in the battle on the plain of Salamis. Soloi itself successfully resisted the siege of the Persians for five months but was finally captured, when the city walls had been undermined. After this time there are but a few records of the city in literature. From inscriptions, however, we know the names of Kings Stasias and Stasikrates, probably living in the 4th c. B.C.
The kings of Cyprus assisted Alexander the Great actively during the siege of Tyre and some of them accompanied him on his way to the E. The kings of Salamis and Soloi paid the expenses for the choruses, when celebrating in 331 the capture of Tyre. Nikokreon of Salamis and Pasikrates of Soloi vied with each other as choregoi, the Athenian tragic actor Athenodoros, provided by Pasikrates, being victorious. Nikokles, the son of Pasikrates, was one of the leaders of the Cypriot fleet, which was used by Alexander on his expedition to Indus. And Stasanor, possibly a brother of Pasikrates, also accompanied Alexander. Alexander made Stasanor governor of Areia and Drangiane in 329 and later in 321 he also received Bactria and Sogdiane. Hiero of Soloi, also was sent to circumnavigate the Arabian peninsula and got as far as the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Soloi is the birthplace of the peripatetic historian Klearchos, a pupil of Aristotle.
The last king of Soloi was called Eunostos, probably the elder son of Pasikrates. All the kingdoms of Cyprus were abolished by Ptolemy I Soter with the exception of Soloi, which seems to have been in an exceptional position. How long Pasikrates continued to reign after we last hear of him in 321, when he sided with Ptolemy, we do not know; Eunostos, however, was his successor.
During the Ptolemaic period little is known of Soloi though contacts with Alexandria must have been maintained. The city continued to flourish in Graeco-Roman times and soon became the seat of a bishop. According to the Acta Auxibii (8-9), the saint was baptized and ordained bishop by John Mark the Evangelist and sent to Soloi, where he lived for fifty years (A.D. 52n102/3).
The principal monuments uncovered so far include the theater, an archaic Greek temple on the acropolis, both excavated in 1929, and part of the lower city and an Early Christian basilican church in 1965 onwards.
Of the temples at Cholades excavated by the former expedition nothing is visible, the site having been filled up subsequently. The temples date from Hellenistic and Graeco-Roman times and the gods worshiped there have been identified with Aphrodite, Kybele, Isis, Serapis, the Dioskouroi, Canopos, Eros, Priapos, and possibly Mithras. Strabo mentions a Temple of Aphrodite and Isis and from the Acta Auxibii we learn of the Temple of Zeus near the W gate. A city of the importance of Soloi could not have been without a gymnasium, but of it nothing is known. Trial trenches on the S side of the acropolis have shown that the royal palace should be located here.
Excavations in the lower city revealed several buildings dating from archaic to Graeco-Roman times. The structures in the late Graeco-Roman period were erected on workshops of the early Graeco-Roman period. Among the workshops were identified a glass factory and a dyer's factory. In the lower layers were remains of Hellenistic buildings and among the Classical levels a public building built of well-dressed stones. Below the levels of the Classical period, represented by an accumulation of debris corresponding to the Persian wars, were found the remains of the archaic city.
Probably the most important discovery to date is that of a large street paved with stone slabs. The part revealed measures 4.95 m in width. On the S side was a portico with columns of which the bases are preserved in situ. This was certainly the main E-W street in Graeco-Roman times--;it probably dates from the 3d c. A.D.--;and may have been a colonnaded street.
The theater lies on the N slope of the lower hill, E of the acropolis, overlooking the sea to the N. It consists of the cavea, which had been cut in the rock, of a semicircular orchestra, and of the stage-building. A diazoma encircled the cavea two-thirds of the way up. The semicircular cavea had a diameter of 52 m. The floor of the orchestra was plastered with lime-cement on a substructure of rubble; it had a diameter of 17 m. The stage-building is rectangular, 36.15 m x 13.20 m; but of this structure only the platform on which it was built is preserved. The theater could hold about 3500 spectators. It has recently been reconstructed to its diazoma.
The recent excavation of tombs in the E necropolis yielded some very interesting results. One of the tombs dates from the Cypro-Geometric period, a fact which adds about two centuries to the material hitherto known from the area. But the most important discovery was that in the dromos of one of the archaic tombs: in front of the burial chamber of the rock-cut tomb were found the remains of a horse and of a smaller animal, probably a sheep, sacrificed in honor of the dead. Similar customs of sacrifice and burial of animals are known at Salamis, Tamassos, and Palaipaphos, but in Soloi they were recorded for the first time.
The finds are in the Cyprus Museum, Nicosia. (K. NICOLAOU)

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