The ruins of Salamis in Cyprus

When I was a boy I lived in Cyprus for two years.  This was before the division of the island after the Greek attempt at annexation in 1974.  I remember holidays in the east of the island, especially around the ruined Roman city of Salamis.

It was possible to camp in the ruins, to kick a ball against an ancient column.  The site was mostly unexcavated and stood on the sea.  An earthquake in antiquity had pushed much of the city under the waves, and so I recall shallow blue seas full of tumbled masonry.

The experience gave me a life-long appreciation of the reality of the ancient world.  Many people really don’t believe the ancient world is real; not really, not like modern times.  It was something far away and relatively unimportant, about which nothing can truly be known, so they feel.  I am one of the privileged few who have never thought this.

All this came back to me when I stumbled across a picture of Salamis today on a tour company website (Cyprus44).  It doesn’t seem to have changed a bit!


Salamis was originally a Greek city.  Cicero records in one of his letters how Republican tax-gatherers wanted a commission in the cavalry, and how one of them had beseiged the senate of Salamis in their own senate house, in pursuit of a debt (owed to Brutus) for so long that some had starved to death!  The ruins visible today are mainly Roman.

The city was wrecked in the 4th century by an earthquake, and the rebuilt city was renamed Constantia.  Epiphanius, author of the Panarion, was its bishop late in the century.  The city declined in the Byzantine period, and was abandoned after the Moslem conquest.  When a new city arose, at Famagusta, it was sited some miles to the south.


11 thoughts on “The ruins of Salamis in Cyprus

  1. Salamis was the center of the Greeks in Cyprus. Remember how Kimon fought and died and won a battle even though dead there during the last part of Persian Wars. Or how the Kings of Salamis in alliance with the Athenians constantly tried to revoke the Persian yoke. Since the Turkish invasion of 1974 it is in the occupied zone and hence any excavations cannot be published since they will not have permission from the proper authorities.

  2. Is that really the Greek demand? That science should be lost, unless they get their political demands? Sheesh.

    The publication of archaeology — or any science — should never depend on permission from others. Particularly when that “permission” is merely a political claim to someone else’s land, rather than a reality.

  3. If there is to be a new excavation in Salamis for it to be legal it must be authorized by the Archaeological Service of the Republic of Cyprus.

    (Edited material about Greek politics)

  4. I note that — as ever — it is the *Greeks* who are demanding the right to veto archaeology in the part of Cyprus they don’t control. That isn’t acceptable. Science should be above such pettiness. The only result of such behaviour is to encourage looting (which the Turks have been doing anyway).

    (Edited material about Greek politics)

  5. The government of the Republic of Cyprus has proven very willing to license excavations provided that its inspectors are allowed to come and inspect, standard procedure for all governments. If it was to do so in the occupied territories the inspectors would get stopped by the Turkish Army. No scientific excavations have taken place in the occupied territories since 1974.

    (Edited material about Greek politics)

  6. I initially allowed those comments (some by me), but then I changed my mind.

    People feel very strongly about politics. But that always leads to people shouting at each other. (I often have to restrain myself from posting things which are very interesting and important, but not relevant to the readers!)

    Also this blog is really my diary, and dedicated to the ancient world. The comments are really people scribbling in the margin. I want helpful comments, not an argument.

    So I thought better of it and removed that material. This is not the place for it.

  7. My family are from Cyprus and the last two times I have visited the Island in 2005 and 2008 I paid visits to Salamis. It is obvious that there is so much potential for new excavations. By the looks of it only 50% of the city has been excavated. Would you agree with that Roger?

  8. I will be visiting Cyprus in August and will be taking my children to Salamis. It is just a shame more excavations have not taken place, as you commented a while back 90% is still unexcavated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *