Selected and rare materials, excerpts and observations from ancient, medieval and contemporary authors, travelers and researchers about Cyprus.
uses Google technology and indexes only and selectively internet - libraries having books with free public access

The Sanctuary of Aphrodite

SIR SAMUEL WHITE BAKER. Cyprus, as I saw it in 1879.


few huge blocks only are now extant. On the west side of this outer wall there was a doorway still plainly visible. Its width was seventeen feet nine inches. The two sockets for the bolts upon which the door swung are of the following dimensions : length six inches, width four and a half inches, depth three and a half inches. The south-east wall, I ascertained, by excavating its whole length, was 690 feet long. The length of the west side I could only trace as far as 272 feet, its continuance being hidden beneath the houses of Kouklia. The length of the other two sides I was unable to ascertain for similar reasons. The walls of the temple itself, made of the kind of stone previously mentioned, but not in such huge blocks, I was able to trace correctly, by dint of patience ; and though very little is seen above ground, yet, strange to say, the four corner-stones are still standing. The north-east corner-stone is cased in a house in Kouklia, forming part of its wall ; that of the north-west stands in a cross-street of the village by itself. Some European travellers have mistaken it from its present shape for the emblematic cone of Venus. The south-east corner stands also by itself in an open field, where the Christian population of Kouklia burn lamps and little wax-candles, but in honour of whom, or for what purpose, I did not inquire. The fourth corner-stone likewise forms part of a modern dwelling-house.
" The temple was oblong and of the following dimensions : the eastern and western walls measure 221 feet, and the two other sides 167 feet. I cannot vouch for the exact measurement on account of the difficulties I had to encounter, nevertheless the difference can be of some inches only. The corner-stone of the north-west side has a hole in it thirteen inches in diameter ; a similar hole also exists in the south-west corner of the outer wall. As the temple at Paphos possessed an oracle, these strange holes, which go through the entire stone, may have been connected with it. This at least was the opinion of Dr. Friederichs when he came to pay me a visit at Paphos.
" From this spot, if a person stand upon this huge perforated stone, he can produce a clear and fine echo of a phrase of three or four words, pronounced in a hollow tone of voice."
It is quite possible that the tricks of acoustics may have been practised by the priests who officiated at oracular shrines, which would have awed the ignorant multitude ; as in sacred groves a tree might have been made to speak by the simple contrivance of a man concealed within the hollow stem, which to outward appearance would have been considered solid. The devices of priestcraft to bring grist to their mill are not yet obsolete, as will be seen in many of the monasteries of Cyprus.
All the grandeur of ancient days was now represent by the heaps of stones and the rock caverns which mark the site of Paphos. What became of Venus after her appearance upon this shore may be left to the imagination ; why she is represented by the exceedingly plain women of modern Cyprus surpasses the imagination. Perhaps the immorality connected with the ancient worship of the goddess of beauty and of love invoked a curse upon the descendants in the shape of "baggy trousers, high boots, and ugliness :"to which dirt has been a painful addition.

1  2