The story of the archaeological excavation in the Ancient City of Salamis Cyprus
Between 1998-2013, Salamis Ancient City Excavation Director Prof. Dr. Coşkun Özgünel talked about the conditions and how the archaeological studies were carried out.
Cyprus is one of the addresses where those who want to have a pleasant sea holiday and go on a long journey in history turn their route.
One of the places at the top of the “must-see” lists in Northern Cyprus is the Ancient City of Salamis.
This place has left deep traces both on the Island and in the history of the entire Mediterranean.
History of Salamis Ancient City
According to a rumor, Akalar is the founder of Salamis, 6 kilometers from Famagusta, founded at the end of the Bronze Age. According to another story, Teukros.
Teukros, the son of Telamon, the king of Salamis Island near Athens, was expelled from his hometown by his father because he could not prevent the suicide of his brother Ajax during the Trojan War and came here to establish the ancient city.
Making the best use of the commercial advantages of its strategic location in the center of the Mediterranean, the city minted its first coin in the 5th century BC. After that, the town was dominated by Assyria for a while.
Salamis, an independent kingdom with the end of Assyrian domination, later came into existence under Egyptian and Persian hegemony. However, during Alexander the Great’s great eastern campaign, he also left the Persian administration.
The city, which went through a turbulent period after the death of Alexander and constantly changed hands, came under the rule of the Ptolemaic kingdom of Cyprus in 294 BC and became the capital of this kingdom.
This bright period continued in the Roman period as well. As a consequence, it evolved one of the most important trade centers of the Roman Empire.
It is known that many of the ruins found in the city belong to this period, and the oldest ruins date back to the 11th century BC.
The city of Salamis, one of the most important ruins in Northern Cyprus, was partially unearthed during the excavations between 1952-1974. The holes, which stopped in 1974, were resumed by Ankara University in 1998 and ended in 2013.
Most of the archaeological excavations carried out in Salamis from 1999 to 2013 were concentrated in the northern center of the city.
Excavations brought actual results, especially in the bath structure, which did not attract as much attention as other structures in the north center of the city, where crucial Roman period structures are located, about 100 meters west of the theater.
Prof. Dr. Coşkun Özgünel talked about those days:
Professor, who entered the Ankara University Classical Archeology Department without any knowledge of the archeology department of this ancient Roman city, which could not be fully unearthed, and later devoted his whole life to excavations. Dr. It was discovered together with Coşkun Özgüner and his team.
Between 1998-2013, Salamis Ancient City Excavation Director Prof. Dr. Coşkun Özgünel described those days as follows:
I am a child of an officer. The officers could barely make a living at that time. We did not have the opportunity to take a vacation. If I study archeology, I will have a break and work in the summer.
Let’s come with my adventure that started like this. In 1998, we started working in Cyprus with five people. We desired to declare to the world that the Turks also protect the cultural assets in Cyprus.
When we went, Salamis Ruins was like the tomb of Nasreddin Hodja; There was no limit to what went in and out. The excavation sites were filthy. We said, ‘We need to save the ruin from destruction,’ and put up a fence around the ruins.
First, we cleared the grass and garbage. We worked devotedly for 2-2.5 months every year. We protected the values that the Cypriots did not. We have reached significant findings.
In particular, we solved the Roman road problem in the Ancient period. We uncovered a fish house; we found a large bath. If we had not entered that ruin, an inch of land would not have come to light today.
The Greeks always tried to prevent the Turks from digging; they complained and slandered that they were digging illegally.
“Those who excavated before us did not respond to the invitation.”
Hakan Öztaner, who spent years together with his teacher for this grueling and self-sacrificing work, said:
“The Salamis project started in 1998. From 1998 to 2013, Ankara University faculty members and their assistants, Eastern Mediterranean University Archeology Department students, and architects from the architecture department.
The British Cyprus Antiquities Department, which started to work for the project in Salamis in the 1870s, operated until 1963-1964. The University of Lyon from France carried out studies together with the French. The work in Salamis continued until the 1974 Peace Operation.
After the unfinished studies, we invited the scientists who worked there to start again. Still, I remember very well that we did not receive any answers to our letters. But, ethically, we made such invitations because we respect the excavations done before us.
A program was made to start our scientific archaeological studies from scratch in areas where the previous teams did not work. After the surface surveys, we identified a place that had not been studied before in Salamis and started working on the city’s problems.
The street system for city planning determines the locations of other structures in the town in this direction.”
Historical buildings in Salamis Ancient City
– Gymnasion (Sports area)
– Roman bath
– Roma Street
– Late period walls
– St. Epiphanios Basilica
– oil mill
– Basilica of Campanopetra
– Agora (Marketplace)
The Ancient City of Salamis with thousands of years of history in the historical city of Famagusta
THE HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT CITY OF SALAMIS CYPRUS
The Ancient City of Salamis was first established as a colony of Aka, and then Tekfros, the founder of Salamis Island in Greece, wrote his name in history as the founder of this city. The establishment story of the ancient city is as follows;
Tekfros, the founder of Salamis Island, comes here with his comrades in the Trojan War and a group of people captured in this war. B.C. In 1184, he set foot on Cyprus Island from Akalar Beach on the northern coast of the Karpaz Peninsula.
They stay here for a certain period and then come to the region where the present ancient city is located and establish this city.
B.C. After the Assyrian domination, which came to the island in 707, the island’s administration passed into the hands of the King of Salamis, Elevton, and B.C. In 411, Evagoras, a member of the Tekfros family, captured Kingdom Salamis with his followers from Cilicia.
Evagoras, who strengthened the walls of the Ancient City of Salamis and formed a fleet, B.C. After 391, it dominates almost the entire island.
Afterward, B.C. Finally, in 380, the Persians besieged the city of Salamis, and an agreement was reached on the condition that Evagoras only remain the King of Salamis and pay taxes to the Pars.
B.C. Due to the murder of Evagoras in 374, the Kings succeeded him remained faithful to the treaty, Evagoras made with the Persians until the time of Alexander the Great. Pythagoras, the King of Salamis during the Alexander Era, helped Alexander the Great during the city’s siege.
After Alexander’s sudden death, Salamis had to change hands constantly due to the years-long war that started due to the division of land and sovereignty among its commanders. B.C. In 294, Ptolemy captured the island and established his dynasty there.
Paphos became the new capital of Cyprus Island until the 4th century A.D. Salamis Ancient City was damaged by earthquakes between 76 and 77 A.D. It was also destroyed during the Jewish revolt in 116 AD. Emperor Constantine decides to shrink the city and rebuild it.
That’s why at that time, it was called Constantia. The newly founded city, Constantia, became the capital of the Cyprus peninsula again between 368 and 403 AD.
After 647 AD, the city was abandoned with intermittent earthquakes and raids. This is how it took its present form in the town of Famagusta. Such is the historical background of the Ancient City of Salamis, which is only an ancient city and sightseeing point today.
WHERE IS THE ANCIENT CITY OF SALAMIS?
Known to have been founded in the Bronze Age, the Ancient City of Salamis has dozens of details to explore, 6 kilometers north of Famagusta. It is located in Northern Cyprus. It is seen by thousands of individuals every year, and its historical points to be discovered manage to attract everyone’s attention.
TRAVEL PLACES IN THE ANCIENT CITY OF SALAMIS
Salamis Ancient City has many details, as can be understood from its rich history. There are numerous spots to visit in the ancient city. It contains historical artifacts bearing the traces of the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Periods. Traveling and exploring all of them offers you a lovely experience.
In this place where you can walk around, there are the Ancient Theatre, Forum, Zeus Temple, Gymnasium where sports activities are held, old bath, market places, tombs of Salamis kings and ruins of the city.
It is estimated that the ancient theater was built during the reign of Augustus. Some stones of the theater, which were destroyed by earthquakes in the 4th century A.D., were used to construct baths.
The ancient theater includes sitting stones, stage building, and orchestra places. Its capacity is 15,000 people. At that time, the stage building served as a front for the actors to dress and undress.
Surrounded by frescoes, statues, and columns, only the foundations of this magnificent place have survived to the present day.
In the middle of the orchestra in the middle part, there is an altar dedicated to Dionysus and two inscribed bases dedicated to Marcus Aurelius Commodus and Caesar Contanstinus, and Caesar Maximianus.
The row of seats is more than 50. However, some of them have survived to the present day. The space in the middle is the honor box.
This is a building located to the south of the water reservoir. It is known as Agora. It can be seen from the space in the middle and the shops around it. It is known that this is the meeting and shopping place of Salamis.
It is understood from an inscription found that it was restored during the Augustus period. The colonnaded arcades on both sides of the Agora served as protection from the sun and rain.
Unfortunately, only one of them is standing.
Temple of Zeus
It is known that the historical building, a small part of which has survived until today, is the main temple building of the Ancient City of Salamis. It is located at the southern end of the Agora.
You can reach here by climbing the steps. According to the findings obtained during the archaeological excavations, it was understood that the temple was built in honor of Livia, wife of Augustus.
Gymnasium / Sports Field
From the floor inscription at the south entrance, it was understood that this was the place where sports competitions were held. The information of a Gymnasium from the Hellenistic period located in the city’s north is available in this inscription.
A remnant in the eastern entrance also explains that this place was used as a garden. This place was also restored during the Augustus period, and the east entrance was added.
There are sculptures around a swimming pool added to the north and south ends of the area, surrounded by colonnaded gates with chromite caps on all four sides. Today, the sculptures found around the northern swimming pool belonging to the 2nd century A.D. The earthquakes destroyed the Gymnasium in 332 and 342 AD, rebuilt as Salamis baths by Konstatinus during the Early Byzantine period.
Walls and Harbors
It is said that there are walls built against Arab raids in the 7th century A.D. for these historical artifacts. These are the walls surrounding the center of the city. In addition, artificial breakwaters protect the northern and southern parts of the port.
The second port, used in the late Roman period, is located north of the ancient city. Apart from these two ports, he also mentions the third port used by Demetrius.
Roman Villa, Byzantine Water Cistern, Kompanapetra Basilica, Hagia Epiphanios Basilica, Se Warehouse are among the old works found here. All it takes is one day to explore the Ancient City of Salamis.
HOW TO GET TO THE ANCIENT CITY OF SALAMIS?
All you need to do to the Ancient City of Salamis, a historical city in Northern Cyprus, is buy a plane ticket. Then, you can explore this place within our territory without needing a passport or visa.
Periods of Salamis Ruins
We are aware of the historical importance of the Salamis Ruins. We want to travel. But isn’t it essential to have information about a historical destination without going to it? In this sense, the subject that gains value is the Salamis Ruins were founded.
Thus, when we look at it in a general framework, those who established the Salamis Ruins; are the tribes from Anatolia and the Akars from Greece. In other words, it coincides with the end of the Bronze Age as a period. However, this is not the only rumor. There is another rumor as well.
According to this rumor, Tefkros, son of Telamon, who took part in the Trojan War and was the king of Salamis Island, is the founder of this historical city. When the findings in the city are examined in general terms, it is seen that the town dates back to BC.
It is known that it was founded in the 11th century. So, what are the periods when the city is active? Which civilizations did it dominate?
- Assyrian Domination: The city BC. It has been under the Assyrian rule since 708. As a result of the Assyrians incorporating the island, the Salamis Ruins were also included in the Assyrian domination. However, BC. Since the Assyrian power ended in 699, the dominance of the Salamis Ruins also changed.
- Egyptian Sovereignty: After the end of the Assyrian rule, the city lived independently within the framework of the kingdom period. However, not long after, the town was included in the sovereignty of Egypt.
- Persian Sovereignty: The Persian Empire had a necessary dominance power to take the ruins from Egyptian domination. In this context, BC. From 525 onwards, the Salamis Ruins were ruled by the Persian Empire.
- Alexander the Great Period: After the Persian expedition of Alexander the Great, the dominance of the city passed into the hands of Alexander the Great. However, after the death of Alexander the Great, the town changed hands many times.
- Period of the Ptolemaic Kingdom: In the turbulent period after the death of Alexander the Great, the municipality came underneath the control of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and became the capital by gaining a critical feature.
- Roman Empire Period: The city, which spent an active period with the Ptolemaic Kingdom, was also actively managed under the Roman Empire without slowing down. One of the most noteworthy commercial corners of the Roman Empire in the east was the Salamis Ruins, which were under the rule of the Roman Empire.
- Period of Collapse: Many earthquakes in the same basin between AD 332 and 342 seriously affected the Salamis Ruins. As a result of the increasing effect of earthquakes day by day, the Byzantine emperor II. Constantine rebuilt the city into a smaller structure. He later named this city, which he created, Konstantina, born from his name. The town, which started to develop nicely in the following period, took the capital from Paphos, the capital of Cyprus in the same period, and became the capital of Cyprus.
- Abandonment: As a result of the great earthquakes that occurred with the Arab raids since 647 AD, the people started to leave the city of Salamis. In this context, the people who left the city had to migrate to the nearby town of Famagusta.
All of the above periods had a significant impact on the city of Salamis. Subsequently, it also contributed to making Cyprus a crucial historical destination.
Therefore, if you want to have a different experience and feel the incredible texture of Cyprus, these historical destinations will provide you with all kinds of contributions.
The Present Location of the Salamis Ruins
It was not understood until the 19th century that the city was home to the traces and civilizations left in Cyprus. However, in the 19th century, the town, covered with soil and trees, passed through many stages and took its current form. At this stage, the following phases are critical:
- As a result of the excavations carried out between 1952 and 1974, a large part of the city was revealed.
- The excavations, which were interrupted in 1972 due to specific events, resumed in 1998. These studies, which started in 1998, were carried out under the leadership of Ankara University.
As mentioned above, this city, whose name is mentioned in the Bible, has also witnessed the sermons of essential apostles. These apostles are Barnabas and Paul. The historic town, which contains a magnificent texture in every sense, is now open to visitors in ruins.
Therefore, if you want to have a friendly and informative holiday, you will have great options. At the same time, other places you can visit in Famagusta will be mentioned below.
What are the other places to visit in Famagusta?
One of the most important places that sheds light on history is the Salamis Ruins. However, the process is not limited to this. In addition, there are many essential destinations. So, where are the other places to visit in Famagusta besides the Salamis Ruins?
- Namık Kemal Dungeon is where Namık Kemal, one of the most influential writers and national poet, was exiled. Namık Kemal created his most important works in this dungeon in Famagusta.
- Known as the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, the Cathedral was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire. For Lala Mustafa Pasha, known as the conqueror of Cyprus, the elimination of the need of the mosque with the intention of Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque was renowned.
- To enjoy camping and beach, Glapsides Beach is among the places to visit in Famagusta.
Therefore, it would be a correct option to include Cyprus among the holiday routes from this point of view.