ΚΟURION - THE MONUMENTS OF THE CITY
Aerial photograph of the area of Kourion
The ancient Hellenistic Theatre with the circular orchestra and the elevated scenae frons (the forehead of the stage), was constructed probably around the late 2nd century A.D., The stage and the buttresses of the two wings over the entries of the chorus suffered serious damage.
The emperor Augustus might have undertaken some restoration works, which, some time later, influenced the total ground plan of the monument. While these works were going on, the Theatre was apparently reduced and many of the auditoria were used as construction material for the new buttresses of the two wings. The semi columns of the stage were coated with red lime mortar.
According to a relevant inscription, which was on several architraves, the stage or its forehead was apparently restored some time later than the mid 1st century A.D., 64/65 A.D under the consulship of Julius Cordus, who was serving under the emperor Nero.
In the early 2nd century A.D. the Theatre took the shape and the dimensions that it still has. The cavea, the landings and the buttresses were extended to the initial dimensions of the Hellenic Theatre and the first entry of the chorus was fully reconstructured. The stage was also reshaped with calcareous architectural sculpture parts.
This latest constructive phase experienced changes in the late 2nd century A.D., mainly on the level of the architectural sculptures, which were replaced by marble ones. The wall of the rear façade was maintained and its part, which was visible by the cavea was covered by marble revetments. These works were connected to the emperor Septimius Severus and a setter up prizes in athletic games, who is recorded in inscriptions.
In the 3rd A.D. under Caracalla reign 214-217 A.D. the first three rows of seats were ripped and the theatre was converted to an arena for gladiatorial contests. In the late half of the 3rd century the monument tasted shifted again back into its initial use. For this purpose its orchestra was remodeled.
Chambers hewed under the cavea of the Theatre were probably used to meet the needs of the gladiatorial contests or the storerooms.
The Theatre was destroyed and let lapse into disuse definitely in the 4th century A.D.
The Theatre has now been greatly restored by the known Greek restorer Antonis Travlos.
It has a capacity of 3000 spectators.
THE FORUM (AGORA)
The Forum Complex, which is situated northeastern the face of the hill comprises a series of public constructions and hydraulic installations, which were mainly excavated in the period 1975-1997.
A colonnade composed of 16 marble columns with Corinthian capitals (6 among the columns have been found at their initial position) and fragments of the relevant parallel wall constitutes the north wing of the whole Porticoes, which surrounded the big square. It was constructed in the late 2nd century A.D. or in the early 3rd century A.D. It was destroyed in the mid 4th century A.D. and was abandoned for several years to be replaced in the early 5th century by various early Christian buildings.
THE NORTH EASTERN HELLINISTIC PUBLIC BUILDING
It is the most ancient monument, which has ever been found in the city of Kourion. The south foundation of the outer wall and the lower fragments of several dividing small inner walls have remained. The excavators have made out three architectural phases, which date from 325-200 A.D., 200-100 A.D. to 100-50 A.D
THE ROMAN NYMPHAEUM
The nymphaeum, the sacredplace devoted to the nymphs, the daughters of Poseidon, sheltered a great cluster of constructions related to the irrigation of the city. Three big units, a rectangular arched chamber for meetings, the small atrium and the cluster of cisterns with the fountains, constituted the nucleus of this huge building, which besides all the above, comprised also two big cluster of baths. It was constructed in the 1st century A.D. and was destroyed in the 7th century in the period of the Arab raids.
Four chronological phases were detected by the excavators, which date from 15-100 A.D., 100-250 A.D., 250-370 A.D. to 400-650 A.D.
THE AQUEDUCT: 1ST A.D.
PRIVATE HOUSES OF LATE ROMAN PERIOD
THE HOUSE OF GLADIATORS: The luxurious private house or according to a second opinion a small public exercise ground (palaestra) was named after from the core subject represented on its mosaic ground. It is situated between the nymphaeum and the house of Achilles nearby the north-western edge of the hill. According to the excavators, it was constructed in the late half of the 3rd century, an era when the mosaic grounds experienced an expansion. It was destroyed by earthquakes in the 4th century A.D. Besides, the atrium, which the gladiators' mosaics were placed in, the House of Gladiators, comprised two porticoes, small chambers, a central open courtyard with three openings (triforium) and a cluster of private baths annexed to its eastern side. A second tangent cluster with an arched central reception or chamber for meetings with an Ionian colonnade in its façade and a courtyard have been found southwards and is adjoining the public street being the boundary of this building.
THE HOUSE OF ACHILLES 4th A.D.: It is situated at the northwestern edge of the hill adjacent to the street leading to the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates. It was constructed in the last period when the mosaic grounds recovered, in the early 4th century A.D., and dealt with subjects from the pagan tradition, This trend appeared almost after the religious tolerance decree being a vigorous answer given by paganism to the expanding Christianism. Its location nearby the entrance to the city has been considered as a sign of its use that is to say as a public building constructed to receive officials or distinguished visitors. The central depiction describes the scene of Achilles meeting Odysseus in Lykomedes' house, where Achilles disguised as a girl was sent there by his mother to avoid his participating in the Troyan War. A fragment of the scene representing the Ganymede being carried off has also remained. A further mosaic has been found in the same house, dealing with a pagan subject of the 5th century referring to the first bath Achilles took by the goddess Thetis.
According to the excavators it was constructed in the late 1stor in the early 2nd century. It was remodeled in the mid 4th century and demolished definitely by the big earthquake, which occurred after the mid 4th century A.D. (365 A.C.). The ruins of this house reflect life in the city of Kourion at the moment of the demolition and all the finds are exposed at the local Museum situated in the village of Episkopi.
It was initially constructed in the early Roman period and was remodeled drastically in the 3rdand 4th century A.D. The entire cluster as we see today is the result of an important restoration, which was performed over the subsequent years under the emperor Theodosius II (408-450 A.D.).
It is the continuity of the known architectural style of the Roman peristyled house (see Vitruvius description). The chambers may be divided in three basic units.
The north part encountered by somebody who enters the monument, with a main entrance and a courtyard around which there are remains of the northern and thesouthern chambers. They were used to provide services or serve as storerooms. The courtyard leads to the antechamber of the central part of this building, which is situated at an almost higher level compared with the first one.
Its ground is covered with a brief welcome inscription.
TO THE HOUSE
This antechamber links the courtyard with the central atrium, which has a garden, a small cistern and a fountain. There are porticoes and rooms around the peristyle with a mosaic ground. In the rooms indeed which are for common use or for meeting purposes are where the most important mosaics can be found. Among which there are the renowned inscriptions which their sponsor Eustolios Kourieas referred to, who after visiting his homeland saw the misery, which his fellow citizens experienced and he decided as Phoebus (Apollo) did once, to have bathing facilities built for them and an ice ward.
EUSTOLIOS, HAVING SEEN THAT THE KOURIANS, THOUGH PREVIOUSLY VERY WEALTHY, WERE IN ABJECT MISERY, DID NOT FORGET THE CITY OF HIS ANCESTORS BUT FIRST HAVING PRSENETED THE BATHS TO OUR CITY, HE WAS THEN TAKING CARE OF KOURION AS ONCE DID PHOEBUS [APOLLO] AND BUILT THIS COOL REFUGE SHELTERED FROM THE WIND.
The public use of the building and its connection with Christianism being the new cult is testified in another inscription in the same cluster of chambers. According to Eustolios, the foundations of this building are the very blessing symbols of Christ instead of big stones, solid iron links, bronze or diamonds.
IN PLACE OF BIG STONES AND SOLID IRON, GLEANING BRONZE AND EVEN ADAMANT, THIS HOUSE IS GIRT WITH THE MUCH-VENERATED SIGNS OF CHRIST.
Rows of chambers, which have been eroded at the south because of the soil displacement and they were probably destined for private use at the south-eastern, shelters by his poor fellow citizens.
The third north and northeastern unit constitutes an annexed cluster of public baths. These places were translated to chambers for meeting.
The long rectangular chamber known as frigidarium is covered with a mosaic ground, which is divided in four panels, two of which are ornamented with purely Geometric motifs; one of them has a central section with a partridge and the southernmost comprises the only pictorial ornament in the entire cluster. The bust of a young woman is depicted on a medallion by a bundle of guilloche; she is holding a measurement instrument equivalent to the Roman leg and is called CREATION, that is to say the incarnation of the CREATION of the world.
Chambers with a simple paving were considered for private use.
EARLY CHRISTIAN BASILICAS
a) EPISCOPAL BASILICA: This monument is one of the most important early Christian monuments on the island. Its erection dates undoubtedly to the early 5th century A.D. and it was constructed on the ruins of the Roman edifices. One enters the monument passing through a propylon (monumental entrance to a monument) at the southeastern side with two columns from granite, which came certainly from a more ancient building. One of the columns lies on an inscribed statue base of a certain Dionysios the Priest. At the west of this entrance there is a small chapel used probably for the presentation of gifts. In this chapel a fragment of a wall mosaic has been found representing one of the Archangels and two other figures in the central shell, which date to the 6th century A.D. In the antechamber, in a corner, there is a water cistern, which was attributed to purification purposes before entering the sacred place.
From this antechamber one may enter a long paved corridor leading to the north wing of the catechumena (chamber where the catechumens stood) and then to the narthex.
The catechumena with the bench along the north wall is the place where the unbaptized converts were taught and converted to the dogmas and the mysteries of the Church.
One may enter the temple by three doors leading to the narthex (trivelon). The Church is composed of three transepts, the nave or central aisle, the north and the south, the presbytery or sanctuary with the altar. The three aisles are divided among them with columns: two rows of 12- marble columns with Corinthian capitals. Over the capitals there are wooden architrave beams on which a second floor of transepts lies over the two extreme transepts, the lofts and then the wooden two-slope roof over the nave and sloping over the lateral transepts. This type of wooden roof structure gave its name to the so-called Early Christian Basilicas with Wooden Roofs to which the Early Christian Episcopal Church belongs too. The floors are coated with opus sectile (marble inlay).
The narthex is also the link between the Church and the other parts of the cluster, the atrium, a second chapel, which was also used for the presentation of gifts, that is to say the Diakonikon, the Episcopal dwell (the house ofthe Bishop and the Priests) who served the Church and the Baptistries, a smaller basilica with narthex, transepts and an atrium, which has southern a cruciform christening chamber and the unction chamber. In this small chapel the baptisms of the christened people occurred. Its floors are paved with mosaics.
This monument was demolished in the 2nd Arab raid around 654 A.D. It was used again for a while in the second half of the 7th century and was finally abandoned in the late 7thcentury or in the early 8th century. The altar was carried several kilometres northeastern in a smaller church, at Serayia at the modern village of Episkopi.
b) BASILICA COAST: Very recently (1994-1999) an Early Christian Basilica with three transepts has been found at the southwestern foot of the hill nearby the modern Ayios Ermogenis' beach. Its erection dates to the 6th century A.D. It suffered serious damage in the Arab raids and was totally demolished in the early 8th century by a strong earthquake and tidal waves, which covered it with sand.
c) THE BASILICA OUTSIDE THE WALLS NEXT TO THE STADIUM (At Meydan): This small basilica was constructed in the late 5th or in the early 6th century A.D. The Romans had initially used several places of this monument as meeting spots with a forensic nature.
H.B. Walters made a survey in this area for the first time in 1895 for the British Museum. The revelation of a dedicatory inscription of the late 4th century B.C. dedicated to Demeter and her daughter at that position led to the hypothesis that a similar Sanctuary existed about in the area. Mr. A.Christodoulou assumed the excavation on a regular basis between 1971-1974. Besides the finds related to the basilica, he located a range of pottery statuettes, coins and other finds dating to the Hellenistic period showing the existence of a Sanctuary devoted to a feminine deity.
The basilica was used for 150 years with the cathedral maybe not on a regular basis and was destroyed in the mid 7th century A.D.
The later phases of the monument but also the use of construction material from other more ancient monuments of the City make its architectural study particularly complicated.
Between the City and the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates there is the Stadium that we see today, which was constructed in the period of Antoninus 2nd century A.D.). The Hellenic Pentathlon (running, high jump, long jump, wrestling, javelin,) should have been the basic sports practised in this Stadium. Chariot and horse races related to the cult of Apollo should also have been practised there since the Archaic period according to the testimonies obtained in ceramic and plastic that is to say the clusters of pottery offerings to the Sanctuary but not to the precise Stadium the turn of which was too small for horse races.
Southern the Stadium there is westwards a fragment of the aqueduct, which was transporting water to Kourion from the rich springs of the Zanatzia area.
It was also destroyed in the 4th century A.D.