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Myths & Legends of Pafos

The birthplace of Aphrodite – goddess of love and beauty

A picturesque island where past meets present at every turn, with a strong culture and many traditions handed down through the ages.
In ancient times Cyprus was the island of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and Pafos was the principal centre of her worship. Euripides, in his work ‘Bacchae’, calls Cyprus the island of Aphrodite:

…may I reach Cyprus,
the Island of Aphrodite,
where Erotes, the heart – healers,
mingle with the mortals,
in Pafos, where the hundred-mouthed
ravines of the torrential river
bloom.

Among the six administrative districts into which the island of Aphrodite is divided today, that of Pafos is the richest in antiquities, legends, traditions and natural beauty.

The birth and life of Aphrodite

Aphrodite was the daughter of Uranus and the sea. She emerged from the foam of the sea at Pafos and went to Olympus accompanied by Eros and Pothos to claim her place among the assembly of the Gods. At Olympus, they named her Aphrodite (born of sea-foam), Cypris (the land where she first appeared). She was the goddess of beauty, joy, and laughter, queen of all aspects of love, guardian of young girls and governess of the fertility of animals and plants. Her symbols included rabbits, sparrows, goats, pomegranates, and apples.

Aphrodite was married to the ugly and lame Hephaestos, the god of fire and patron of all those who worked in metal. He was the greatest of all craftsmen and his wedding gift to Aphrodite was a piece of land with a gold fence, and palaces of gold and precious stones. Τhe land was on a mountain of Cyprus inaccessible to mortals, with a sweet climate where the soil is so fertile it produces without being cultivated and where there are two springs among green foliage. This place was called ‘the Baths of Aphrodite”.
When Hephaestos learned from the sun that Aphrodite was betraying him with Ares (the god of war), he set a trap to catch them. He put a strong and invisible net on top of the bed and caught them while they were making love. Once they were caught, Hephaestos cried out and woke up the other gods and brought them to the scene.

The gods laughed and joked but Poseidon urged Hephaestos to let them go, telling him that Ares would pay the adultery fine. Hephaestos refused the suggestion, saying that Ares would flee and not pay the fine. Only when Poseidon offered to pay the money himself did Hephaestus let them go.
The lovers got to their feet and departed in pain, as their limbs were stiff and their muscles cramped from their long entrapment. Aphrodite returned to her birthplace Pafos and the Baths of Aphrodite where the three graces bathed her and anointed her with oils and a rare perfume, whose aroma, it is said, never fades. They restored her radiance and beauty, not knowing she was with child, Harmonia.

Aphrodite and the Trojan War

At the wedding feast of Peleus (King of Thessaly) and Thetis (a Nymph) all the gods were invited except Eris (goddess of strife) because she was quarrelsome and destructive. She was furious at this and to spoil the feast she threw down a golden apple with the inscription “to the fairest”, which fell between Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. All three claimed it causing a quarrel between them. Zeus intervened to avoid a fight and as no one at the feast wanted to decide which of the goddesses deserved the apple, he suggested that the three goddesses go to the fairest mortal, Prince Paris of Troy, to settle the dispute.

The three contestants tried to bribe Paris. Hera offered him wealth and power, Athena guaranteed him wisdom and skill and Aphrodite promised him the fairest mortal woman in the entire world for his wife. Paris chose Aphrodite’s offer, as beauty was immediate and seductive and he awarded the prize to the goddess of beauty and love. This gained him a friend (Aphrodite) and two deadly enemies (Hera and Athena).
Time passed and Paris became impatient waiting for his bride, so he sailed off, accompanied by Aeneas (the son of Aphrodite) to find her. The winds took them to Sparta, where King Menelaus and Queen Helen, (the most beautiful woman in the world) hospitably welcomed them.

During their stay in Sparta, Menelaus was called to attend his grandfather’s funeral in Crete, leaving Helen to entertain the guests. The next morning, the Trojans also left but at night they pulled anchor and abducted Helen and her baby to take them to Troy. Aphrodite, together with Peitho (goddess of persuasion) and Eros had cast a spell on Helen, causing her to believe that Paris was Menelaos.
During their journey, a violent storm forced them to shelter in Cyprus which was off their course. Once they reached Troy, King Priam welcomed Helen into his household grabbing the opportunity to pay off old scores against the Greeks.

In the meantime, outraged Menelaus began preparations for war. His cause was acknowledged to be just, and all Greece joined to help him. Agamemnon, Menelaus’ brother, sent Tathybius, Odysseus and Menelaus to Cyprus, to involve Cinyras of Pafos in the war. Cinyras, however, sent only one ship to help and made a personal gift to Agamemnon (a magnificent breast plate whose description is found in the Iliad) to avoid grievances. But the Greeks were too preoccupied with their mission and thus Cyprus remained at peace and increased in prosperity.

The Trojan War lasted ten years.

Pygmalion and Galatea

Pygmalion, who lived at Amathus, was dedicated to his work as a sculptor and not interested in women. Aphrodite took pity on him and, taking the form of the most beautiful woman, appeared to him in a dream. When Pygmalion awoke, he recalled his dream and set out to carve this lovely creature. He created a statue made of ivory and fell in love with it, to the extent that he would talk to it and gather flowers for it.

On the day of Aphrodite’s festival at Amathus, Pygmalion took with him an offering of great value and prayed that his statue be given life. Aphrodite was moved and helped him by granting his favour.

When he returned home, Pygmalion found the statue was alive, named her Galatea and asked her to be his wife. Galatea accepted and nine months later they had a daughter named Paphos.

Cinyras

Ares, in the guise of the wild boar, awaited Adonis and ran so fast that he gathered dust around him, blinding the young boy. The boar attacked and wounded Adonis and then left without trying to help the hunter.
Aphrodite heard his dying groans and rushed to the scene only to arrive too late. She sprinkled Adonis’ blood with nectar and the drops that fell onto the ground turned into anemone flowers, whose life is short and whose petals are easily shaken off by the breeze.

Aphrodite was overcome with grief and eventually begged Zeus for the return of her lover. Zeus promised to ask Persephone, the queen of the underworld, only to realise that she also had fallen in love with the young boy and would not let him go. Zeus therefore decided that Adonis could live where he pleased for four months, provided he divided the rest of his time between the two goddesses. Adonis chose to live four months with Persephone and eight with Aphrodite.

In Pafos, the annual ‘Άdοnia” festival was held on the 25th and 26th of March, staging the death and resurrection of Adonis. The first day was to mourn the death of the boy, and women would throw flowers, branches of myrtle and pots of plants into the sea, showing that they shared the grief of Aphrodite. The second day, people celebrated Adonis’ resurrection by feasting.

Adonis

Adonis looked and behaved like an immortal. He was the lover of Aphrodite, just like Ares (the god of war). Being jealous, Ares turned himself into a wild boar and terrorized the district of Pafos, killing the inhabitants with such brutality that news of this boar spread all around the island. Adonis being a hunter ignored Aphrodite’s warnings against hunting wild animals and set out to stop the beast from killing his countrymen.

Ares, as a wild boar, awaited Adonis and ran so fast that he gathered dust around him, blinding the young boy. The boar then attacked, wounding Adonis and left without trying to help the hunter.

Aphrodite heard his dying groans and rushed to the scene only to arrive too late. She sprinkled Adonis’ blood with nectar and the drops that fell onto the ground turned into anemone flowers, whose life is short and whose petals are easily shaken off by the breeze.
Aphrodite was overcome with grief and eventually begged Zeus for the return of her lover. Zeus promised to ask Persephone, the queen of the underworld, only to realize that she also had fallen in love with the young boy and would not let him go. Zeus therefore decided that Adonis could live where he pleased for four months, provided he divided the rest of his time between the two goddesses. Adonis chose to live four months with Persephone and eight with Aphrodite.

In Pafos, the annual festival ‘Άdοnia” was held on the 25th and 26th of March, staging the death and resurrection of Adonis. The first day was to mourn the death of the boy, and women would throw flowers, green branches of the myrtle tree and pots of plants in the sea, showing that they shared the grief of Aphrodite. The second day, people celebrated Adonis’ resurrection by feasting.

Rock of Digenis (Petra tou Romiou)

Α strong tradition persists regarding the solitary rock north of the Fabrica hίll, on the way to Pafos harbour, concerning the relationship between Digenis and Rigaina. It is said that Rigaina, whom Digenis desired, had her house built on top of this hill. As in almost all folk tales, Rigaina would only marry Digenis if he managed to transport water for her from some distant location, which in this case was either Mavrokolympos or Tala. Even though this was a Herculean task, Digenis undertook it, transporting the water through clay conduits, traces of which can still be seen east of Chlorakas village. However, Rigaina did not keep her promise, something which enraged Digenis, who threw a huge rock at her from the Moutallos area, which landed right in front of her house. Rigaina replied with equal rage, throwing her spinning needle, a granite stele, at Digenis, which landed in the fields underneath the Moutallos rise.

Heritage of Agios Agapitikos

On the north-eastern corner of Fabrica hill lies a cave known as the Cave of Agios Agapitikos.

It is not known if there is any connection between this cave and the sarcophagus in the central square of Pano Arodes village, in the same district, also dedicated to Agios Agapitikos. As in Arodes, next to the cave of Agios Agapitikos once stood the cave of Agios Misitikos and a third cave dedicated to Agios Xorinos. The latter two caves, however, have been destroyed.

Tradition has it that those in love should visit the cave unobserved, leave some coins and take some earth from the cave which they should throw into their loved one’s drink. As is the case with Agios Agapitikos in Pano Arodes, for such an escapade to be successful, it should be carried out in complete secrecy, without the help of a third party.

Other insteresting places

Lemba Village

Excavations in the village of Lemba have brought to life an important settlement of the Chalcolithic Age. Near the site, replicas of five houses from this period have been reconstructed using the same materials and building methods used in Chalcolithic times (3900-2500 BC). The Chalcolithic settlement site is a stop on the Aphrodite Cultural Route.

Agios Georgios Basilicas - ``Pegeia Fountains``

Approximately 4.5km from the village of Pegeia, near the fishing shelter, lie the ruins of two early Christian basilicas with very interesting floor mosaics depicting animals. This must have been the site of an important early Christian settlement. Nearby are rock-hewn tombs of the Roman period. The picturesque “Pegeia fountains”, about which many folk songs have been sung, can be seen in the pretty cobbled square of the village.

Pafos Municipal Gallery

Gladstone 7, Tel: 26930653

Monday – Sunday: 10.00-13.00

Monday – Friday: 15.00-17.00 (April – October: 17.00-20.00)

Entrance free

The Gallery showcases works of art by local artists.

``Loutra`` - Ottoman Hammam (Baths)

Near the old marketplace.

The Ottoman baths operated up until the 1950s. They consist of a stone vaulted building with a reception area, an intermediate area and the main baths. The building has now been restored and is used as the Pafos Municipal Cultural Centre.

Baths of Aphrodite

Akamas region

Near Polis, 48km north of Pafos

 

The north-western peninsula of Cyprus, known as Akamas, is a wild uninhabited region with spectacular landscapes and beaches, which is due to be designated a National Park. The area is named after Akamantas, an Athenian warrior and son of Theseus, who arrived here after the Trojan War. It is a unique area of biodiversity, habitats and ecosystems. Almost all the geological formations of Cyprus are met here, from narrow deep valleys to caves islets and gorges. There are over 500 different types of plants, and nature trails criss-cross the peninsula passing through beautiful unspoiled areas. The area is ideal for hiking, cycling, diving and swimming.

The “Baths of Aphrodite” is an area in the Akamas between Polis and Cape Arnaouti. It derived its name from a small grotto shaded by an old fig tree, in the waters of which, legend has it, the goddess Aphrodite used to bathe. According to mythology, this is where she met her lover Adonis. The site is on the Aphrodite Cultural Route.

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