The region round the bay of Salamis is one of the most favoured in the whole island and Salamis city became the capital of Cyprus as far back as 1100 BC. The city shared the destiny of the rest of the island during the successive occupations by the various dominant powers of the Near East, viz. the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, and Romans. The ancient site covers an area of one square mile extending along the sea shore. There is still a large area awaiting excavation and this is forested with mimosa, pine, and eucalyptus trees. The finding of some gold coins bearing the name of Evagoras, 411 to 374 BC, is the first genuine evidence of the city's importance.
A severe earthquake destroyed the city in 76 AD after which the Gymnasium with its colonnaded Palaestra was built by Trajan and Hadrian. This is the most monumental part of the site but columns differ in size because after the second great earthquake of 331 AD. the Christians set up new columns which they dragged from the Roman theatre. The theatre with 50 rows of seats is a spectacular sight. All around the buildings that have been excavated are many niches which contained marble statues, and those that can be seen are headless. When Christianity was adopted as a state religion all these nude statues were to them an abhorrence and were thrown into drains or were broken up. In fact, any indications of Roman pagan religion such as mosaic pictures were effaced or destroyed.
The Romans had an obsession about baths, and in the Great Hall buildings one can make out the Sudatorium (hot baths), the Caldarium (steam bath) and Frigidarium. Before the Christian period, i.e. before 400 AD, it was quite a colourful city; the marble columns were covered with coloured stucco, coloured statues, and numerous polychrome mosaics of which only a few are left. It was during the Christian period that walls with rectangular towers at regular intervals were built, but all that one can see of these today are mounds of sand dunes. The late Roman period after 400 AD up to about 1100 AD is known as the Byzantine epoch when the first great Christian churches, called basilicas, were built. The visitor should see the churches of St Epiphanos and Campanopetra for they are the largest ancient churches in Cyprus.
About 674 AD Arab invasions brought about the destruction of the entire city and the inhabitants fled north to build the medieval town of Famagusta (Magusa). There must have been a great change in the climate as the city was overwhelmed with sand, and only the tops of the columns peeped above.
Coins of the Middle Ages, Lusignan period, were found around the basilicas, from which one can conclude that squatters lived in the ruins probably up to c. 1300. For the next 600 years the ancient site was looted and regarded as a quarry for building. During the Venetian occupation of Famagusta many columns and pieces of sculpture were dragged from the site. This constant looting was not halted until I952 when organised excavations by the Department of Antiquities began.References:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.