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:
The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.
The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).
With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).
Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.
The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.
The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.