Tamassos is an archaeological site which lies under the modern villages of Politiko, Pera and Episkopio. Visible today in the large site are the temple of Aphrodite, two majestic royal tombs as well as several smaller ones. It seems that Tamasos was founded around the 8th century B.C., in an area which was already inhabited from the Late Bronze Age, and until the first half of the 7th century it had developed into an important city-kingdom of Cyprus. From its foundation until the Roman period the town prospered greatly due to the exploitation of the mines in its environs.

In the second half of the 4th century the king of Tamasos, Pasikypros, sold the city to the king of Kition, Poumiathon, and Tamasos therefore came under the ownership of the Phoenicians. The domination of the Phoenicians did not last very long since Tamasos along with her mines had been conceded to the kingdom of Salamis until the final abolition of the kingdoms by the Ptolemy kings in 312-311 B.C. Apart from the fact that in the first half of the 1st century A.D. Tamassos became one of the Christian bishoprics of Cyprus, the city did not play an important role during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

The first excavations at the site took place in 1889, 1890 and 1894 by Ohnefalsch Richter, who excavated many tombs of the Late Bronze Age and three royal tombs of the Cypro-Archaic period, of which only two survive today. The tombs were carved in such a way that their construction resembles a wooden building with a pediment. Adjacent to these tombs the Department of Antiquities brought to light (in 1997) six intact limestone sculptures (two sphinxes and four lions), which probably protected the entrance of these tombs. The sculptures are exhibited today in the Cyprus Museum (Lefkosia). Three more tombs, the first dating to the Bronze Age, the second to the Archaic period and the third to the Hellenistic and Roman periods, have been excavated in and around the actual village of Politiko.

During the excavations carried out in 1970-1980 by the German Archaeological Institute under the direction of Hans-Gunter Buchholz, part of the strong defensive wall surrounding the city during the Archaic period was uncovered as well as part of the ancient city with shrines and installations for the exploitation of bronze. The temple of Aphrodite and the temple of the Mother Goddess, identified as Cybele, were constructed in the Cypro-Archaic II period and were destroyed during the revolt against the Persians in the beginning of the 5th century B.C. Towards the end of the 4th century these were rebuilt with a different architectural plan. It seems that there were many more shrines around Tamasos but these have not yet been uncovered.

During the Early Christian period a large three aisled basilica was erected upon the burial place of Saint Herakleidios, southeast of ancient Tamassos, in honour of its first bishop. This basilica fell into ruins and many other churches were constructed in its place until the church took its final form in 1773. Today the church is part of a convent.

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Founded: 800-400 BC
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Cyprus

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