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How Cyprus Became the Island of Aphrodite
Cyprus is often referred to as the island of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. This connection was established over many centuries. When the Achaean Greeks arrived in the 12th century BCE, the local population was worshipping a fertility goddess with oriental characteristics in certain temples; it seems that the Greeks ‘gradually Hellenised her’ over several centuries, according to archaeologist Jacqueline Karageorghis. The goddess was fully identified as Aphrodite by the 4th century BCE, and during the Hellenistic Period Pafos emerged as the principal place for worshipping her. You can visit the remains of the Temple of Aphrodite at Palaipafos, the site of the original settlement near Kouklia village (14 kilometres east of Pafos). Although the city was moved to what is now the Archaeological Site of Kato Pafos in the 3rd century BCE, the temple continued to draw pilgrims to honour the goddess well into the Roman era. Central to their veneration was a large conical stone, which is now on display in the museum at the temple site. Aphrodite came to be associated with sexuality as well as fertility and love. Through limited sources, historians conclude that the cultic worship included sacrifice, divination of the future, the burning of incense, and ritual bathing and prostitution. Emperor Theodosius banned pagan worship in the temples in 392 CE, but the connection between Cyprus and Aphrodite persists. Other related attractions include the nearby Petra tou Romiou (site of the goddess’s birth) and two in the Akamas—the Baths of Aphrodite and Fontana Amorosa, where she consorted with Adonis.
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