The remains of the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, about 45 minutes by car from Pafos, reveal a multi-layered history
The remains of the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, about 45 minutes by car from Pafos, reveal a multi-layered history of religion in Cyprus. Although named for the god Apollo, the site was considered sacred as far back as the Late Bronze Age (2000 BCE). The first monumental structures were constructed in the 8th and 7th centuries BCE: The Archaic Altar Precinct housed two open-air altars where worshippers made votive offerings. The Circular Monument, dating to the 6th century BCE, is a paved, ring-shaped pathway thought to have supported religious rites; cuts in the bedrock of its centre suggest that a sacred grove of trees was planted there. Experts argue that the site was consistently associated with a male fertility deity and linked to the forest, wildlife, hunting, and military prowess. The male god was at first nameless, but eventually became known as Hylates, In the Hellenistic Period (323-30 BCE), the god took on the Greek name Apollo; in this era, the first temple to Apollo was built along with a complex on the east side of the site. The sanctuary was further developed during the Roman Period (58 BCE-330 CE) with a new Temple of Apollo, a monumental entrance to the Circular Monument, baths, an athletic court, and more. Pilgrims could enter from gates on the east and west, then turn northward on the main processional road to the temple. The sanctuary was destroyed by earthquake in 365 CE, 27 years before pagan worship was banned in the Roman Empire.