THE CULTS OF THE ANCIENT GREEK CYPRIOTES

CARL GRAHAM BENNETT, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The culture of ancient Cyprus, including religion, is seen in terms of the dialectic between native Cypriote culture and successive waves of Aegean, Anatolian, Egyptian and Levantine influence. There is a broad consensus among archaeologists, linguists and philologists that a series of migrations from the Aegean to Cyprus in the Late Bronze Age accounts for a major part of the Greek element in Iron Age Cypriote culture (chapter one). This study examines the cults of Iron Age Cyprus in order to compare their evidence with that derived from other aspects of Cypriote culture. The cult sites of Cyprus are studied, to determine which Greek deities and heroes were worshipped at each. Evidence is brought from inscriptions, excavated sanctuaries, dedications and literary sources. For each of the cities and rural cult sites of ancient Cyprus, there is a listing of the evidence for the worship of the various Greek gods, goddesses and heroes from the beginning of the Cypro-Geometric period (c. 1050 B.C.) to the introduction of Christianity. Passing reference is also made to non-Greek cults and to cults of earlier and later periods, insofar as these other cults bear on the matter at hand (chapter two). The deities and heroes worshipped at these sites are then studied, to determine when their cults may first have been brought to the island and to find links, if any exist, with the cults of Greece. Non-Greek cults are discussed in passing (chapter three). The following aspects of these cults are also discussed: calendars, festivals, cult organizations, cult officials, influence on cults outside Cyprus, votive figurines, sanctuaries and cult practices (chapter four). The study concludes with a chronological summary of the materials in chapters 1-4 and an attempt is made to relate these materials to the history of Cypriote culture (chapter five). It is shown that the major cults of the ancient Greek Cypriotes were those of Aphrodite (at Paphos, Kition and many other urban and rural cult sites), Apollo (at Kourion and many other sites), Herakles (at Kition and many other sites, often in connection with Apollo), Zeus (at Salamis and elsewhere), Athena and Artemis (at several sites) and various other deities and heroes, including in the later period the Ptolemaic and Roman Imperial ruler cults. The cults of Ares, Demeter, Dionysos and Poseidon are either rare or practically non-existent. Some of these local cults, such as Aphrodite of Paphos and Apollo of Kourion, spread to other parts of the island and even beyond its shores. The typical urban cult site is seen to be an open temenos in the earlier periods, perhaps with a temple in the later periods; rural sanctuaries are often identified solely on the basis of deposits of dedications, no permanent structure having left remains. The cults tend to be, in the Cypro-Geometric and early Cypro-Archaic periods, fusions of Mycenaean, "Eteo-Cypriote" and (Egypto-)Levantine cults. In later periods, Greek influence predominates and eventually little remains that is distinctively Cypriote. It is concluded that the evidence of the cults, while not unambiguously confirming the reconstructions of the history of Cyprus in the Late Bronze, dark and Early Iron Ages made on the basis of archaeology, linguistics and the study of ancient legends and literature, tends to point in the same directions. It seems likely that the ancestors of the Greek-speaking Cypriotes of the Iron Age included Greek speakers, probably from the eastern and central Peloponnese and possibly also from Crete and Attica, who settled in the island in the Late Bronze Age and to a great extent fused their culture, including religion, with that of the native population.

Subject Area

Ancient civilizations

Recommended Citation

BENNETT, CARL GRAHAM, "THE CULTS OF THE ANCIENT GREEK CYPRIOTES" (1980). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8018525.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8018525

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