The ruins of Salamis are the jewel in the crown of all the ancient sites throughout Cyprus. Fantastically well preserved, they extend over a wide area – from the entrance gate to the ancient submerged jetties is over a kilometre – and only truly reward the visitor who has a little time to spend in exploring the site. However, the most incredible fact of Salamis is that perhaps up to ninety-percent of the ruins are yet to be uncovered.
Its storied history is too rich and complicated to delve into in a brief overview:-suffice it to say that the history of Salamis begins in the Late Bronze Age – around the eleventh century BCE- and then the city changed masters according to the vicissitudes of history – from Phoenicians to Assyrians, Greeks to Persians, Alexander the Great to the Romans and thence to the Byzantines and its gradual decline, fall and abandonment. Whilst earthquakes in 332 and 342 caused a great deal of damage, it was the silting up of the harbour and persistent raids by Arab corsairs which finally persuaded the inhabitants to move out and found a more defensible city.
Time and the swirling sands of the Famagusta beaches eventually swallowed up the remains of the city that hadn’t been carted off for re-use elsewhere, and Salamis remained hidden, Pompeii-like, until the late nineteenth century when the British Administration began archaeological digs under the auspices of the Cyprus Exploration Fund.
The Salamis you can see today has had the benefits of extensive restoration, not least the very impressive colonnade which had been almost destroyed by the earthquakes which, in part, led to the abandonment of the site. The baths are adorned with impressive and occasionally quite stunning mosaics. In places Christian era frescoes vie with pagan statues and mosaics for the visitors’ attention.
The beautifully restored Roman Amphitheatre dates from the time of the Emperor Augustus and the view from the eighteenth row offers a spectacular view of the site. Concerts and plays regularly take place here during the summer months and are a highlight of any visit to Cyprus