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Cypriot Myths, Heros and Gods
Cypriot Myths, Heros and Gods
127
Evgeniya Kondakova-Theodorou
Author: Evgeniya Kondakova-Theodorou
Translation: Frances Ransome
23.07.2018

The island in the Mediterranean is famous for more than just its history: it also boasts myriad myths and legends. Some were borrowed from other cultures, while some originated on Cypriot soil. Many of them were passed down orally and were written down much later thus accumulating varying details and at times contradictory «facts».

It’s a fascinating treasure trove. How did hyacinth, myrrh and cypress earn their names? Why did Aphrodite arise out of sea foam off the coast of Cyprus? Why is the island and many points across it linked to so many stories about love? Sad and triumphant stories, humane tales or ones markedly less so...

We will follow in their footsteps: the Gods, heroes and mere mortals, whose depth of feeling or unparalleled courage have stood the test of time. Their names live on in geographical names, some Cypriot names, or endemic plants ... After all, everything that sets foot in Cyprus, remains there: assuming traditions and beliefs like a pearl with new layers of mother-of-pearl; assimilating into its eternally vibrant and pulsating reality.

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Cyprus has long been called the Island of Love, which attracts tourists every year, but we’ll soon see it wasn’t always love that reigned on the island: the ancient Gods loved, suffered, were jealous and experienced the bliss of high passions.

It has also long been considered the home or second home of numerous ancient Olympian Gods: Zeus, Dionysus, Apollo, Hera, Athena, Artemis and Demeter, Aphrodite.

One very ancient legend has it that the Creator finished his creation of the world and then shook the remaining lumps of clay from his hands and they fell into the sea leading to the formation of Cyprus.

Images and traces of the deeds of deities, legendary and mythical creatures, saints and heroes live on all around us in the memories passed down through generations, or in ancient monuments and artefacts. It couldn’t be any other way: the beliefs held in past epochs were the cornerstone of many beautiful stories, and inspired masters to create works of art. They continue to infuse us with the desire to dream and create.

Ancient Mythology: the Gods, Kings and Heroes of Cyprus

In the past, the ancients interpreted almost everything, even the landscape, through the prism of the divine. Therefore, many landscapes similar those found in Greece were also interpreted using ancient myths and came to embody particular deities of the Pantheon, or were inhabited (visited) by them. That's why Cyprus has its own Olympus [1] — the home of the gods. Some of the valleys of the Troodos mountain range (particularly loved by amateur and professional alpine skiers alike) are named after the gods: Aphrodite, Hermes (Sun Valley I-II, the beginner and mild slopes), Zeus and Hera (North Face I-II, the first slope is for experienced skiers, and the second is for beginners).

Sights and places whose names are linked to ancient legends include the following: the Stone of Aphrodite, the Baths of Aphrodite and Adonis, Mount Cassion and so.

Ovid’s Metamorphoses (from the 1st century BC) is one of the most comprehensive sources of information about the myths and legends in Cyprus. The Roman poet masterfully weaved the thread of the narrative, combining the myths of antiquity in a single tale. However, another real treasure for Cypriot history fans is, of course, the Cypria — an ancient Greek epic detailing early legends about Cyprus (from the 7th century BC). We used both works (and occasionally some others) to compile a glossary of names and titles linked with Cyprus that ancient authors happened to chance upon...

So, if you’re ready, let’s go on a journey back in time, spanning distances and comprising incredible events that are so entwined with folklore and oral tradition, which mixed the mystical with the real, that these days it’s almost impossible to figure out what is fact and what is fiction.

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Agapinor, leader of the Arcadians, king of Tegea, and participant in the Trojan War. When the war drew to a close, he came to Cyprus (the Arcadians’ ships were led there by the will of the gods). He founded and built Paphos and the temple of Aphrodite there in gratitude to her for saving from him from the fire of Troy.

His daughter, Laodice, who was born in Cyprus, gave a peplos as a gift to Athena Alea in Tegea (where she founded the temple of Aphrodite Paphia).

 

Adonis [2], the son (and grandson) of King Cinyras and Princess Myrrha. His father gave him his incredible beauty and charm. It is no wonder that this young man was the one to seduce the goddess of love Aphrodite (together they had children: Hystaspes and Zariadr). He was also favoured by Dionysos. http://cyprusfortravellers.net/place/baths-aphrodite-kupalnya-afrodity-v-rayone-lachi

As a young man, he spent a lot of time with his beloved Aphrodite. (see: http://cyprusfortravellers.net/review/lichnii-opit-kupalni-adonisa) Adonis was a shepherd and a hunter and it was on a hunt that he died from being gored by the Erymanthian boar while in Cyprus.

It had been Apollo in the form the boar, furious at Aphrodite and seeking revenge because she had blinded his son, who had been watching her bathe.

The grieving Aphrodite mourned her young love and he returned from the kingdom of Hades as an anemone flower [3].

for she prefers Adonis
to the sky. She holds him, remains with him
as his companion, and though her custom
is constantly to linger in the shade
and, by cultivating her own beauty,
to enhance it, now she travels with him
over mountain ridges and through forests,
across shrub-covered rocks. [4]

 

Acamas — son of Theseus, and hero of the Trojan War, which was just one of his feats. He and his brother Demophon freed their grandmother Aethra). He founded a town in Cyprus.

 

Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) — king, commander and conqueror; tutored by Aristotle and passionate about Homer's works. He freed Cyprus from Persian rule during the battles against them in 332 BC after the 7-month siege of Tyre. Subsequently, the island was part of his empire.

 

Alphesiboea — one version of events has it she was a nymph and Dionysus' beloved, who went on to bear him a son, Medus.

 

Amathus — King, son of Aeria. According to Ovid, Amathus created a Temple of Aphrodite in the city of Amathus [5] just like his father did in Paphos. It was «a feast of metals» as there were numerous copper mines there over the centuries.

 

Anaxarete [6], princess and a native of Cyprus. She was extremely proud and was so cruel in her rejection of the love of Iphis, a simple and passionate shepherd, that he committed suicide at the door of her private chambers. It is believed that upon seeing his body at the funeral procession, Anaxarete, repented and turned to stone. Her statue stood in Salamis, the city state, for a long time.

 

Apollo: his image was widely used in the ancient world, especially in numismatics. Having founded the Cult of Apollo (Apollo Amyklos) on the island of Idalion, the Achaeans, brought it with them to Cyprus. He was revered as a healing and rewarding God and while he was also seen to punish, he was always fair. He was also regarded as a god that bestowed harmony on suffering souls. Numerous temples on the island were dedicated to him. The most famous example was built near Kourion.

 

Ariadne — a beautiful princess with a complicated fate, typical of antiquity. The daughter of the King of Crete, Minos, and Pasiphae. Crete was famous for its labyrinth with its cruel and terrifying monster, the Minotaur, who was fed young men and women. One of those doomed to death was Theseus, who the sensitive Ariadne had fallen in love with. In order to save her young love, she secretly gave him a ball of yarn (Ariadne's thread), that he used by unwinding it thus leading himself others to safety out of the Minotaur's maze.

However, Theseus promised to marry his saviour but, in an underhand move, left her on the island of Naxos while she was asleep as he didn’t want to return to Athens with a wife. He later married her sister Phaedra.

The God Dionysus fell in love with the grieving Ariadne and took her to Lemnos. Aphrodite herself was one of the guests at their wedding. One legend has it that Ariadne later died in Cyprus.

 

Idalion Athena was seen as the main deity in the ancient Cypriot city state of Idalion (near the modern-day village of Dali in Nicosia region). In the western acropolis, they erected a temple in honour of Athena, the daughter of Zeus.

Nearby there was a palace dedicated to Athena: it was believed that she frequented the area from time to time ... While under Phoenician rule, the main temple was destroyed. The new rulers also revered Athena, but in the guise of Anat.

 

Kyprida Aphrodite — an incarnation of the powerful goddess born near the coast of Cyprus. She arose up from the foam — ἀφρός, in Greek (the phenomenon of her birth was announced to the world by song in Hymns by Homer). Here she personified the forces of love and eternal spring and was also the patron of fertility, marriage and birth. Her beautiful body is adorned in the robes fragrant with Cypriot herbs and oils. She indulged those who honour her and accepted love as a gift; but she could ruthlessly punish and avenge those who spurned this feeling and refused her generous gifts.

It wasn’t just people and animals under her command, she also presided over many gods (excluding the three Olympian Goddesses: Artemis, Athena and Hera).

 

Achilles — son of Peleus and Thetis (see below), hero of Troy, and was born of the marriage between of a mortal and a Goddess. He was raised and fed (the bone marrow of wild beasts) by the centaur Chiron. Thetis, Achilles’ mother, dipped him in the water of the Styx holding him by the heel in order to make him immortal.

Nothing could kill the young man. His only weak point was his Achilles' heel, which remained unprotected and subsequently led to his demise.

now Achilles pursued in his chariot,
and laid whole columns of men low with a blow of his spear from Pelion;

 

Demophon — son of Theseus and Phaedra, King of Athens and founder of the city of Apea in Cyprus (near the Xero river) which was later renamed Soli by King Philokypros. He died when he opened a box with a shrine to the Titanide of Rhea, which had been given to him by his wife Phyllis. In a fit of horror, he decided to gallop off on horseback. His horse took a tumble and the King fell on his own sword, thus becoming the victim of the curse cast by his grieving princess [7].

 

Dido [8] (also known as Elissa) — legendary founder of Carthage and the sister of Pygmalion. She visited Cyprus, where she kidnapped 80 young virgins (who travelled with her to the site of a future city in Libya).

She was married of Sychaeus but held a passion for Aeneas (the hero of Troy and the son of Aphrodite) so strong that after his death, she could not control herself and lit a large fire and threw herself into the flames in order to be reunited with her lover in the kingdom of Hades. Ovid wrote in his Epistles Dido to Aeneas (Heroides, VII).

 

Dionysus (later Bacchus) — God of winemaking (see our article: Wine Tour across Cyprus), son of Zeus and the princess Semele from Thebes. His unborn foetus was carried in the thigh of his almighty father after his jealous wife, Hera, cajoled Semele into asking Zeus to reveal himself in all his power and glory. As a mortal, she was unable to withstand the sight and died.

This did not satisfy Bacchus. He left the fields themselves,
and with a worthier band of followers
sought out the vineyards of his own Mount Tmolus,
and the River Pactolus, though at that time it was not a golden stream,
nor envied for its valuable sands.
His familiar cohorts, the satyrs and bacchantes accompanied him

As a result, Dionysis married Ariadne, who had been abandoned by Theseus.

 

Hyacinth — son of King Sparta, a young man of incredible beauty and one of Apollo’s lovers. Hyacinth was killed when throwing the discus when Zephyrus’ jealousy caused him to intervene. He guided Apollo's arm so that the discus would strike the head of his friend. It was the will of Apollo that a flower arose from the drops of the blood of his dead lover that would embody love and fidelity, but also grief and regret.

A new flower you shall arise, with markings on your petals,
close imitation of my constant moans:
and there shall come another to be linked with this new flower,
a valiant hero shall be known by the same marks upon its petals
And Apollo, sang these words with his truth-telling lips, behold the blood of
Hyacinthus, which had poured out on the ground beside him and there stained the
grass, was changed from blood; and in its place a flower, sprang up.

 

Cerastas — legendary characters, centaurs with horns on their foreheads (they were also called «buffalo people»). Born from the seed of Zeus that had been cast onto Cypriot soil due to his love for Aphrodite. They accompany Dionysus and are, as a rule, characterised by their impetuous temper. It was common for many of them to raise heroes of Greek antiquity.

 

Cinyras — Phoenician King of Paphos, he was so incredibly beautiful that both women and Goddesses fell in love with him. His wife, Cenchreis, rashly bragged that her daughters (one of them being Myrrha) were more beautiful than even Aphrodite herself. The King also had the daughter, Braesia (or Laogora, with Metharma), who also managed to incur the wrath of Aphrodite by living with other women’s husbands. She was exiled and died in Egypt.

 

Cyparissus — son of Telephus (from the Heraclides clan — the founders of cities), native of Carthage on the island of Kea (near Attica), a handsome youth, and one of Apollo’s lovers (and probably also Pan’s). His grief and mourning of the accidental death of his favourite pet deer given to him by Apollo saw him turn into a mourning tree.

'Twas then, the fav'rite stag, in cool retreat,
Had sought a shelter from the scorching heat;
Along the grass his weary limbs he laid,
Inhaling freshness from the breezy shade:
When Cyparissus with his pointed dart,
Unknowing, pierc'd him to the panting heart.
But when the youth, surpriz'd, his error found,
And saw him dying of the cruel wound,
Himself he would have slain thro' desp'rate grief:
What said not Phoebus, that might yield relief!
To cease his mourning, he the boy desir'd,
Or mourn no more than such a loss requir'd.
But he, incessant griev'd: at length address'd
To the superior Pow'rs a last request;
Praying, in expiation of his crime,
Thenceforth to mourn to all succeeding time.

 

The Ceryneian Hind is a deer with golden horns and brass hoofs, sacred to the Goddess Artemis. It was pursued by the Heracles (hero and son of Zeus from a mortal woman Alcmene) for a year until he was able to wound it with an arrow. The tale of the Ceryneian Hind is one of his twelve labours.

However, the hind was later returned to Artemis.

 

Lapithos — ruler and founder of this eponymoous city in northern Cyprus, which was the main city state (Lapithos) in the region under Roman rule.

 

Myrrha (or Smyrna) — princess, daughter of the Cyprian king Cinyras and mother of the beautiful Adonis. As punishment for her mother’s boasting, she was a victim of unnatural passion and was turned into a myrrh tree (balsam tree) for her aberration.

Let the land of Panchaia, beyond Araby, produce its balsam, cinnamon, costmary; its incense, exuded from the trees; its flowers different from ours; if it produces myrrh: a strange tree is not worth such a price.

Cupid denies that his arrows hurt you, Myrrha, and clears his fires of blame for your crime. One of the three sisters, the Furies, with her swollen snakes, and firebrand from the Styx, breathed on you.

 

Nicocreon — one of the Kings of Salamis in Cyprus (towards the end of 4th century BC), and a descendant of Teucer. He was a tyrant, known for his cruelty to the philosopher Anaxarchus (associate and friend of Alexander the Great).

 

Orpheus and Eurydice — this is a story familiar to many today that details the incredible love between the King of Thrace, the prophet and musician Orpheus, and the nymph Eurydice. Orpheus’ art of playing the lyre was so beautiful it attracted all natural and she emerged from wood to be with him. One day, however, she was bitten by a snake and died. Her husband was inconsolable with grief and entered the kingdom of Hades. Eurydice’s soul will follow him to the world of the living on one condition: Orpheus should not turn around until they leave the underground chambers. However, in desperation to find his lover, Orpheus turns around and Eurydice's incorporeal shadow should now remain with the other sorrowful shadows ... until his death at the hand of enraged women. The beloveds are once again reunited to be together forever:

His ghost flies downward to the Stygian shore,
And knows the places it had seen before:
Among the shadows of the pious train
He finds Eurydice, and loves again;
With pleasure views the beauteous phantom's charms,
And clasps her in his unsubstantial arms.
There side by side they unmolested walk,
Or pass their blissful hours in pleasing talk;
Aft or before the bard securely goes,
And, without danger, can review his spouse.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld (1861)

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld (1861)

 

Peleus and Thetis, son of Aeacus, king of the island of Aegina (grandson of Zeus) and Endeïs, and the parents of Achilles, the hero of Troy. Their son was destined to grow up stronger than his father. Peleus had to be cunning and undergo various trials before he managed to win the heart of his beauty, who wanted to frighten onlookers with her transformations.

Nevertheless their wedding was the cause of the Trojan War: the Olympian gods were invited, but there was an omission: the goddess of discord, Eris. As revenge for the snub, she threw a golden apple with the inscription «The Fairest One» into the banquet. Three goddesses, Aphrodite, Athena and Hera, argued over it. On behalf of Zeus, Hermes took the goddesses to Troy and requested that Prince Paris to resolve the dispute between the beauties.

However, each Goddess bribed Paris, but he finally yielded to Aphrodite’s promises to help him win the love of the most beautiful woman on Earth, Helen of Sparta (the wife of King Menelaus) and gave the apple to the Goddess of Love.

Peleus had scarcely taken a good grip of her virgin body, when she took on new forms, until she realised her limbs were tightly bound, and her arms spread wide apart. Then at length she sighed, saying: ‘Not without some god’s help have you won,’ and she showed herself as Thetis. When she acknowledged herself, the hero embraced her, achieved his wish, and conceived with her the mighty Achilles.

 

Pygmalion [9] and Galatea — the great sculptor that created such a perfect statue from ivory that he fell in love with her. Touched by the depth of his feelings, Aphrodite brought Galatea [10] to life and she became flesh and blood. Their marriage produced the sons Paphos [11] (who subsequently founded a city in honour of Aphrodite, which held great power until the end of the 4th Century BC and was given his name), Cinyras and daughter Metharme.

Pygmalion had seen them, spending their lives in wickedness, and, offended by the failings that nature gave the female heart, he lived as a bachelor, without a wife or partner for his bed. But, with wonderful skill, he carved a figure, brilliantly, out of snow-white ivory, no mortal woman, and fell in love with his own creation. [12]

 

Pyrausta or dragon (one of many). Pyraustas were said to live in a flame in Cyprus. Legend has it that one of them lived in the Akamas peninsula (Avakas Gorge). It destroyed villages and terrified local residents. However, when he was driven out of his cave, he turned to stone in the sunlight. There is a rock in the shape of a dragon rising from the gorge to this day.

 

Praxander — hailed from Laconica, and fought in the Trojan War. After the war, he moved to Cyprus where he founded the city of Golgos. It is believed that the city state was named in honour of the son of Aphrodite and Adonis.

 

Propoetides — girls from the city of Amathus in Cyprus. The townsfolk sacrificed travellers instead of animals in honour of Zeus Xenios (Xenia means hospitality).

But if you should ask the Cyprian city of Amathus, rich in mines, whether it would have wished to have produced those girls, the Propoetides, it would repudiate them, and equally those men, whose foreheads were once marred by two horns, from which they took their name, Cerastae.

Incidentally, sacrifices were the «right way» to honour the gods, including the Goddess of Love (white heifers [13], were sacrificed to her). We learn this from Ovid:

The day of Venus’s festival came, celebrated throughout Cyprus, and heifers, their curved horns gilded, fell, to the blow on their snowy neck. The incense was smoking…

Propoetides

Their fate was not a happy one: they angered Aphrodite. They were the first women to sell their bodies and so the offended goddess turned them to stone. Another version has it that they were turned into cows.

 

Teucer — ruler, the first King of Troy (brother of Ajax and nephew Peleus) and native of the island of Salamis. Upon returning to his homeland, he was cursed and expelled by his father for not saving and not avenging his brother. He was forced to go to Cyprus, where he founded the local city state of Salamis.

After the death of his father, Telamon, he returned to his home city, but his nephew, Eurysaces, cut him out of his royal inheritance. Teucer is a character in several ancient works, the most famous being Sophocles’ dramas: Ajax and Euripides. He had a daughter with Eune called Asteria, after whom the ancient city was named.

 

Thamir — a Cilician who brought the Art of Haruspicy to Cyprus. A haruspex is a priest who, with augurs, inspected the insides of sacrificial animals in order to make predictions or see omens. According to the beliefs of the ancients, each part of the animal is linked to a particular deity. This tradition is derived from Etruscan mythology (I millennium BC) as one of the three branches of the disciplina Etrusca. One branch was associated with the Greek Pantheon, namely the gods Artemis, Apollo, Hades and Bacchus.

 

Themisto — a native of Cyprus. Was said by some to be the mother of Homer (other sources state it was Clymene, from the island of Ios).

And then in sea-girt Cyprus there will be a mighty singer,
Whom Themisto, lady fair, shall bear in the fields, A man of renown, far from rich Salamis.
Leaving Cyprus, tossed and wetted by the waves,
The first and only poet to sing of the woes of spacious Greece,
For ever shall he be deathless and ageless.
[14]

 

Evagoras — King of Salamis (410-374 BC), descendant of Teucer. He attempted to unite all the cities and kingdoms of Cyprus (from the classical epoch) under his rule.

He engaged in a battle with the Spartans with the Athenians, who had friendly relations with the Persians.

However, it was his irrepressible passion for power, intrigues and conquering that was his downfall: he broke with Persia, and after a 10-year war, was forced to enter into a peace treaty and pay it tribute. This changed when Cyprus became part of the Empire of Alexander the Great.

 

Euclus — prophet and a native of Cyprus. He predicted the birth and fate of Homer, as well as the Persian campaign against Greece. The ancient Greek geographer and writer Pausanius (2nd century) studied his prophecies.

... Times changed and new heroes, rulers and other players came to the fore

 

Ayios Vasilis

Christian saint Basil of Caesarea (the Great, 4th C.) was one of the Fathers of the Cappadocian church, he was an archbishop and theologian, and widely revered in Cyprus and Greece.

Among other things, these days his legacy includes New Year. This is because his feast day is celebrated in church on January 1.

Folk tales and legend have it that the Roman emperor Julius decided to confiscate all the wealth that had been accumulated by the Cypriots. They turned to Archbishop Basil for help and he buried the treasure hiding it away in his grounds from the greedy ambitions of the ruler. Julius sent subordinates to search for the trove. They discovered it and wanted to take everything but suddenly they experienced a vision and angels appeared before them.

They returned empty handed, and St. Basil baked the coins in loaves of bread and handed them out to the poor and needy. Since then, it has been customary to bake a vasilopita (Basil pie), a rich bread with a coin inside ... and it is lucky to find the coin in your slice.

 

Digenis Akritas

The main hero in the Greek epic consisting of a poem across 8 books [15] from the Middle Ages (Byzantine Empire, 9-10th centuries) and one of the most famous characters from Cypriot folklore (songs, legends and fairy tales).

Digenis is an akrites, i.e. he is one of the border guards that existed the Byzantine Empire and lived on the frontiers of Asia Minor. During Cypriot people’s exhausting battle with conquering barbarians, the image of this brave defender became the new symbol of Christian faith.

He was called Digenis Akritas. He embodied all the best qualities of a courageous freedom fighter for his country whiles standing guard at its borders (akrites in Greek means border guard). The people conferred unprecedented power to Digenis. He was able to prevail over both foreign invaders as well as the dark forces of nature.

In the epic, Digenis’ father is a Syrian emir that later adopted Christianity, and his mother is the daughter of a Roma strategus. This is the origin of «Digenis» — two-blood, owing to his parents of different faiths. He endured a great deal and underwent various trials and battles: with robbers, and the woman warrior Maximo. His valour and wisdom led him to become the ruler in the borderlands where he lived the rest of his life in a stunning palace.

There are especially well-known songs wherin Digenis proclaims his love for the cunning queen Rigena.

 

Queen Rigena

Numerous legends were composed about her, the mystical beauty of the Middle Ages. Generally, all legends and folk tales about Digenis and Rigena are linked to Paphos and its surrounding area, where, legend has it, the queen lived. The two distinct periods of time, different epochs to which Digenis and Rigena belonged (the Byzantine Empire and the Francocracy respectively) were united in this story. This is only possible in folk epics where time is rather inconsequential.

Digenis is described in them as a mere mortal: he is in love, which means he is vulnerable.

One of the legends describes that the hero was so captivated by the beauty of the queen that he completed numerous feats until finally he won her heart. Other legends state that Rigena remained steadfastly adamant.

Many historians believe that in this image of the capricious queen from the Middle Ages is an allegory of Aphrodite [16], (the folktale drew inspiration from her). Well, both women had difficult characters, didn’t they?

There is a great Cypriot oral tradition dedicated to her that ascribe her completely different often opposite characteristics, while maintaing her beauty and steadfast courage. It's no wonder that Rigena is a famous warrior ...

In Cyprus, there are two monuments to the love story between the akrites and the queen: Rigena Tower (in Akamas near the Baths of Aphrodite, on the site of an ancient monastery). In it, the lovers have been reunited. The second is, of course, the Pentadaktylos mountain range (the Five Fingers), where the strongman underwent a test of his strength. One version of events has it that Rigena demanded that he redirect the rivers towards Pafos. Upon doing so, the hero returned to his beloved. She simply mocked him, however. Enraged and disappointed, Digenis grabs one of the rocks from the cliff face and throws it at the queen’s palace. It falls in Chrysochous Bay and lands in an arrangement of several shards also known as the Digenis Stones .... the Pentadaktylos mountain appeared where the hulk of a man had grabbed at the rocks in the cliff face.

There are legends about treasure hidden by the queen. They continue to taunt those who wish to find it... and to this day there are seekers that try to decipher the mystery of ancient epistles looking for clues about where the legendary treasure can be found. After all, such rumours and legends have a basis in reality. Could it be in Trikomo or in the area around Chrysochous; in the myriad ruins of the Rigena’s castles ... or in the St. Hilarion monastery or Akrotiri?

 

St. Hilarion Castle

It is unknown exactly how many real and fictitious events were linked with this castle, which was once a fortress where kings, queens and their families fled to. It inspired Walt Disney to create the castle in Snow White and Seven Dwarves.

In any case, this place has long been famous — at least since the 4th century when the saint came to the island from Palestine.

St. Hilarion settled in Cyprus in order to drive out the evil forces and demons from this mountainous forest region: he rid those possessed of evil and did not accept anything in return. It is also thought that he even deafened himself so that he would not to hear the tempting voices of evil spirits. Having defeated all the demons, St. Hilarion went on to live in the mountains for the rest of his days.

Many years later, a Byzantine monastery was built at his burial site. It was later a fortress (in the 10th century), which was named St. Hilarion Castle.

Myths and legends talk of some secret treasure or valuables hidden in the room 101 of the castle: there is a secret door that if found and opened will reveal incredible treasures in a magic garden. A good number of people are still trying to find it!

 

The Legend of the Olive Tree

In Cyprus, olive trees are considered sacred. They are a source of significant income but also possess a deep spiritual and cultural value on the island.

The olive tree’s sacred status is thought to be based on a folk legend about Jesus Christ which is still told in Cyprus. It was believed that the olive tree attempted to hide Jesus in its branches from pursuers. In doing so it was blessed and when the ordeal came to and end, the olive tree was bestowed with longevity. It was literally stated that a tree would live «100 years longer than the person who planted it and picked the fruit from it». It was also endowed with great fertility, which would make the owners of olive groves rich.

They say the olive tree asked the Saviour «what will happen if I’m cut down and burnt?». He replied, «the smoke that rises up from your branches and foliage will protect you from the devil and envy».

Therefore, planting an olive tree still means you will be bestowed with the highest blessing and protection from evil. A lot of villagers occasionally treat their homes and gardens with the smoke from olive leaves and incense. This ritual is commonly held on Saturdays and Sundays using charcoal and incense. Olive branches are used in blessings during the Easter period in church and then kept in the house and added to an incense burner at home as required http://cyprusfortravellers.net/place/olivkovaya-roshcha-muzey-i-restoran-oleastro-anoyira-limassol).

 

The «Black Hetaira» from Kyrenia Bay

We’d now like to tell you another, tragic local legend about the «black girl» — a hetaira (a type of prostitute in ancient Greece) with dark skin that languished in a round tower that still looms over the old harbour in Kyrenia.

It’s said that the tower once housed a harem of one of the previous rulers. Black women were often abducted from Africa and sold to kings and nobles in different countries as concubines. The story has it that at that time there was a noble young man who fell in love with this beautiful slave. They started having clandestine meetings in the tower. The girl thought that if she had fairer skin, her young lover would stop hiding his true love for her in public. She prayув to the gods and they answered. She was instructed to bathe in the waters of the bay behind the tower at night and thus her wish would come true.

At night, she threw herself into the water and it was true: her skin turned a beautiful shade of ivory. However, the young man was upset because he had in fact loved her for her exotic dark skin. He left the young girl and found himself another black slave.

In a desperate state, the spurned lover cast herself into the sea and was drawn into the water. Since then, the harbour on the northern coast of Cyprus has been called Black Girl Cove.

 

The Legend of Atlantis and Cyprus

We have all heard about the mythical, ancient, mighty state that was suddenly submerged under water.

Atlantis featured in Plato's Timaeus and Critias (Dialogues), which even suggests a time period for when the disaster took place — approximately the mid-10th century BC. Historians, geographers and astronomers of the classical era and late antiquity made frequent mention of it: Herodotus and Diodorus, Strabo and Proclus ... Atlantis has long been searched for with only vague hints at success and continues to inspire exploration to this day [17]: after all, despite all the «available information», it remains unknown where exactly it was, or if it even existed at all.

The ancients wrote of coordinates that differ from modern ideas: according to Plato, the island was to the west of the Pillars of Hercules i.e. in the current-day Gibraltar Strait area, opposite the Atlas Mountains (North Africa); while a number of authors and scientists from Germany, Russia (the USSR) and other countries posited their theories about the location of the mysterious island ranging from the North Sea, the Atlantic near the Canary Islands, where Crete and Santorini are currently located, to the Black Sea and even Antarctica ... and now focus as returned to the Mediterranean where Cyprus is now.

The California-based writer and historian, Robert Sarmast, used deep seabed surveying and modelling to the north-east of Cyprus towards Syria to provide evidence that supports his theory that «the island of Cyprus was part of Atlantis, its mountain peak». The writer has already held several expeditions and plans to organise further research and gather as much evidence as possible that supports his claims.

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[1] There are a number of studies that assert that Olympus (in Greece, Syria, Cyprus) was essentially a «beacon of ancient paganism» that can be used to study the political history of the states through the centuries.
For more information, see: www.erenow.com

[2] The cult of Adonis also existed on the island of Lesbos, and in Phoenicia, Syria and Egypt.

[3] They are prevalent in Cyprus’ wild nature. There are always rockroses nearby. They are a symbol of the eternal love of Aphrodite and Adonis.

[4] Publius Ovidius Naso — Metamorphoses. Translated by Ian Johnston, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada.

[5] One of the oldest and most significant city states lies almost entirely within the city limits of Limassol. Numerous ruins of stone buildings have survived to this day. Alongside Paphos, this is one of the main places in Cyprus where the cult of Aphrodite prevailed (12-15th centuries BC.).

[6] There is another name ascribed to her in ancient mythology and in Cyprus: Arsinoe, the daughter of King Nikocreon (ruler of the city state of Salamis). As a young man, Arceophon was in love with her. The king refused to approve the marriage. Inconsolable, Arceophon committed suicide. When Arsinoe looked out of the window and watched his funeral procession, Aphrodite was shocked at her heartlessness and turned the girl into stone.

[7] Demophon was one of the characters in Euripides’ tragedy, Heraclides (5th century BC.).

[8] One version has it that her «first» name, Elissa, meant «born in Cyprus», and her second — Didona («travelled far») was given to her when she arrived in Libya.

[9] According to a number of historians, the story of Pygmalion details a sacred marriage ceremony which saw the King wed the image of Aphrodite-Astarte (as the legend has it that after he created the most beautiful statue, he drew closer to the image of the goddess and fell in love with her). In this case, the legend is no longer simply a legend: the tale was probably true in some way. It is not just one person, but a whole series. Pygmalion is not the name of an individual character, but a common name for all the Semitic kings, in both Cyprus and in general.

[10] It is thought that the name «Galatea» as Pygmalion's wife appeared much later in the work of Jean Jacques Rousseau, Pygmalion, (1762). Previously, this name was ascribed to the Nereids in ancient Greek mythology.

[11] According to another myth, the founder of Paphos and he who built the Temple of Aphrodite was Agapenor, the king of Tegea, who fought in the Battle of Troy.

[12] Our English-speaking readers can find the text in English here:: www.en.wikisource.org.

[13] In Ancient Greece, rams were sacrificed to Aphrodite.

[14] Taken from: www.ruslib.net . Homer (8th century BC). It is believed that about half of the surviving ancient Greek manuscripts are excerpts from the works of this legendary poet and storyteller.

[15] The full version of this poem can be found in one of the Greek monasteries near Rome.

[16] Other sources state that the likely precursor of Rigena could be Eleanor of Spain — the wife of King Peter I (ruled over Cyprus in 1359-1369). Alternately, if the trail does not lead back to the Franks but remains a contemporary of Digenis, it could even be Helena Palaiologos, niece of the Byzantine emperor Constantine and the wife of King John II of Cyprus, who ruled in 1432-1458.
There is however a third «pretender to the crown»: the beautiful and elusive ruler could be Catherine Cornaro, a Venetian who ruled over the island in 1471-1489.
It’s possible that the inspiration for Rigena’s charm and beauty was taken from each and any of these noble ladies: Aphrodite was the source of her incredible beauty and cunning mind; Eleanor — a penchant for intrigue and a fiery temperament; Helena — an authoritative air and, as mentioned in some legends, piety and her protection of Orthodox monasteries and shrines from the Latins; the stately Venetian once even left the island on the ship surrounded by a wailing crowd that had gathered to see the former ruler to the port just like the legendary Rigena.

[17] This is still a fascination with this ancient legacy today ... and it also enthralled many during the Renaissance (approximately 14th-16th century). Records state that the name Atlantis was first mentioned by the historian, Hellanicus of Lesbos, in the 5th century BC.

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