Amathus

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Amathus was an ancient city of Cyprus, on the southern coast, about 24 miles west of Larnaka and 6 miles east of Limassol. It lies among sandy hills and sand-dunes, which perhaps explain its name in Greek (amathos, sand).

The earliest remains hitherto found on the site are tombs of the early Iron Age period of Graeco-Phoenician influences (1000-600 B.C.). Amathus is identified by some (E. Oberhummer, Die Insel Cypern, i., 1902, pp. 13-14; but see Citium) with Kartihadasti (Phoenician "New-Town") in the Cypriote tribute-list of Esarhaddon of Assyria (668 B.C.). It certainly maintained strong Phoenician sympathies, for it was its refusal to join the phil-Hellene league of Onesilos of Salamis which provoked the revolt of Cyprus from Persia in 500-494 B.C. (Herod. v. 105), when Amathus was besieged unsuccessfully and avenged itself by the capture and execution of Onesilos. The phil-Hellene Evagoras of Salamis was similarly opposed by Amathus about 385-380 B.C. in conjunction with Citium and Soli (Diod. Sic. xiv. 98); and even after Alexander the city resisted annexation, and was bound over to give hostages to Seleucus (Diod. Sic. xix. 62). Its political importance now ended, but its temple of Adonis and Aphrodite (Venus Amathusia) remained famous in Roman time.

The wealth of Amathus was derived partly from its corn (Strabo 340, quoting Hipponax, fi. 540 B.C.), partly from its copper mines (Ovid, Met. x. 220, 531), of which traces can be seen inland (G. Mariti, i. 187; L. Ross, Inselreise, iv. 195; W. H. Engel, Kypros, i. 111 ff.). Ovid also mentions its sheep (Met. x. 227); the epithet Amathusia in Roman poetry often means little more than "Cypriote," attesting however the fame of the city.

Amathus still flourished and produced a distinguished patriarch of Alexandria (St. John the Merciful), as late as 606-616, and a ruined Byzantine church marks the site; but it was already almost deserted when Richard Plantagenet won Cyprus by a victory there over Isaac Comnenus in 1191. The rich necropolis, already partly plundered then, has yielded valuable works of art to New York and to the British Museum; but the city has vanished, except fragments of wall and of a great stone cistern on the acropolis. A similar vessel was transported to the Louvre in 1867. Two small sanctuaries, with terracotta votive offerings of Graeco-Phoenician age, lie not far off, but the great shrine of Adonis and Aphrodite has not been identified (M. Ohnefalsch-Richter, Kypros, i. ch.1).

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