The port of the Kingdom of Kition

 

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Topography

The capital of the kingdom of Kition is located at the centre of the present town of Larnaca, in the area of Pamboula, where the ancient naval port was found. The rural area of the kingdom extended around the district of Larnaca between the areas of the kingdoms of Salamis, with which existed a continual rivalry, and of Αmathous.




Sea Harbour


The district around the town of ancient Kition was inhabited from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic period (Άρπερα, Κίτι, Κλαυδιά), and during the Late Bronze Age the important settlement of Hala Sultan Tekke flourished. This city used as its harbour the present day salt-pan lake, which during this period had an exit to the sea thus ensuring a safe port (Engvig-Åström 1975). Evidence of the harbour and its use is indicated by the stone anchors that have been recovered in the area, and by the excavated materials that highlight the connection with the Near East, Egypt, and the Aegean. ’y the end of Late Bronze Age (13th century BC) the lake-port was abandoned, most probably due to the silting of its entrance (Nicolaou 1976, p. 9-52). For this reason the city was moved towards the north, having as a centre the district of Pamboula, were there was a small bay which could be used as the new harbour.

Kition was organised as a Mycenaean city comprising cyclopian walls, sanctuaries, an administrative centre, and workshops for the exploitation of copper, however the city declined in the 11th century BC during the period of unrest and turmoil that characterises this period. In the 9th Century BC Phoenecian traders who may have origionated from Tyre settled in the city, and by the middle of the century political power of the city and the surrounding area was firmly under their control, thus establishing the first colony west of Phonecia. Kition remained under a Phoenecian King until the Hellenistic period, and throughout its history it mostly supported other powers that were adverse to the surrounding Greek Kingdoms.

As skilful seamen and traders the Phoenicians of Kition advanced the city’s interests, and in the Classical period, to incorporate the kingdom of Idalion and buy the kingdom of Tamassos for the exploitation of their copper. They also exploited the Kingdoms natural resourses through the export of products such as the oil, indicated by the olive mill of the 3rd century BC at Mari-Kopetra, timber from the forests that existed in the area of Larnaka, and of course the salt from the nearby salt lakes (Yon 1994, 15 and Yon 1995, 121). The imports of products are attested to by the stamps on amphoras from Thasos, Chios, Rhodes, Knidos, and pottery from Athens, Phoenicia, Rhodes, and salted fish from Egypt. The commercial nature of the town is mentioned by various ancient sources, such as Dimosthenes and Lisias, and inscriptions, which mention Kition as the place of commercial activity, and Kitians as traders settled in various parts, such as Delos, Dimitrias, and Pireaus (Yon 1995, 120-121).




Function Commercial


Ancient Written Sources

With the exception of Strabo the ancient sources do not directly mention the port of Kition. Strabo, in mentioning Kition remarks that it has a closed harbour «...ἔχει δὲ λιμένα κλειστόν». An indirect report of the port exists from Plutarch in Kimon’s Life, who died during the naval siege of Kition. Also at the False Gospel Life and Martydom of Varnavas the Apostole, Apostole Mark, to whom it is attributed mentions that he and Apostle Varnavas took a ship from Kition that ferried them to Salamis. There are also many references from medieval travelers who refered to the harbour situated it in the inner shallow lake, which leads to the sea via a canal. Even in the middle of the nineteenth century Luis de Mas Latrie mentions, "…La ville occupe l’emplacement de Citium, une des plus anciennes colonies Phéniciennes, dont le port et les substruction maritimes se reconnaissent encore dans un petit  étang séparé de la mer par une bande de galets". Some of the medieval travellers made prints of the view they saw, such as the italian priest Jovanni Mariti, who detailed a small inner lake and a canal that leads to the sea. It was probably the ancient "closed port" and its entrance, to which Strabo refered.

It is as well known that in the district of Pamboula there existed marshes. One year after the conquest of Cyprus by the English in 1878, drainage works were undertaken in the area for health reasons. The works were recorded by Ohnefalsch Richter, who studied the artefacts revealed by the transportation of soil for the filling of the basins. This material, from the adjacent hill of Pampoula, most likely formed as medieval deposit, were studied by Myres (Myres 1913, 88). Similar works repeated in 1914 resulted in the morphological alteration of the ancient coastline. Furthermore the alteration reinforced from the modern constructive activity at the area.




Selected Written Sources


Research

The French Archeological School of Athens began excavations at the site of Pampoula in 1976.




 


Shipsheds

The excavations brought to the light remains of shipsheds belongimg to the naval harbour, at the south of the hill, under the sanctuary of Astarte and Hercules-Melkart, and behind the present Volleyball field. Until 1993 a total of six sloped ramps were discovered, which connect to a perpendicular wall at the north, thus suggesting that these buildings were a single unit built to house a large number of ships. The length of the sheds that were revealed, without the excavation having been completed, is 25m with a width of 5m. Similar sheds at Pireaus have a length of 35m and 5.5m width. Parallel to the ramps the excavators discovered small walls that divided the sheds evenly. These walls were most likely to have been the base for a row of wooden colums that supported a tiled roof, of which many tiles have been recorded. With the complete excavation of the structure, which is hampered by the rising water level, statistics concerning the size of the Kition fleet and the capabilities of the ships, as well as comparisons between Greek and Phoenecian Triremes, can be assessed.




Shipshed


Winch

The single north wall and the ramps display distinctive traces indicating the use of a wooden pully or crane system.




Winch


Chronology

According to the excavator, Yon Marguerite, the constructions were begun at the beginning of the 4th century BC and were dissused by the end of the same century. At the base of a naval trophy discovered in the area, the king of Kition, Mylciaton, against the king of Salamis, Evagoras, proclaims a naval victory in 392 BC.

The geomorphological and archaeological evidence in the area clearly indicates that an inner "closed harbour", as mentioned by Strabo, existed at Kition, which at the beginning of the 4th century BC underwent reconstruction, in order to house the fleet needed for protection in a turbulent time. However, to the extent that the harbour can also be considered the commercial port of Kition is still uncertain. Certainly, the construction of the shipsheds in the early 4th century define the harbour as a naval base, thus the commercial port of this period must have been located elsewhere.

Although the harbour ceased to function as an independent militarily base at the end of the 4th century, due to the advent of Ptolomaic rule, the possibility that its use on a parochial scale cannot be ruled out. The earthquakes of 332 and 343 AD finally destroyed the facility, along with the harbour of Salamina, and remained abandoned up to the Late Byzantine period (Nicolaou 1976, 80).




Function Military


Bibliography

Νικολάου Κ., 1966 ”Αρχαίοι Λιμένες εν Κύπρω”, Δελτίον Τμήματος Πολιτιστικής Αναπτύξεως Υπουργείου Παιδείας Κύπρου 6-7 (1966), Λευκωσία, 96

Nicolaou K., 1976 TheΗhistorical Τopography of Kition, in Äström P. (ed.) "Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology" XLIII, Göteborg

Yon M., 1994 Kίτιον. Aνασκαφές στην Πόλη και το Λιμάνι (1976-1993), Mορφωτικό Ίδρυμα Tράπεζας Kύπρου, Λευκωσία, 15-18

Yon M., 1995 "Kition et la Mer a l' Epoque Classique et Hellénistic", in Karageorghis V.-Michaelides D., Proceedings of the International Symposium Cyprus and the Sea, University of Cyprus-Cyprus Ports Authority, Nicosia, 119-130

Μαραγκού Ά., 1997 Τα Λιμάνια της Κύπρου, Πολιτιστικό Κέντρο Λαϊκής Τράπεζας, Λευκωσία, 189-223

Ohnefalsh-Richter M., 1893 Kypros, die Bibel und Homer, London

Engvig O. T., P. Åström, 1975 The Cape Kiti Survey. An Underwater Archaeological Survey, in Åström P. (ed.) "Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology" XLV:2, Göteborg


Bibliography


Author

Θεοδούλου Θ. / Theodoulou, Th.




 


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