The port of the kingdom of Soloi

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Topography

The kingdom of Soloi was on the northwest coast of Cyprus with its capital on the cove of the Morphou bay. The ruins of the ancient city are located at the foothills of a low hill called even today "Palaia Hora" (Ancient Capital), east of the village of Potamos tou Kampou. The river of Kampos flows west of the hill and on the east side of the estuary the ancient port can be traced. According to myth the Athenian Trojan heroes Phaleros and Demofon established the city. A second interpretation given from Ploutarchos considers that king Philokypros established the city of Soloi, which succeeded the older city of Aipeia that had been established by Demophon. He mentions that the Athenian legislator Solon visited the city of Aipeia, where Philokypros was the king and encouraged him to relocate the city from the inaccessible place it was to the neighboring valley. The relocation was then performed and the new city got the name Soloi, thus honoring the Legislator. However, the excavations indicated that in the area of Vouni, which was considered as the position of Aipeia nothing earlier the Classical Period was found, and moreover in the area of Soloi some tombs go back to Geometric Times. Unfortunately, the question still exists since the excavations were interrupted by the Invasion of 1974. In its history, the kingdom of Soloi kept an Aegean orientation as the myth and archaeological record proves, and as the position of the city on the northwest shore suggests. It comprises the second nearest port after Marion, located further west, coming from the island of Rhodes and the Aegean via the Cilician Sea.




Sea Harbour


Another reason of this orientation is the neighboring copper mines of Phoucasa and Scouriotissa, where the first evidence of copper production can be traced dating from Early Bronze Age (Ambelikou). This product, and concurrently the fertile valley with the abundant forests of the Troodos foothills, could not have escaped the attention of the Mycenean colonists and traders, and also the Greeks of the Historical Times.




Function Commercial


Ancient Sources

The city is well traced both in the ancient written sources and the archaeological record (Christou 1973, 91-102). The first reference to the port comes from Pseudo-Skyllax who mentions Soloi as a city with a winter harbour "…Soloi (this also has a winter harbour)…", with similar references to Salamis. Thus, it is clear that the city of Soloi had at its disposal a harbour of some kind by the middle of 3rd c. BC, or even earlier if the writer transcribes information from previous geographers. During Roman times Strabo refers to Soloi as a "… a city Soli, with a harbour and a river…". It is noticable that this harbour was located on the estuary of a river, a common practice on the island and the Levantine coast. The city is also mentioned by Pliny and Ptolemy, but without reference to any kind of harbour. The last reference of Ancient times comes from Stadiasmos that notes the city "not having a harbour" (…πόλις ἐστὶν ἀλίμενος…).




Selected Written Sources


Research

Excavations at Soloi and Vouni (Aipeia?) had been undertaken by the Swedish Cyprus Expedition between 1927 and 1930. From 1965 until the Invasion of 1974 the Canadian University of Laval, Quebec, was excavating the area of Soloi and meanwhile the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus excavated several tombs around the area (Christou 1973, 91-102). A.Westholm (of the SCE) gives a description of the surviving part of the port. E. Linder and A. Raban visited the area in 1971 to investigate the remains of the ancient harbour, but modern facilities for copper ores (Hellenic Mines Company) and structures of late Antiquity made the task almost impossible. According to K. Nicolaou, in 1966 "The modern bridges of the Hellenic Mines Company for ore loading is build exactly on the position of the ancient port" (Nicolaou 1966, 98).




 


Fortifications

According again to Westholm the city wall was continued over the eastern mole, which was visible under the waters surface, clearly forming the known Classical type of closed harbour (Limen Kleistos).




Defences


Installations

Basins

The harbour possibly had a closed inner basin well protected from winter east winds, as it is evident from the geomorphology of the area. The circular shape of the basin can even today (1929) be recognized on the shore as "a low depression in the garden belonging to Imbranim" as Westholm lively describes.




Basin


Moles

Similarly, the western mole could be recognized by a row of scattered lime ashlar blocks in the sea. In between the two moles the entrance of the harbour was almost totally silted up. Raban point out the same situation in 1971, mentioning the two moles which extended 180m seaward, build with scattered ashlars measuring 0.6x0.6x2m.




Pier


Chronology

Conclusively, the kingdom of Soloi seems to have had its own important closed harbour during the Historical times, which must have been in use until the 1st c. BC. This harbour is evidently out of use by the end of the Roman Period.




 


Bibliography

Westholm A., 1936 The Temples of Soli, in "Swidish Cyprus Expetition", Stockolm
Χρίστου Δ., 1973 "Nέαι αρχαιολογικαί μαρτυρίαι εκ της νεκροπόλεως των Σόλων - Προκαταρκτική περιληπτική έκθεσις εν συνδυασμώ μετά των κυριωτέρων παρελθοντικών ανασκαφικών ενδείξεων”, Report of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus (1973), Nicosia, 91-102
Raban A., 1995 "The Heritage of Ancient Harbour Engineering in Cyprus and the Levant" in Karageorgis V. – D. Michaelides (ed.), Proceedings of the International Symposium Cyprus and the Sea, Nicosia, 165
Νικολάου Κ., 1966 ”Αρχαίοι Λιμένες εν Κύπρω”, Δελτίον Τμήματος Πολιτιστικής Αναπτύξεως Υπουργείου Παιδείας Κύπρου 6-7 (1966), Λευκωσία, 1966, 98 Μαραγκού Α. Γ., Τα Λμάνια της Κύπρου, Πολιτιστικό Κέντρο Λαϊκής Τράπεζας, Λευκωσία, 1997, 284


Bibliography


Author

Θεοδούλου Θ. / Theodoulou, Th.




 


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