Located just north of the city of Famagusta, on Cyprus' eastern coast, you will find the remarkable remains of Salamis. An hour or so drive from The Hideaway Club Hotel, Salamis was the capital of Cyprus as far back as 1100 BC. It survived occupations of the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, and Romans but like so many others, was eventually beaten by the forces of nature. The site covers over a square mile of Mediterranean cost and runs inland. Plenty of the area has yet to be uncovered and is densely forested, but much archaeology has been undertaken and the discovery of coins and articles dating from 411 to 374 BC was the first evidence of the site's importance.

A major earthquake destroyed Salamis in 76 AD, after which the gymnasium was built by Trajan and Hadrian as part of a major reconstruction of the city. Today, this is the most magnificant part of the site, but columns visible now, differ in size because after a second major earthquake around 331 AD, Christians erected new columns, taken from the Roman amphitheatre. With 50 tiers of seats and a capacity of over 15,000, the amphtheatre is probably the second most spectacular sight and is still in use today as a venue for concerts and open-air theatre! When Christianity was adopted as the country's state religion, nude statues were considered an abhorrence and were thrown into drains or broken up. Most exhibits of Roman pagan religion, such as mosaic pictures, were destroyed.

Romans had an obsession about bathing and in the great hall buildings, you can make out the hot baths, steam baths and cold baths. Pre 400 AD, Salamis was colourful city, with all the marble columns covered in coloured stucco. Brightly coloured statues lined the streets and there were vivid mosaics, of which a few have been excavated intact. It was during the Christian period that walls with rectangular towers at regular intervals were built, but much of the colourful parts of the city were defaced.

About 674 AD, an invasion resulted in the partial destruction of Salamis and the residents retreated south to build what later grew into the town of Famagusta. There must have been a change in the climate too, as Salamis was covered with sand. Coins of later periods have been found around the area though, so some people still inhabited the ruins up to as late as 1300 AD. For the next 6000 years or so, Salamis was looted and treated as just a source of building materials. During the Venetian occupation of Famagusta, many columns and relics were removed from the site and in fact, the looting was really only stopped in the 20th century, when organised arcaeology properly commenced. This was not unusual however, as most European ruins were treated as sources of materials for the builders of the medieval time.

Salamis remains one of the most spectacular places in Cyprus, as the ruins are extensive and in an excellent state of preservation, as so much of the city remained buried and escaped intact. In the same way, Pompeii lay buried in volcanic ash and was similarly saved from destruction. Today, much of the city remains buried and as yet undiscovered under the shifting sands, yet the site is still breath-taking due to its sheer scale. The waters of the Mediterranean are gloriously warm and crystal clear, making the area wonderful territory for snorkeling or diving, but care is necessary, as currents can be quite strong. Organised dive trips can be arranged in the Kyrenia region. Visitors should also bear in mind that, quite understandably, the removal or disturbance of any items from the site is strictly illegal.

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Edremit, Kyrenia, North Cyprus

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