South Europe is known for the classical history of the once great ancient Greeks and Romans. Their great achievements are admired worldwide with millions of tourists visiting every day the well-known monuments of Acropolis and Colosseum.
But today, instead of praising the greatness of Greece and Italy, I would like to introduce the birthplace of Aphrodite. And that is none other than my home country Cyprus.
Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and is located in the far east of the sea. Its closest neighbours are Turkey, Syria, Israel, and Egypt. Geographically Cyprus is part of West Asia, but politically it is part of Europe as an EU member.
Being a crossroads of three continents, Cyprus has a rich history and culture. As a tourist, you can enjoy everything that the Mediterranean culture has to offer. Good food, good wine, hot weather, gold sandy beaches, mountainous landscapes with ski resorts, rich history of over ten thousand years , and great hospitality.
Although many cultures passed through the island, the most prominent is the Greek. The evidence can be seen through the beautiful ruins of entire cities, temples, and amphitheatres. Furthermore, there is no doubt that Cypriots are descendants of the Greek civilisation since, until today, the islanders speak Greek. In fact, Cypriots speak in a dialect which is the only living dialect that comes directly from the ancient Greek language.
To introduce two of my favourite things in my country, history, and sea, I will go back to my very first memory as a toddler of three years old.
As a kid, I remember my family going on trips around the country during the weekends. In Cyprus, the family is the core of all cultural events. Therefore, during anniversaries or trips, the entire family – that could often be around thirty to fifty people – would gather together. My first memory is a family trip to Πέτρα του Ρωμιού (Petra tou Romiou).
Petra tou Romiou is a beach in Paphos, and the name means Rock of the Roman. Here Roman refers to the Greeks. Until the 1800s, Greeks referred to themselves as Romans. To explain the name, I need to give some basic historical information. Since 1453 Greece was occupied by the Ottoman Empire until the revolution in 1821. Before the Ottoman Empire, Greece was part of the Byzantium Empire, which was the successor of the Roman Empire. Hence the name Roman. So, in a literal way, the name of the beach means Rock of the Greek.
The Rock of Roman has several legends that are driven by mythology and middle ages history.
My favourite era in history is ancient times. Until today I love reading and learning more about my island’s history. Although Cyprus has a long history with primeval civilisations, religions, and languages, the Greek culture is the one that stayed dominant since 1,100 BC.
Becoming part of the Greek civilization, Cyprus also gained a part in mythology. The greatest and most well-known myth that takes part on the island and specifically Petra tou Romiou is the birth of Aphrodite (or Venus).
Legends say that Aphrodite had risen from the seafoam of Petra tou Romiou and made Cyprus her home. There is no doubt that there are many legends that surround Aphrodite, but today I will refer to Aphrodite the Cypris. Although she is more known as the Olympian goddess of beauty, in Cyprus and many other ancient worlds such as Assyria and Phoenicia, she was the Mother God or Mother Earth.
Aphrodite was indeed the god of beauty but also birth, death, mourning, marriage, fertilisation, virginity, sexuality, pleasure, and of all other aspects of life. One aspect that I find interesting is the fact that Aphrodite was the goddess of sexuality, and as such she had both a female and a male form. Her male form, Aphroditus was worshipped in the city of Amathus.
Today even if the ancient religions are not worshipped, they are still embodied in our culture and modern religion. In Cyprus, Aphrodite was the predominant god. Cypriots loved their goddess, and when new religions started to rise, the people started to identify her with Virgin Mary. Today the one who is worshipped in great lengths is Virgin Mary. For this reason, in every single city, town, village, and even neighbourhood, there is at least one small chapel dedicated to her. One great example that shows Aphrodite’s importance to Cyprus is the church of Mary the Aphrodisia. It shows that even if we don’t realise it, our ancestor’s history and life are still within us.
After this long rant of historical facts, let’s go back to the beautiful beach of Petra tou Romiou. Unfortunately, it is often advised to not swim in the waters of this magnificent place because the sea in this area is often quite wild. But the scenery of the deep blue water, the sandy beach, the rocky cliffs, and the wild vegetation are perfect for admiring the wonders of the Mediterranean Sea. Though if you can at least water your feet near the shore or float around, legends say that you will be bestowed with eternal beauty.
Since I was a child, one of my hobbies was collecting pretty rocks or seashells from all the beaches, I would visit. But then again this is a habit that almost all children have. Therefore, my parent’s house is full of jars with sea memories. The shores of west Cyprus, much like Petra tou Romiou, are the best places for collecting pretty and shiny pebbles. However, if you want to enjoy golden sandy beaches with clear water and swimming adventures, then the east of the island is your destination.
If you’re interested in history and discover other mythology legends, much like Aphrodite’s, the west of the island is the best destination. In the west, you can visit the Baths of Aphrodite and Adonis, ancient temples, Theseus’ villa, and many other fantastic places. But there is no doubt that all over the island you can see ruins from ancient civilisations. In fact, one of the oldest towns of Europe is in Cyprus, and it dates to 7, 000 BC.
Whether you are a history lover or a sea lover, then I believe Cyprus can be the perfect touristic destination for you. As a Cypriot, I have to say that I feel sad that sometimes this beautiful island of Aphrodite is overlooked, so I hope my post and my photo adventures will give you a taste of the island.