Paphos World Heritage Site

Outstanding Universal Value
Brief synthesis

Paphos, situated in the District of Paphos in western Cyprus, is a serial archaeological property consisting of three components at two sites: the town of Kato Paphos (Site I), and the village of Kouklia (Site II). Kato Paphos includes the remains of ancient Nea Paphos (Aphrodite’s Sacred City) and of the Kato Paphos necropolis known as Tafoi ton Vasileon (“Tombs of the Kings”), further to the north. The village of Kouklia includes the remains of the Temple of Aphrodite (Aphrodite’s Sanctuary) and Palaepaphos (Old Paphos). Because of their great antiquity, and because they are closely and directly related to the cult and legend of Aphrodite (Venus), who under the influence of Homeric poetry became the ideal of beauty and love, inspiring writers, poets, and artists throughout human history, these two sites can indeed be considered to be of outstanding universal value.

Paphos, which has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, was a centre of the cult of Aphrodite and of pre-Hellenic fertility deities. Aphrodite’s legendary birthplace was on the island of Cyprus, where her temple was erected by the Myceneans in the 12th century BC and continued to be used until the Roman period. The site is a vast archaeological area, with remains of villas, palaces, theatres, fortresses and tombs. These illustrate Paphos’ exceptional architectural and historic value and contribute extensively to our understanding of ancient architecture, ways of life, and thinking. The villas are richly adorned with mosaic floors that are among the most beautiful in the world. These mosaics constitute an illuminated album of ancient Greek mythology, with representations of Greek gods, goddesses and heroes, as well as activities of everyday life.

Criterion (iii): Cyprus was a place of worship of pre-Hellenic fertility deities since the Neolithic period (6th millennium BC). Many of the archaeological remains are of great antiquity; the Temple of Aphrodite itself dates from the 12th century BC, and bears witness to one of the oldest Mycenaean settlements. The mosaics of Nea Paphos are extremely rare and are considered amongst the finest specimens in the world; they cover the Hellenistic period to the Byzantine period. One of the keys to our knowledge of ancient architecture, the architectural remains of the villas, palaces, fortresses, and rock-hewn peristyle tombs of Paphos are of exceptional historical value.

Criterion (vi): The religious and cultural importance of the cult of Venus, a local fertility goddess of Paphos that became widely recognized and celebrated as a symbol of love and beauty, contributes to the Outstanding Universal Value of this property.

All the elements necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value of Paphos are located within the boundaries of the 291 ha serial property, including the remains of villas, palaces, theatres, fortresses, and the rock-hewn necropolis known as the Tomb of the Kings, as well as mosaics. There is no buffer zone, though the national Antiquities Law provides for the establishment of “Controlled Areas” in the vicinity of the archaeological sites. The property does not suffer unduly from adverse effects of development and/or neglect. Development pressures in the surroundings of the property that threaten to alter the landscape and setting are being dealt with through cooperation with other governmental departments and the local authorities.

The integrity of the property is related to the actions taken by the State Party to preserve the original condition of the ruins. Conservation work undertaken is oriented towards ensuring the structural safety of the ruins, while respecting the original material and its aesthetic value, without interfering with the integrity of the property. Special care is taken in the conservation of the mosaic floors, which benefited from a conservation project with the Getty Conservation Institute that ended in 2004. An extensive conservation programme for the mosaic floors was launched in 2011 by the Department of Antiquities to ensure their preservation. The aim is to continue efforts towards the scientific preservation of the archaeological remains and to further oppose development pressures in the environs of the property. 

Paphos is authentic in terms of its locations and settings, forms and designs, as well as materials and substances. The key elements of the property, such as the archaeological remains associated with the cult of Aphrodite, the rare mosaics, and the remains of civil, military, and funerary architecture, retain a high degree of authenticity with regard to the built fabric.

Protection and management requirements
Paphos is protected and managed according to the provisions of the highly effective national Antiquities Law and the international treaties signed by the Republic of Cyprus. In accordance with the Antiquities Law, Ancient Monuments are categorized as being of the First Schedule (governmental ownership) or of the Second Schedule (private ownership). Paphos (both the town of Kato Paphos and the village of Kouklia) is for the most part under government ownership, due to the policy by the Department of Antiquities to gradually acquire land within the sites and their vicinity. Listed Ancient Monuments of the Second Schedule are gradually being acquired according to the provisions of Section 8 of the Antiquities Law. Furthermore, the Law provides for the establishment of “Controlled Areas” within the vicinity around the sites to control the height and architectural style of any proposed building; such areas are in place for both the town of Kato Paphos and the village of Kouklia. Paphos was given “enhanced protection” status in November 2010 by UNESCO’s Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

Management of the property is under the direct supervision of the Curator of Ancient Monuments and the Director of the Department of Antiquities. The District Archaeological Officer of Paphos is responsible for supervising the property, under the direction of the Curator of Ancient Monuments. The property has sufficient funding, which is provided by the Department of Antiquities from the yearly government budget. A Master Plan for Kato Paphos (Site I) was implemented from 1991 onwards. The second phase of this Master Plan, concerning the creation of shelters for the mosaic floors, is in progress. A Master Plan for Palaepaphos (Site II) has also been prepared and is under progressive implementation. The creation of a management plan for Paphos that addresses the conservation, promotion, and preservation needs of the property is one of the objectives set by the Department of Antiquities for all listed Cypriot World Heritage properties.

Sustaining the Outstanding Universal Value of the property over time will require completing, approving, and implementing a management plan for Paphos, aiming at the conservation, promotion, and preservation of the property’s unique values for future generations. It will also reinforce efforts undertaken within the framework of the national legislation to minimise dangers of encroachment and the erection of inappropriate buildings in this favoured tourist area.

Long Description
Because of their great antiquity, and because they are closely and directly related to the cult and legend of Aphrodite (Venus), who became the ideal of beauty and love, inspiring writers, poets and artists throughout human history, Paphos is of outstanding universal value. Pre-Hellenic fertility deities were worshipped in Cyprus from Neolithic times. Many of the archaeological remains are of great antiquity, as Paphos has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. The Temple of Aphrodite represents one of the earliest settlements, while the mosaics of Nea Paphos are extremely rare and rank among the best examples in the world. The architectural remains of villas, palaces, theatres, fortresses and rock-hewn peristyle tombs are of outstanding historical value as they are one of the keys of the understanding of ancient architecture.
Petra tou Romiou, or Aphrodite's Rock, is a rock that marks the site of Aphrodite's birthplace, which was a place of pilgrimage for the entire Hellenic world. Excavations have unearthed the spectacular 3rd- to 5th-century mosaics of the Houses of Dionysus, Orpheus and Aion, and the Villa of Theseus, buried for 16 centuries and yet remarkably intact. The mosaic floors of these noblemen's villas are considered among the finest in the Eastern Mediterranean. They mainly depict scenes from Greek mythology.

Nearby, the stone pillar where St Paul according to tradition was bound and beaten for preaching Christianity. The Chrysorrogiatissa Monastery was founded in the 12th century and is dedicated to Our Lady of the Golden Pomegranate. The neighbouring monastery of Agios Neofytos contains some of the world's finest Byzantine frescoes and icons as well as an interesting Byzantine museum.

The Tombs of the Kings, in Kato Paphos, is a monumental structure carved out of solid rock with some tombs decorated with Doric pillars. Spread over a vast area, these impressive underground tombs date back to the 4th century BC. High officials rather than kings were buried here, but the magnificence of the tombs gave the locality its name.

Palaipaphos (Old Paphos) was one of the most celebrated pilgrimage centres of the ancient Greek world, and once the city-kingdom of Cyprus. Here stood the famous elaborate sanctuary of Aphrodite, the most ancient remains of which date back to the 12th century BC. It is the most significant of a dozen such consecrated sites in Cyprus The glorious days of the sanctuary lasted until the 3rd-4th centuries AD. Amphoras and ceremonial bowls from here, many of which are on display in the Cyprus Museum in Lefkosia, depict exquisitely costumed priestesses as well as erotic scenes from the sacred gardens that once surrounded the temple.

Originally a Byzantine fort built to protect the harbour; it was rebuilt by the Lusignans in the 13th century, dismantled by the Venetians in 1570, and rebuilt by the Ottomans after they captured the island in the 16th century.