cyprus, part 1: the πέτρα του ρωμιού

a few weeks ago, we went to cyprus for a few days. the south and west of the island – the part i visited, well below the green line – appears πολύ ελληνική (very greek) …

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… although its history as a british colony is pretty evident as well.


so let’s take a look around.

the birth of venus by sandro botticelli, c. 1485
the birth of venus by sandro botticelli, c. 1485

we’ll start at the petra to romiou, or aphrodite’s rock. this is the spot where the goddess of love, aphrodite, who was born from the sea foam, came ashore at paphos, carried in a scallop shell.  it sounds very romantic, until you read the detail in the wikipedia entry:

in the most famous version of her myth, her birth was the consequence of a castration: cronus severed uranus’ genitals and threw them behind him into the sea. the foam from his genitals gave rise to aphrodite (hence her name, meaning “foam-arisen”), while the erinyes (furies), and the meliae emerged from the drops of his blood.

i don’t remember that from my copy of d’aulaires.

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next: mosaics

the temple of poseidon

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having seen the sanctuary and death oracle of poseidon earlier, it was only right for us to see the temple of poseidon at sounio, about an hour’s drive from athens.  the temple of poseidon dates from 440 b.c.  according to legend, this was the spot from which the greek hero theseus’ father, king aegeus, threw himself into the sea: theseus had gone to crete to fight the minotaur in a ship flying black sails, and had told his father that if he won, he would fly white sails on his ship upon his return, while if he died, the crew would fly the black sails.  theseus did defeat the minotaur, and he won the hand of king minos’ daughter ariadne as well.  athena told him to leave ariadne behind, however, and he was so distraught that he forgot to change the sails to white. aegeus saw the black sails from the distance and threw himself into the sea (which subsequently was named the aegean sea).

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closer to today, one can see lord byron’s name scratched into the base of one of the pillars.  byron visited greece for the first time in 1810, before becoming known as a poet and supporter of greek independence, and apparently this was the thing to do. i didn’t find his name, but i found the names of plenty of others from later in the century, including one from (presumably) an italian soldier toward the end of world war ii.

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you will need to click on these photos to see them more clearly.