Nea Pafos, is located in Pafos District, on a small promontory on the southwest coast of the island (Fig. 1). Nea Pafos archaeological site was inscribed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO in 1980 and today is considered one of the most important sites of the island, accessible to the public, numbering the most visitors on the island throughout the year (more than 200,000 visits per year). Nea (which means new) Pafos was called like this in contrast to the old city called Palaepaphos, situated further in the south east of the district, where the modern village of Kouklia is located today. Nea Pafos, substituted the old one, after the abolishment of the old city-kingdoms of Cyprus and the unification of the island under the Ptolemies of Egypt.
Figure 1 Archaeological site of Nea Pafos: as seen from Google (left and middle); a view of the coastal area surrounding the site and the view of the excavated theatre (middle and right © Limes.Media).
According to written sources, the town of Nea Paphos was founded at the end of the 4th century, by Nikocles, the last king of Palaepaphos. In the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. when Cyprus became part of the Ptolemaic kingdom and Nea Pafos became the centre of Ptolemaic administration on the island. Until the end of the 2nd century B.C., Nea Pafos acquired such an important role as political and economic center, which turned it into the capital of the whole island and remained as such until the 4th century AD.
The remains that we see today related to the ancient city of Nea Pafos are mainly dated to the Hellenistic and Roman period, covering six centuries of history of the island. Nea Paphos was a harbour town and a planned city. The city seems to have already been fortified by Nicocles and the city walls formed a considerable work of defence. Most of their superstructure has disappeared or quarried, but the course of the city wall can be traced over most of its length by the rock-cut foundations.
Some of the most important monuments of the site are the roman villas decorated with impressive floor mosaics, such as the so called ‘House of Dionysos’, a spacious villa representing the well-known type of Roman atrium house. In this villa more than forty rooms are grouped around a peristyle atrium with an open ‘impluvium’ in the centre. The ‘House of Dionysos’ was named after the floor mosaics pictorial compositions representing mythological scenes frequently connected with the myth of Dionysos. Other luxurious Roman villas are with floor mosaic are the ‘House of Aion’ and the ‘House of Orpheus’.
Apart from the villas, the civic centre of Nea Paphos, where according to the rules of Hellenistic and Roman town-planning the important public buildings were concentrated, was situated in the north-western part of the city and included the important public buildings of the town, such as the Agora, the Theatre and the Asklepieion and other.