Cyprus. Kouklia (Paliapaphos), Temple of Aphrodite
Kouklia (Paliapaphos), Temple of Aphrodite
The new Roman structures, covering an area of 79 × 67 m, retained the basic character of an open court sanctuary, thus adhering to the architectural tradition of the Paphian cult. To reconstruct Sanctuary II in detail is very difficult, although many architectural fragments, such as capitals of Roman / Doric style, were found scattered all over the site (collected now on a pediment to the left of the road coming from the Manor House). These fragments demonstrate the mixture of eastern and western architectural traditions. (…)
Another remarkable architectural feature was the gradual rise in the level of the component buildings, from the floor of the Late Bronze Age Temenos to the floor of the North Hall. The topography of the site necessitated such an arrangement. But even if not planned intentionally, the group of buildings must have appeared especially impressive to visitors arriving by sea or on the road from Nea Paphos.
The Roman buildings represent the last stage in the long architectural history of the Paphian shrine. To the end the architecture of the Sanctuary combined western and oriental traditions. It never represented a temple of the classical type, but preserved in its plan the Near Eastern antecedents of the cult place. The Paphian Aphrodite never possessed a temple of traditional Graeco-Roman design; nor was the goddess ever represented by an anthropomorphic cult image. The new structures of the Roman period retain the basic character of the open court sanctuary — a large open enclosure, bordered by halls and other buildings, housing a maze of altars, statues, votive offerings and religious monuments.
The innermost shrine of the goddess, which covered the conical symbol of fertility depicted on Hellenistic clay seal impressions and Roman coins, must have stood either in the new Roman court or still in the Temenos of the old sanctuary. No vestiges of this holy-of-holies were discovered during the excavation, despite a meticulous search. This lends plausibility to the hypothesis that the holy-of-holies was not a large, solidly walled structure but rather a lofty, canopy-like construction of pillars supporting awnings. Such a light fabric would have left no lasting traces on the ground for posterity, but might explain the strange yet persistent tradition (quoted above) about Aphrodite’s altar at Paphos.