Salamis, Cyprus

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Salamis (Ancient Greek: Σαλαμίς) was an ancient city-state on the east coast of Cyprus, at the mouth of the river Pedieos, 6 km north of modern Famagusta. According to tradition the founder of Salamis was Teucer, son of Telamon, who could not return home after the Trojan war because he had failed to avenge his brother Ajax.

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History

The earliest archaeological finds go back to the eleventh century BCE (Late Bronze Age III). The copper ores of Cyprus made the island an essential node in the earliest trade networks, and Cyprus was a source of the orientalizing cultural traits of mainland Greece at the end of the Greek Dark Ages, hypothesized by Walter Burkert in 1992. Children's burials in Canaanite jars indicate a Phoenician presence. A harbour and a cemetery from this period have been excavated. The town is mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions as one of the kingdoms of Iadnana (Cyprus)[1]. In 877 an Assyrian army reached the Mediterranean shores for the first time. In 708 the city-kings of Cyprus paid homage to Sargon II of Assyria (Burkert). The first coins were minted in the 6th century BCE, following Persian prototypes.

Cyprus was under the control of the Assyrians at this time but the city-states of the island enjoyed a relative independence as long as they paid their tribute to the Assyrian king. This allowed the kings of the various cities to accumulate wealth and power. Certain burial customs observed in the "royal tombs" of Salamis relate directly to Homeric rites, such as the sacrifice of horses in honour of the dead and the offering of jars of olive oil. Some scholars have interpreted this phenomenon as the result of influence of the Homeric Epics in Cyprus. Most of the grave goods come from the Levant or Egypt.

The founder of Salamis is Teucer, son of Telamon, who could not return home after the Trojan war because he had failed to avenge his brother Ajax.

In 450 BCE Salamis was the site of a simultaneous land and sea battle between Athens and the Persians. (This is not to be confused with the earlier Battle of Salamis in 480 BCE between the Greeks and the Persians at Salamis in Attica.)

The history of Salamis during the early Archaic and Classical periods is reflected in the narrations of the Greek historian Herodotus and the much later speeches of the Greek orator Isocrates. The city was then the capital of the island and led the other Cypriot cities in their efforts to liberate themselves from Persian rule. The most important ruler of the kingdom of Salamis was Evagoras (410–374 BCE), who became ruler of the whole island, and won its independence from the Persian Empire. Salamis was afterwards besieged and conquered by Artaxerxes III. Under King Evagoras (411-374 BCE) Greek culture and art flourished in the city and it would be interesting one day when the spade of the archaeologist uncovers public buildings of this period. A monument, which illustrates the end of the Classical period in Salamis, is the tumulus, which covered the cenotaph of Nicocreon, one of the last kings of Salamis, who perished in 311 BCE. On its monumental platform were found several clay heads, some of which are portraits, perhaps of members of the royal family who were honoured after their death on the pyre.

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