The Tombs of the Kings are an early necropolis in Paphos dating from 300 BC. The burial niches were looted of all artifacts long ago, but a powerful sense of stillness and mystery remains.
History of Tombs of the Kings
The name of the site is misleading—there's no evidence of any royalty buried here. Rather, the site was the final resting place of about 100 Ptolemaic aristocrats who lived and died in Paphos beginning in the 3rd century BC.
Early antiquarians dubbed the site the "Tombs of the Kings" due to the impressiveness of the tombs, and the name has stuck.
The catacombs were later used by early Christians, and one of the tombs was turned into a chapel. In the Middle Ages, some tombs were used as makeshift dwellings or as workplaces—pottery was made in tomb 3.
The site was systematically looted of artifacts long before excavations began in 1977. Investigations continue today under the Cyprus Department of Antiquities.
What to See at Tombs of the Kings
The tombs are impressive, carved out of solid rock, some featuring Doric pillars and frescoed walls. The design is heavily indebted to Macedonian prototypes, passed on from Alexander's armies to the Ptolemies.
Eight complexes have been singled out and numbered for visitors, with 3, 4, and 8 being the most elaborate.
Some tombs are reached via stairs that lead into sunken rectangular courts surrounded by Doric columns carved from the rock. Originally the tombs were covered with stucco and the walls were decorated with frescoes.
Beyond the colonnades, passages lead to rooms with niches (loculi) for individual corpses. Bodies were buried with costly grave goods, including jewelry and cosmetic boxes.
As was common in the classical world, on the anniversaries of death loved ones would hold a ceremonial meal(nekrodhipno) at the tomb, with the leftovers deposited near the body.
One tomb has a large rectangular stone block in the center of the atrium and loculi ornamented around the sides. Archaeologists have excavated 18 burials from the Hellenistic period in this tomb, three of which had not been robbed due to collapsed material in front of them. Two of them contained an ointment container, a myrtle wreath of gold and fine Rhodian amphorae. In the third, a child had been buried in a terracotta pipe.
The Tombs of the Kings lie on the northernmost edge of the necropolis of Nea Paphos, to the north and east of the city walls. From the area of Fabrica Hill, follow the well-signposted major road Leoforos Tafon ton Vasileon for 2km northwest.
Quick Facts on Tombs of the Kings
|Names:||Tombs of the Kings|
|Categories:||cemeteries; catacombs; World Heritage Sites|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||34.776456° N, 32.404722° E|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Tombs of the Kings|
- Marc Dubin, The Rough Guide to Cyprus, 5th ed. (2005), 172-74.
- Bernard McDonagh and Ian Robertson, Blue Guide Cyprus, 4th ed. (1998), 114-15.
- Fodor's Europe, 59th Edition (Fodor's Gold Guides)
Map of Tombs of the Kings, Paphos
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