Religious Worship

Column Capital, Limestone, Amathus acropolis, sanctuary of Aphrodite

Column Capital
Cypro-Archaic II period (ca. 500 BC)
Limestone
Amathus acropolis, sanctuary of Aphrodite
Limassol District Museum

Aphrodite, Goddess of Cyprus

Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and fertility, was the primary deity of Cyprus, which, according to legend, was her birthplace.

Worship of Aphrodite is deeply rooted in that of the “Mother Goddess,” who first appears during the Chalcolithic period (3900–2400 BC). For thousands of years, Cypriot artists have depicted the goddess in all manner of styles—from plank-shaped images of the Bronze Age, to figures that show influences from the Near East and Egypt, to the classic statuary of the Greek and Roman eras.

Adorned with the head of the Egyptian goddess Hathor, this capital once topped an architectural column. On Cyprus, Hathor became identified with Aphrodite and the great mother goddess.

Honoring the Goddess

Often found in sanctuaries and tombs, many ceramic figures have ritual associations. The bird-shaped vessel, a Cypriot invention, may be related to Cyprus’s Great Goddess, Aphrodite. A female figure raises her arms in a gesture of reverence. The nude figurine is of a type that the Phoenicians brought to Cyprus, along with their worship of the goddess Astarte.

Ship Models

Sailors and shipowners often presented clay ship models as votive offerings at religious sanctuaries. In form this ship resembles a Phoenician merchant vessel. The larger seated figure may be the captain or a priest, blessing crew and cargo.

Most of the clay ship models found on Cyprus come from Amathus, a city with close connections to Egypt. The models are often found in tombs, which may reflect Egyptian custom.

Agia Irini

In 1929–30, Swedish archaeologists excavated a religious sanctuary near the village of Agia Irini. They found more than 2,000 terracotta figures—including warriors, centaurs, minotaurs, and charioteers—arranged in concentric semicircles, surrounding a single altar.