Cyprus is an amazing island that over thousands of years still retains traces of antiquity. Unique historical monuments are everywhere, of which the most interesting are the ancient ones. Pafos has preserved more ancient stories and beliefs than any other Cyprus town. Myths from Pafos' history are well known to many Cyprus citizens as well as tourists, who often visit Pafos to immerse themselves in the fascinating world of mythology.
The city is a perfect location for a holiday, not only with its countless historical sites, but also with its wide range of comfortable accommodation - hotels, apartments, villas and other real estate. Pafos has something to offer for even the most demanding travellers!
The myths and legends of Pafos mainly date back to the Ancient Greek period, which is not surprising, as this was the era when the town flourished.
The most interesting myths in the history of Pafos
The birth of the Goddess of love
Everyone knows who Aphrodite is, as well as the fact that the goddess of love was born from the sea foam on a Mediterranean island. But perhaps you would have no idea that this island is Cyprus, and the place is the legendary Pafos.
The famous Greek poet Geocides writes in one of his works that the beautiful goddess of love was born from the foam of the sea near Pafos. Zephyr, the warm west wind, brought her to shore on his wings. Here she was greeted and welcomed by the daughters of the supreme god Zeus. The goddess stepped on the land of Cyprus and beneath her feet the delicate anemones appeared that still bloom on the island today.
The people of Pafos loved and worshipped the Goddess of Love, and the most important Aphrodite’s temple in all the Mediterranean was in this city. Aphrodite fell in love with the island and spent most of her time here. Not far from Pafos, the Goddess met her love. Adonis, famous for his beauty, was hunting in Cape Akamas. The day was hot and the young man was thirsty, so he made his way to a small lake to drink some water. As he approached the lake, he saw the naked Goddess bathing. Their gazes met and they fell in love with each other.
Since then, the lake has been called the Baths of Aphrodite. The legends of Pafos tell many stories of the girls who swam in the lake and stayed beautiful and young. The people of Pafos still believe that the water in the lake has magical powers.
Aphrodite is one of the twelve major gods and goddesses of Olympus and one of the most important for Cypriots. Virtually all of the myths and legends of the city of Pafos are associated with the goddess, as are many cultural events and festivals of Cyprus.
About the origin of the name of the city
There are several versions of where name of the city came from. One of them has to do with mythology, and Aphrodite, of course, was involved as well. The king of Cyprus, Pygmalion, was one of the most talented sculptors of his time. He once carved the figure of a woman from ivory. The statue was incredibly beautiful - Pygmalion could stare at it for hours, oblivious to the company of living people. The king spoke to his beautiful creation and was very saddened that the girl remained mute and motionless.
Every day Pygmalion fell more and more in love with the ivory girl and her immobility made him suffer more and more. Aphrodite recognised the king´s true love and took pity on him and brought his beloved, who was called Galatea, to life. The girl fell deeply in love with Pygmalion and they spent their whole life together in harmony and love. They had several children, including a son called Pafos (some sources say a daughter).
It was he who built the town on the south coast of the island and named it Pafos in gratitude to the goddess for his birth. The town in question is Palea Paphos, the old town that existed on the site of what is now the village of Kouklia. The town was later moved closer to the harbour and named Kato Pafos and much later the Pano Pafos area was formed. Modern Kato Pafos and Pano Pafos are very different from each other with the former being the older, cultural heart of the town and the latter the modern, business centre.
The son of Pygmalion is also credited with building the first temple to the Goddess in Pafos after which the city became one of the main centres of worship of the Goddess of love.
There are other legends about Pafos that tell the origin of the town's name. For example, a popular belief is that Pafos was the capital of the island during the reign of the Ptolemies and its name is derived from an ancient word meaning 'father'. Regardless of which legend about Pafos is closer to the truth, they all have the right to exist and are valuable for understanding the culture of the island and the city.
Myths from Pafos' history in modern life
Today Pafos is a fast-growing city with an excellent infrastructure and a vibrant cultural and business life. Pafos Castle, the archaeological park, azure beaches, the water park, the Pafos Zoo, cosy restaurants and stylish clubs - all this makes for a busy and dynamic modern city life.
However, many of the festivals, traditions and habits of today's residents are linked precisely to ancient mythology and honour it. Here are the most exciting Pafos events related to antiquity:
The myths and legends of Pafos form part of the rich mythology of the island, which has kept its glorious history alive and eloquently tells it to all visitors. Come to Cyprus and discover this world of legends.