Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Salamis -- The Walls have Ears

As always, click on any image for larger view.
wildflowers and column
Weather the past week was pretty rough for 2 days, and not too spiffy most of the other days.  But the one nice day happened to be the day we chose to visit the ruins of Salamis.  Helen and Dennis, a Canadian couple on S/V Dream Provider, joined us for this trip back in history.  

Flying buttress to support wall
We really lucked out!  Friends had recommended a specific guide named Zeba but we did not know how to contact her.  As we were reading the sign at the entrance illustrating the layout of the ruins, Bill spoke to a woman standing nearby and learned that she was the guide Zeba who had been so highly recommended.  Zeba was scheduled to accompany a trainee guide with a small group in 20 minutes, but she was able to call and reschedule; so Zeba was available to give us a tour right then.  How lucky is that!  And, believe me, you really need a guide when visiting these old ruins.  As Helen said, without a good guide we are just looking at old rocks.  Zeba made the rocks talk to us and tell us their stories. 
Note the horizontal column used at upper right.
They did not waste any stones.

What I will relate in this blog is a compilation of information learned from Zeba and from 4 websites. Some details varied on the websites and some of the online information varied from what Zeba told us (and she received extensive training in order to qualify as a guide), so who knows what is really true.  It all happened a long time ago and written records which might have been recorded at the time of various events do not exist.  I found this blog entry difficult to compile and explain, so please excuse the rambling.

Our guide Zeba giving stories to the stones
Only a small percentage of Salamis has been excavated.  Thus far, excavations reveal that habitation of Salamis dates back to 11th century B.C.  Archaeologists believe that the first inhabitants came here from Enkomi (a town now called Tuzla) after an earthquake in 1075 B.C.   Salamis endured the same successive occupations by various dominant powers of the Near East as did the rest of Cyprus:  the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks and Romans.  The ancient site covers an area of one square mile extending along the sea shore.  Only a small portion has been excavated so far -- the elaborate baths, colonnaded practice field, latrines and adjacent rooms, and the theater.  These are in excellent condition.  The ruins of the amphitheater are visible but not reconstructed from the damage of several earthquakes.  Also identifiable but not fully reconstructed is a Roman villa, Kampanopetra Basilica, Ayios Epiphanios Basilica, the Agora (meeting place and market), the Temple of Zeus and the Vouta (water reservoir).   Greek archaeologists are now working on excavating more of those areas. The vast majority of the ancient city remains unearthed.  Who knows what lies beneath the layers of soil. 

This archaeological site is the most spectacular on the island because the ruins are extensive and are in a wonderful state of preservation -- thanks to Mother Nature.  The city was last occupied by the Romans after they had adopted the Christian religion.  A sea-bed earthquake between Cyprus and Israel (forgot the year but think it was around 648 A.D.) caused a tsunami which covered the city very deeply in sand.  Those inhabitants who escaped the tsunami moved several miles away and created a new town near where Famagusta is located today.  Famagusta was then known as Arsinoe (as in Cleopatra's sister Arsinoe).    The inhabitants of that new town said they came from a place the name of which translated to "City under the Sand."  That was the only clue that Salamis had existed.  Salamis was the city under the sand.  

Roman Baths--shallow hot pool; heated under floor.
Lie down & relax.
For more than a thousand years the Roman city of Salamis lay buried beneath the thick layer of sand; which saved the site from destruction during the Middle Ages.   No one knew it was there.   All the ancient ruins in Europe were subject to free-for-all quarries for the builders of the medieval castles.  The burial of Salamis in sand protected the site, similar to the way Pompeii lay buried in volcanic ash for centuries and was saved from vandalism.  

Hot air was forced through clay pipes (those holes)
to warm bath buildings

Legends tell that Salamis was originally founded by a hero from the Trojan War.  Teucer and his older brother survived the Trojan War where they were supposed to have avenged their brother Ajax, except they lost that war.  The older brother then committed suicide.  Legend says that Teucer knew his brother was going to kill himself and did not stop him because Teucer wanted to inherit the family wealth.  That inheritance would have gone to the elder brother but if the elder brother was dead then Teucer stood next in line for inheritance.  But he did not foresee that their father Telamon would blame Teucer for not preventing the elder brother from killing himself. Telamon disinherited the surviving younger son and forbade Teucer from returning to the family home in Greece.  So Teucer settled in the area that became the town of Salamis.  This makes a nice legend, except that evidence has been unearthed that show the area was settled long before arrival of the Mycenaeans...........and, of course, the possibility that the Trojan War was simply a Greek myth.  Current excavations in Turkey are providing evidence that the Trojan War might have really happened.  Trojan War -- Real or Myth?  And the date of 1180 B.C. for the Trojan War does coincide nicely with the date of 11th century B.C. that archaeologists now place for the founding of Salamis as an important city.  So we can give Teucer credit for changing a small settlement into an important city.  That sounds as good as any other explanation for the establishment of the city.

Topography of the area was vastly different at the time of first settlement.  The entire island was heavily forested and the climate was significantly cooler.  The trees were cut down over much of the island by the Romans to use as firewood over the centuries.  (Gotta have those hot baths!)   At the time Salamis was originally built a river flowed down from the Troodos Mountains; and Salamis was built alongside this river at its junction with the sea.  But earthquakes have a strong history of changing things in this part of the world.  By the time the Romans settled in Salamis, that river had dried up.  Residents were forced to haul water a very long distance to supply the needs of the city.  The nearest source of water was in the mountains roughly 50 kilometers away.  So the Romans did what they did best -- they built a 35-mile aqueduct to bring water to the city.  (Yeah, gotta have those baths!)  Parts of this aqueduct are still visible today in the plains where those forests used to grow.  Barley and other grain crops now grow out there instead of trees.

One entryway from shallow hot pool to deep hot pool bath.
Romans must have been very short.
The citizens of Salamis resisted the Persian invasion during the 5th century B.C., and helped Alexander the Great.  The finding by archaeologists of some gold coins bearing the name of Evagoras, 411- to 374 B.C., is the first genuine evidence of the city's importance.   The city would have been flourishing if it was minting its own coinage.  Cyprus played a very important part during the Ptolemy reign of Egypt.  Egypt obtained all its copper from this island and quarried marble and other things needed in the construction of those fabulous Egyptian structures.  Here is a link to a story about one of the sieges involving the Egyptians.  Siege of Salamis  The last king of Salamis committed suicide and burned his palace to the ground rather than submit to the Egyptian King Ptolemy I in 295 B.C.

Mutilated statues

Salamis was incorporated into the Roman Empire during the 1st century B.C.  Salamis was one of the more prosperous cities of the empire, along with Athens, Alexandria, Antioch and Ephesus.  

Christian apostle Paul arrived in Salamis to preach to the Jews, accompanied by Barnabas and John (also called Mark).  This is mentioned in Acts 13:5 in the Bible.  Barnabas had been a Cypriot Jew born in Salamis.  He had traveled to Jerusalem and returned to preach to all of Cyprus.  He was named an apostle in Acts 14:14.  His real name was Joses or Joseph, but Barnabas  was the name given to him by the early Christian apostles because he was recognized as 'a son of prophecy' or 'a son of consolation' as Luke called it.  Barnabas is considered the founder of the Christian church of Cyprus.  His tomb in located near the ruins of Salamis.

A severe earthquake destroyed the city in 76 A.D., after which the gymnasium was built by Trajan and Hadrian.  The gymnasium has an elaborate colonnaded Palaestra, or practice/training ground.  A palaestra was always constructed in a rectangular shape with each long side being 118 meters in length.  Uniform standards of construction were very important to both the Greeks and the Romans.  Note that a palaestra functioned both independently and as a part of a public gymnasium.  A palaestra could exist without a gymnasium; but no gymnasium could exist without a palaestra.  Columns were spaced evenly completely around the palaestra.    

Heart shaped columns on corners
Perfect alignment many columns
The columns were aligned perfectly.  At each corner was a heart-shaped column.  When you stand at the corner and look at the row of columns, the columns align perfectly and you can see only the one closest to you.  If you move 1 foot to either side, then you can see the rest of the columns in the row.  

Perfectly aligned columns
The bases for these heart-shaped columns are in place, but the actual heart-shaped columns have never been found.   Zeba theorized that these columns had been broken up and ground into marble powder to make the 'glue' needed for other stone construction.  We think these columns would have been taken elsewhere to build another gymnasium if possible.  Or if they were still in place during the final earthquake of the city's existence the columns would have easily split because of their heart shape.  A circle is far stronger than a heart shape.  The top indention of a heart shape would weaken the stone and it could easily split if it fell during an earthquake.  Whatever happened to these very special columns, they were not found on this site during excavation.

Marble, marble.....everywhere
All men were nude when inside any gymnasium.  This nudity practice started with the Greeks and continued with the Romans.  Athletes strove to have the perfect human form and nudity was the best way to display one's perfect form.  The Greeks abhorred any physical defect.  A scar was considered a terrible deformation.  I do not think the Romans continued the attitude that perfection was the goal; I think Romans were more accepting of imperfections in the human male form (but I have not researched that idea).

Detail at top of marble column;
many different carving styles; almost
no columns exactly the same.

Seats probably were constructed along the outside of the palaestra so men could watch the athletes practicing and training.  We did not see any seats, but that does not mean these weren't there 2,000 years ago.  On one side outside the columns were built a series of rooms.  These rooms were used by the Greeks for massage and special body treatments of the athletes.  When the Romans occupied Salamis, these rooms were used for storage.  Much later, after the Romans accepted Christianity as their uniform religion, these rooms were converted to be classrooms.  For boys only, of course.  Women were forbidden from entering the gymnasiums or baths or theaters.  To this day in parts of Europe and South America, it remains common for high schools to be called gynmasiums.

Wealthy merchant from Antioch donated money for basilica.

In the front of the palaestra, between the palaestra and the baths, is a very wide walkway that was paved in marble.  There are several types of methods of laying different patterns of marble illustrated on this large floor.  Several places have carved marble sections (sort of like a wall plaque) that provide information.  The one in this image translates to state that a wealthy merchant from Antioch donated money for the basilica.
Wide walkway; baths on left, palaestra on right

4 layers of floor construction

Near this 'wall plaque' the underlying structure of the marble has been exposed.  First a layer of small marble 'pebbles' was laid smoothly.  Then a second layer of slightly larger marble pebbles, or broken pieces, was laid smoothly Then a layer of fairly large stones was laid smoothly.  Then the top layer of polished marble was laid.  Having the 3 differing sized layers beneath the finished marble layer provided wonderful support and stability to the finished marble floor.  No wonder these structures stood so long.

First layer of floor construction; 2nd layer on left; 3rd layer at top

At some places in the remaining floors there were small openings in the marble.  Most were barely noticeable.  These 2 small triangles are openings to drain rainwater down through clay pipes placed beneath the floors.  The tiling was sloped down to facilitate the drainage.  Details like this illustrate how carefully the Romans built their ancient cities.
Drainage holes to clay pipes

Latrines--guy sitting on toilet.  This photo shows less than
half the latrine area.  Seated 44; 22 on either side of the
water sources placed in center of the semi-circle of latrines.

At the rear corner of the palaestra are the latrines.  These latrines are a little difficult to get our 21st century western culture minds around.  Latrines of the Roman era were a place for social gathering.  I know; that sounds weird, doesn't it.  There were 44 seats in the latrines.  Note that these were strictly for the Roman men, not for slaves or women. 

Zeba illustrating toilets.  She was a good sport.  Small
trench behind her feet had running water for cleansing.

Everything was completely clad in marble......toilets, walls, floors.....everything.  The wealthy men would have their slaves sit on the marble seat and warm the stone before they would sit.   While their masters were sitting and visiting, the slaves would go outside and put their ears to the wall to eavesdrop on the conversations.  Tidbits of information overheard by the slaves were valuable and a good source of income for the slaves.  From this practice derived the saying "the walls have ears."

Those 2 pipes were the source of flowing water to latrines

Water flowed through the latrines constantly, removing the waste through drainage pipes out to the sea; so there was no smell.  A separate channel of clean water flowed in the stone floor right in front of the seats.  Men could reach down and cup a handful of water to cleanse themselves.......or have their slaves do it.  I cannot think of a more distasteful chore.  

Female latrine, about 8'x10'
As mentioned previously, only Roman men were allowed into the gymnasium; so only Roman men were allowed to use and socialize in these latrines.  Females had their own latrine outside the gymnasium complex.  The women's latrine was far, far smaller in size and complexity; although it also had running water to carry away waste.  Slaves were forced to simply squat in the nearby fields, as they were not allowed to use either of the marble-clad fancy Roman latrines. 

A second great earthquake occurred in 331 or 332 A.D., after which the newly Christian Romans set up new columns around the palaestra which they dragged from the Roman theater.  The Christians also destroyed all nude statues because they were now offended by nudity.  The old Romans had completely different social mores than the Christians.  Old Romans felt no body shame or sexual shame about anything.  They believed that intermingling between male and female was for procreation, but that the truest form of love was between people of the same sex.  There was no shame in homosexuality and it was openly displayed even by married men (and women).  Our attitudes have changed a lot in the past 2,000 years.

Carving still visible
A third major earthquake occurred in 342 A.D., after which Byzantine Emperor Constantinius II (337-361 A.D.) rebuilt the city and renamed it 'Constantia.'  Because the harbor was heavily silted up the commercial importance of the city began to decline in the 4th century A.D.  The last inhabitants of Salamis moved to Arsinoe in 648 A.D.

The population of ancient Salamis is estimated to be over 120,000 Roman citizens.  This count would be only the men and women of Roman heritage only.  Slaves were not counted.   Including slaves the total population could easily have exceeded 500,000 people.  Roman slaves were treated differently than slaves elsewhere.  Any Roman slave would be given his or her freedom if he or she lived long enough.  Slavery was only for a specific number of years.  Unfortunately, the average life span for a slave at that time was only 35 years.  So someone was lucky if he lived long enough to get his freedom.  If he did, then he became a Roman citizen with all the rights and privileges of any Roman citizen.  

Raised huge water cistern
After the latrines we walked by the raised water cistern.  It was huge.  This raised cistern supplied the water and provided the pressure required to cause the water to flow through the latrines and to supply the baths.

Past the cistern was the amphitheater.  I did not take any photos of the amphitheater because it has not been restored and just looked like a bunch of large rectangular blocks of stone set into a somewhat circular formation.  The Romans used their amphitheaters for sacrifices and strenuous physical contests and anything that might be considered messy.  Plays or performances were never held in an amphitheater; those were reserved for the real theater.

Entering theater

A theater was always constructed with the same standard uniform measures.  
When archaeologists find a Roman theater, they can tell the population of the settlement by measuring the diameter of the flat section from the middle front row of seats to the stage.  A mathematical formula then provides them with the knowledge of how many rows of seats would have been built for that theater.  Each length of seating section on each row would seat 7 men.  Like the baths and the gymnasium and everything else, all slaves and women were forbidden from going into the theater.  Therefore, once the height of rows of a theater is established, an archaeologist simply multiplies the seats that would fit into those rows by a factor of 7 and that gives the total number of free Roman male citizens in the city.  

Theater with ruins of Roman villa in background
The reconstructed theater in Salamis has a seating capacity of slightly over 17,000.  So we know that the city had a population of male Roman citizens of slightly over 120,000.  Factor in the slaves and women and children and the total population could exceed 500,000.  For illustration purposes only, the archaeologists who have reconstructed the theater at Salamis have moved the short column and 'table' that was used for sacrifices from the amphitheater to the real theater.  Sacrifices would never have been performed here.

Theater nymph holding masks
Also around the theater are placed statues of nymphs.  There were 7 nymphs that represented aspects of the theater.  Most theaters would have had statues of nymphs placed in prominent places.  The nymph on the left side of this theater was carved to illustrate her holding theatrical masques at her side.  Like all the other statues on this site, the heads had been destroyed.

The Christian Romans destroyed the heads on all the marble statues in the city.  Their new-found Christian faith prohibited the depiction of a human face. (I will never understand how that came about.)   In fact, any indication of the old Roman pagan religion such as mosaic pictures were also effaced or destroyed.  What a shame they destroyed so much.  On most of the marble statues the heads were just chopped or broken off.
This statue had an interchangeable face.

But 2 of the unearthed statues are of the variety that the head could be changed as needed.  It was expensive to produce a life-size marble statue.  And a prosperous city was expected to display a statue of any important visiting dignitary or wealthy person.  So some statues were constructed with a hollowed out space in the neck.  Then only the head of the visiting rich man or dignitary needed to be produced.  When he left, the heads could be switched again.   So these 2 statues have not been defaced; but no heads have been found.  The heads likely were destroyed and the marble ground to powder and used in a cement type substance to hold stones together when constructing a building.

Before marble powder was used to hold building stones in place, a type of limestone powder was used.  It was mixed with egg whites.  (Egg yolks were added to dyes for paintings to make the colors brighter.)  Some walls of the baths were constructed in the old manner with the egg white/lime mixture and the white substance is still visible today.....still holding those stones together after many earthquakes over 2,000 years.

Mosaics have been uncovered in several areas at Salamis.  One can only imagine how impressive this place must have been in all its glory.  Every surface would have been covered in marble.   Literally everything.  Before the Christian period (before 400 A.D.), it was quite a colorful city.  All the marble columns were covered with colored stucco.  The marble statues were colored.  And the mosaics were filled with vibrant colored tiles, only a few of which are left.  

Athletes first pool
The Romans were obsessed about baths.  And the baths found in the Salamis ruins are very impressive.   Between the training ground and the Great Hall buildings, over to the side, in a large pool.  The athletes who had been training would have been all sandy.  They were first oiled all over prior to working out.  The palaestra had a sand ground and they would get coated in sand while training.  So the athletes first would submerge in the outside pool.  Next they would enter the Great Hall.

First cold pool

In the Great Hall buildings, all the components of a proper Roman bath are found.  First, one would submerge in one of the Frigidarium (cold baths).  There are 2 cold baths, 1 on each side upon entering the Great Hall, facing the training ground.  Gosh, these must have been sumptuous back when all covered in marble.
First cold pool


Entering shallow hot pool room

Next is the very large Sudatorium (hot baths).   The ceiling collapsed during an earthquake and large stones are still visible......laying exactly where they fell.  A large section of the floor is missing in the center where the ceiling stones fell.  This caused the underlying section to become visible.  

Hot shallow pool.  Hot air forced beneath floor.
There are different kinds of stones that appear to be in stacked columns to support the floor.  All of that area beneath the floor would have had forced hot air flowing through it.  The floor was covered in water only a foot or so deep.  Men would enter from the cold baths and lie down in the shallow heated water.  The heated air below the floor would warm the stone floor.  This must have felt luxurious for people of that time period.  Only caveat is that I bet that marble floor beneath that water was really slippery.  

Above her head is oldest fresco in world.

At the entry to the hot baths there is a fresco on the ceiling right at the doorway (if there were a door).  Zeba said she was told by the Cypriot government in her training that this is the oldest fresco found anywhere in the world.  But many other archaeologists have inspected it and claim that it is a replica.  I agree with them.  Either it is a replica or it has been repainted.  The colors are far too vibrant and the images too distinct to be as old as claimed.
Oldest fresco in the world.  Think it has been retouched?

Standing in front of deep hot pool;
rectangle is entry to underground furnace beneath pool
After the hot baths one enters another large room that has a different type hot bath.  This one is a much deeper pool.  It was heated by fires below the large deep pool.  There were large 'windows' open to the sea.  What a gorgeous setting for this bath building.  One can see the entrances down to the firing area beneath the pool.  Pity the slaves who had to tend those fires.

Deep hot pool in the Roman baths

On the eastern wall are several arched indentations in the walls where mosaics are still visible.  Beneath these arched areas were areas where marble statues once stood.  After the Romans became Christians those statues were removed and the areas filled in with stone. 

Wild red fruit for  preserves
Some plants were growing in a few of the upper arches on the wall.  Amazing that they could set roots in the crevices between the stones and that there was sufficient soil to nourish the plants to maturity.  Some were native flowering small shrubs and some displayed a tiny red pepper-looking fruit.  Zeba said this plant was called something like 'goiju' but I am not at all sure of that spelling or pronunciation.  Zeba said this fruit can be used to make a jam or preserve.  There is a opening along this eastern wall that takes one into the next bathing area -- the steam room.
Deep hot pool on right; mosaic niche on left;
doorway opening leads to steam room.
Remember, all this was clad in marble.
Mosaic tiles in arch in room of deep hot pool bath

Standing by pool used to create steam
Furnace to steam bath

The steam room is also very large.  At one end is a pool approximately 1-meter deep that was heated enough to produce steam.  The firing room is adjacent and the hot air was piped directly beneath the pool.  This is the same firing room that produced hot air to the first very shallow hot bath.  Oh, those poor slaves down there in that heat! 
Large room for steam bath
Pomegrante mosaic in arch niche of steam bath

Egg white mortar holding stones in place 2000 years

Next is a very short hallway that takes you to the second cold bath.  In this hallway we could see numerous stones in the wall held together with the egg white limestone mixture.  

Exposed clay pipes

At the end of the hallway near the second cold pool we could see a few of the clay pipes exposed that were at one time beneath the floor.  

Clay pipes beneath the floors were used to move both water and hot air to various sections of the baths.  Amazing that these clay pipes have remained in place so long, through several earthquakes and a tsunami.

One could also enter the Great Hall building at this cold pool.  The athletes had to follow a strict regimen in the baths.  
Second cold pool

They had to first rinse off the sand in the exterior pool; enter the cold pool; then the steam bath; then the deep hot bath; then back into the cold.  All other men could follow whichever pattern they chose.  

Sorry this is so long.  This place was fascinating.  I could go on for pages about it.  I mentioned to Zeba that friends had told us that Salamis was like a miniature Ephesus.  Zeba said that is wrong.......that Ephesus is only about 1/3 the size of Salamis.......if Salamis were completely excavated.  I have no idea if that is true or not.  We will see Ephesus sometime during the next year while we are in Turkey.  It will be interesting to compare the 2 ancient cities.

Note remaining gray marble clad to wall at bottom.  Everything was covered in marble when Salamis was inhabited.

Addendum:  Several days later Zeba visited the marina and brought us some of her homemade 'goiju' preserves.  This is very sweet and has a distinctive taste and smell.  It has lots of tiny seeds like raspberry preserves.  Zeba also gave us some homemade traditional Cypriot-style yellow lentil soup.  Bill had mentioned during our tour that he likes the lentil soups that are so popular in this part of the world.  Delicious!  And very thoughtful of Zeba to make these foods for us.

The text and photos in this blog entry do not lay out attractively, and I apologize for that.  But I am tired of trying to get the photos placed correctly.  Blogger and Blogspot are not playing friendly today.

1 comment:

  1. This is absolutly great! May be not for all people, but having been there too, I was reading your journey report with huge interesst.
    We also had been very, very impressed. We visited first of all by the fakt of Barnabas been born there. I'm interessted to find out more about him and may be make a pilgrim travel with some friends later. So that little piece of road to the port let us really 'feel' history. Everything at Salamis was so imposing, especially there were not much people over the area was good for all the emotions.
    Thanks for your detailed report!


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