Giorgos Papantoniou

Giorgos Papantoniou (Trinity College, Dublin): “Interactions between old and new: the transition from Classical to Hellenistic period in Cyprus”


This paper, by focusing on the archaeology of religion, aims to understand how l’histoire événementielle, namely the political transition from segmented administration by many Cypriot basileis (kings) to the unitary island-wide government by a foreign Ptolemaic correspondent, the strategos (general), affected the socio-cultural infrastructure, the mentalité, of Cyprus. The relation between religious and social lives, political structures and religion, and the consideration of both elite and non-elite, as well as ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ structures, remain its principal concerns throughout. The research questions of this paper are structured through three specific lines of investigation.


Firstly, the study of the development of sacred landscapes from the Cypriot city-kingdoms to the Hellenistic period is put forward. The Cypriot sacred landscapes of the transition are examined based on the existing fieldwork analysis and the various textual, epigraphic and archaeological evidence: city-kingdom’s sacred landscapes are connected with the political setting of the various polities, their artistic ‘regional’ styles, political events, active human responses and interaction; Hellenistic sacred landscapes are also contextualised bringing into discussion settlement activity, urbanisation, social memory, politico-religious agency and ideology.


Secondly, moving from the broader concept of landscapes to individual site-based analysis, the focus is placed on Soloi-Cholades and Amathous, which have been selected as case-studies. After a description of the archaeological remains of the excavated cult places related to the periods under examination, the evidence is rethought in terms of syncretism of cults, power and ideology. Politico-religious ideological responses and structures of symbolism are approached through the isolation of particular iconographic elements (mainly of terracotta figurines and limestone sculptures), and also archaeological context and architecture, in combination with textual and epigraphic evidence.


The final line of investigation concentrates on the study of one specific category of material culture, namely the Hellenistic ‘portrait’ sculptures deriving primarily from Cypriot sanctuaries and their epigraphic manifestation. Cypriot ‘portraiture’ is examined from two different angles: firstly, a typological stylistic approach is employed in order to position Cypriot ‘portraiture’ in a comparative context between coin identification and stylistic dating of definite Ptolemaic portraits found elsewhere in the Mediterranean; secondly, a contextual approach, i.e. ‘materialisation of ideologies’ is put forward, addressing possible ideological/ideational meanings attributed to the ‘portraits’, which might result from their previous political, religious and sculptural traditions, but also from the character of the new political, religious and cultural structures.

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