Conspectus Librorum - Book Review:
Pp. 156 (color illustrations).
Price: ca. 35,00 Euro
Winona Lake, Indiana
Kition (modern Larnaca), a Cypriote town in the southeast of the island, boasts a flourishing history, a substantial part of which has been reconstructed by archaeological excavations and historical research. The publication on hand by M. Yon is published in French and dedicated to Einar Gjerstad, the first scientific excavator of the Kition-Bamboula site (The Swedish Cyprus Expedition). The introductory guidebook consists of two main parts, containing nine chapters in all. The first part provides the reader with the historical framework and geography ("Première partie: le cadre historique et géographique," p. 15-63). In the second part, the archaeological remains are discussed ("Deuxième partie: les restes archéologiques," p. 65-142).
In chapter 1 (p. 15-29), the rediscovery of Kition is reconstructed. This chapter contains the analysis of the toponyms Kition and Larnaca, an introduction on early travellers, the first Cypriote collections in and outside the island, as well as a summary account of the first scientific excavations on the different archaeological sites in the Larnaca area (Kathari in the north, Bamboula in the east, and several tombs and cemeteries in the northern and western quarters of Larnaca). Furthermore, Yon also discusses the myth of the "pseudo Acropolis" at Bamboula, which came about due to a false interpretation in an article on Bamboula by Ohnefalsch-Richter.
Chapter 2 focuses on the excavations in Larnaca (p. 31-44), highlighting those directed by the Swedish Cyprus Expedition in Bamboula (1929-30), by the Department of Antiquities in Kathari and by the French mission in Bamboula (1976-2004), not to forget random finds from public works (1959-2004). Chapter 3 deals with the coastal geography and the emplacement of the harbour on the Bamboula site (p. 45-51).
In chapter 4 (p. 53-63), Yon offers an in-depth account of the history of Kition, starting from the Late Bronze Age until the Roman empire. In the successive subchapters, the author analyzes epigraphic finds as well as testimonials found in antique literature ranging from the foundation of Kition until the arrival of the Phoenicians (13th-9th century B.C.) and from the period of the latter's' settlement (9th century B.C.) throughout the kingdom's history during the Cypro-Classical period (5th-4th century B.C.) until the conquest of Alexander the Great. A summary of the subsequent Ptolemaic domination and Kition's role in the Roman Empire (end of the 4th century B.C. until the 3rd century A.D.) round off this part of the guidebook. The second part of Yon's monograph starts with a discussion of the extent of the settlement and its fortification systems (chapter 5, p. 65-70), in which the description on the detection and possible reconstruction of the city wall will no doubt retain the readers' attention.
In chapter 6 (p. 71-81), the author comments aspects of local urbanisation, including the reconstruction of a street pattern and the city's water supply. Although several texts mention a palace, no such building has come to light as yet in Larnaca. Similarly, no dwellings of the Late Bronze Age have been uncovered, except for a commercial house in the northern part of Bamboula. Subsequently, Yon discusses the reorganisation of the town by the Phoenicians (9th-3rd century B.C.) and the excavation of cult and public places near the harbour. Constructions with a private character (e.g., a tavern and several houses) date back to the Roman period, but monumental constructions from the Hellenistic and Roman period (such as the theatre, gymnasium, hippodrome, stadium) are only known from antique texts to date. Chapter 7 (p. 83-113) is devoted to the sanctuaries constructed at Kition during the successive periods. Temples from the Late Bronze Age were excavated in Kathari and actually represent Phoenician re-use of the Bronze Age buildings. Other cultic building at the same site date back to the Phoenician Archaic period, as well as the Archaic sanctuary in Bamboula (8th-6th century B.C.). The Phoenician temples in Kathari were in use until the 4th century B.C. In Bamboula, the cult place underwent a transformation towards the end of the 5th century B.C. because of the construction of the military harbour replacing the earlier commercial harbour. A new sanctuary near the harbour with a hydraulic system was built during the Cypro-Classical period. Further, Yon adds urban sanctuaries (e.g. Kamelarga, 6th century B.C. until the Hellenistic Age) and two sanctuaries outside the city wall, near the Salt Lake. Divinities and ceremonies are known by iconographic and epigraphic evidence. Astarte (Aphrodite) and Milqart (Heracles) were worshipped in both Kathari and Bamboula. The author also gives examples of ceremonies such as libations, fertility cult (e.g. the one devoted to the Dea Tyria gravida) and child protection (e.g. the so-called "Temple Boys").
Chapter 8 (p. 115-128) examines the funerary cult. Yon discusses the tombs and their contents from the Bronze Age, which were found in the town, comparable with burials in Ugarit on the Syrian coast. Tombs from the Cypro-Geometric period (antedating the Phoenicians' arrival) were invariably located outside the town, with the exception of a burial of a newborn, found within the settlement's walls. During the Phoenician period tombs were constructed in the town outer periphery (including cist tombs), and from the Cypro-Classical period onwards epitaphs grow in number. Finally, the author also discusses sarcophagi and other types of coffins. Yon returns to the Bamboula harbours in Chapter 9 (p. 129-142). The harbour evolves from a commercial port of trade during the Bronze Age until the Cypro-Classical period, to a military harbour with neoria (hangars) in the Cypro-Classical period. During Hellenistic and Roman times, the harbour resumes its commercial activities.
To sum up, this publication marks a significant contribution to our understanding of this exceptionally vibrant city and will no doubt be well received by anyone interested in the history and archaeology of Kition, of Cyprus and the Mediterranean in general.
Vrije Universiteit Brussel