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The Ruins of Soli
It is thought that the city was founded at the end of the 13th century or the beginning of the 12th century BC by Athenians returning from the Trojan war, under the name of Aipeia. According to mythology, however, the city was founded by the Athenian Pahalerus and Theseus’s son, Acamas, or his son Demophon. In 600 BC, the Athenian state official, Solon, recommended that for economic reasons (to facilitate the transport of copper ore overseas), the city of Aipeia, which was situated next to the Clarius (Ksero) river, should be moved down to the plain. The King of the city, Philocypros, who was a student of Solon’s moved the city to its current location, and named it after Solon, giving it the name of ‘Soli’. In the 6th century BC, control of the island passed to the Persians, and after a siege lasting 5 months, they took the city of Soli. In order to keep it under their control, King Marion, a supporter of the Persians, built the palace of Vuni, 5 miles to the east. During the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods, it enjoyed a period of growth. However, over time, as mineral supplies in the area were exhausted, and the harbour began to silt up, it started to fall into decline. This city, which had been inhabited for approximately 1250 years was finally abandoned after it was burned and destroyed during the first and second Arab raids of 647 and 649 AD. After this date, the stones from the ruined city were gradually removed and used as material for other buildings. In the 19th century the stones from the theatre building were used in the construction of Port Said in Egypt. The remains of the theatre, basilica and agora are open to visitors today. Soli Theatre The Roman theatre was built at the end of the 2nd or beginning of the 3rd century AD on the site of the earlier theatre from the Hellenistic period. After the theatres of Salamis and Kurion it is the third largest theatre in Cyprus. In 1927-28 archaeological excavations took place here under the organisation of the Swedish Archaeological Committee. The theatre consists of the skene (stage building), orchestra (middle section) and auditorium. The stage building is comprised of a number of rooms and corridors and would have provided space for the performers to get changed as well as providing a backdrop for their performances. The middle semi-circular msection, is known as the orchestra, and is the section where religious celebrations and plays would have taken place. The seats at the bottom of the theatre are made from carved rocks from the hillside, covered with cut stone. The upper tiers of seats have not survived. It is estimated that it would have seated 3500-4000 people. Soli Auxibios Basilica In 57AD Saint Mark appointed Saint Auxibios as Soli’s first bishop, and it is known that the basilica was named after him. The first basilica was built in the 4th century AD. The mosaics on the lowest floor date from this period. When this basilica was destroyed in the 5th-6th century, a new basilica was built with two rows of columns. The mosaics in the narthex of the basilica date from this time. The mosaic in the apse reads ‘O, Jesus, protect those who made this mosaic’. The city was burned in the first and second Arab raids of the 7th century AD, and later destroyed by earthquakes. Soli Agora (Market place) The Canadian excavations which took place here only uncovered the southernmost end of the agora. It was established that the agora contained glass-making and painting shops, and was surrounded by a retaining wall. The dwellings have been dated to the 3rd-4th centuries AD. The Nymphaeum (monumental fountain) which can be found here, is covered in white marble and dates from the 2nd-3rd centuries. Corinthian pillars were used in its building. The inscription records that it was dedicated to the Roman Emperor Caracalla. Generally, such buildings have a façade decorated with statues with the cistern behind.