Cyprus // Lefkosia (South Nicosia) //

Politiko and Ancient Tamassos

On the same road (the E903) as Kato Deftera but 7km further south is the large modern village of POLITIKO which stands on the site of the ancient city-state of Tamassos. A mention of “Temessis” in Homer’s Odyssey is thought to refer to it, and other sources indicate a large and prosperous city whose wealth was based almost entirely on the production of copper. The study of Tamassos is very much a work in progress, with German excavations during the 1970s having unearthed a sanctuary dedicated to Aphrodite (who else) next to the remains of early copper production. Finds from the area include the “Chatsworth Head” – a bronze head of Apollo, purchased by the Duke of Devonshire (and named for his residence) and now in the British Museum – and a group of six large limestone statues of sphinxes and lions now on show in the Cyprus Museum.

The star attraction of the Tamassos remains are its pair of Royal Tombs dating from the sixth century BC that stand on the northeastern edge of Politiko, their entrance steps protected by wood-and-tile louvred structures. Once down the steps – direct in the first, dog-legged in the second – and through modern Perspex doors, the simplicity of the design of the tomb chambers and the quality of the stonework give them the feel of the interior of Egyptian pyramids. This minimalism is slightly misleading – the tombs undoubtedly had great piles of statuary, gold and other goods, long pinched by grave-robbers (in one of the tombs there’s a still-visible hole in the roof). Look out, too, for the skilful carving of the stone to simulate wood. The site itself is on raised ground which gives views of fields, poplars, cypresses and vineyards of the surrounding areas.