The north coast of Pafos district is dominated by the small town of POLIS (or Polis Chrysochous, to give it its full title) which sits on the banks of the Chrysochou River where it empties into wide Chrysochou Bay. A small, appealing and unpretentious market town, which was attacked by the Turkish air force during the Kokkina Incident, Polis licked its wounds, repaired the damage, and became a favourite with backpackers in the 1980s. Since then reservations about its rate of development have been expressed but appear a little premature – while the town centre is full of restaurants and bars, it’s still a delightful place at which to fetch up, has an interesting and varied hinterland, and represents an important counterweight to brash and breezy Pafos.
There’s not a huge amount to see in town – a venerable old church, a neat little archeological museum and a rather old olive tree (supposedly aged 700) – yet just to the north is a good sandy beach with a campsite and views of the Akamas Peninsula.
According to tradition, the Mycenaean Akamas, son of Theseus, first established a city here, having landed nearby on his way back from the Trojan War. Whatever the truth of this, it is likely that the Chrysochou Bay was indeed first settled by the Mycenaeans more than a thousand years before the birth of Christ. By around 750 BC it was one of Cyprus’s great city-kingdoms, called Marion. It flourished because of its copper and gold mines and traded closely with the Aegean islands, Corinth and Athens. The city fell to the Persians but was freed by Kimon in 449 BC. Following the death of Alexander the Great, it backed the wrong horse during the struggle between his successors, and in 312 BC the victor, Ptolemy I, destroyed the city and resettled its inhabitants in Pafos. A new city was built near or over the ruins of Marion by Ptolemy II and named in honour of his wife (who also happened to be his sister) Arsinoe. As far as we know the city continued to be inhabited, though it suffered from Muslim coastal raids during the seventh century. Now called Polis (simply the Greek word for “town”), it continued as a small rural settlement, a remote part of a remote district, and didn’t hit the headlines again until the explosive “Kokkina Incident” in 1964.