Online Review: Book

From Evagoras I to the Ptolemies: The Transition from the Classical to the Hellenistic Period in Cyprus. Proceedings of the International Archaeological Conference, Nicosia, 29–30 November 2002

Edited by Pavlos Flourentzos. Pp. xx + 296, b&w figs. 211, color figs. 13, pls. 4. The Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, Nicosia 2007. Price not available. ISBN 978-9963-36-442-8 (paper).


The volume contains 19 papers from an international conference in Nicosia in 2002. The subject of the conference was the transformation of Cypriot society at the end of the Classical period. According to the editor, the current director of antiquities, P. Flourentzos, the aim of the volume is to show the Hellenistic period not so much as one of decline but as a period when a new society was created by the abolishment of the city-kingdoms and the inclusion of Cyprus into the realm of the Ptolemies. This is a modification of the original aim of the conference as stated by the then-director of antiquities, S. Hadjisavvas, which focused on the Greek influence of the Macedonian Ptolemies. The individual papers cite a wide variety of evidence for the hellenization of Cyprus, such as language, institutions and titles, gods, architecture, sculpture, pottery, and style in general. While some papers (esp. Green, Flourentzos, Petit) focus on the Greek aspect of hellenization, others (e.g., Yon, Hermery, Anastassiades, Vandenabeele) discuss the Phoenician, Egyptian, and Cypriot elements of the Hellenistic Koine in Cyprus on terms equal to the Greek influence.

The papers fall into two groups. The first group summarizes the results of excavation projects in the unoccupied area with particular relevance to the Late Classical to Early Hellenistic transition period (Green, Maier, Yon, Cristou, Prête, Pilides, Raptou), although one contribution deals with the very end of the Hellenistic period (Connelly). As in most of the eastern Mediterranean, the substantial Roman remains have made the access to the settlements of earlier periods difficult. However, even if the studies of Palaipaphos, Amathus, Kition, and to some extent Kourion are based on excavations closed more than a decade ago, excavations continue to bring forth significant new evidence for this period in Nicosia and the Nea Paphos area. The second group of articles focuses on the development of specific monuments or artifact groups in the same period: Hermery, Tatton-Brown, Flourentzos, and Erath-Koiner on sculpture; Vandenabeele on terracotta figurines; Desprooper-Georgiades and Markou on coins; Balandier on fortifications; and Anastassiades on cults. These articles are based on published material, but Flourentzos includes some unpublished pieces. The articles by Petit and to some extent Yon are more synthetic in the sense that they each discuss the evidence for hellenization at Amathus and Kition, respectively, involving many types of sources, archaeological and otherwise.

The Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus and the recent EU membership of the Greek part of the island add a potentially political aspect to studies of cultural influence in Cyprus. Archaeology suffers a real danger of becoming a political pawn, but the introduction by the editor and the individual articles all show a direct or indirect determination not to be misused. The volume successfully demonstrates the exciting complexity of this transitional period. Although the period is one of increasingly Greek influence, most of the articles take pains to point out other influences, which were also important elements of the new Hellenistic Koine. The articles mainly concentrate on presenting the evidence, and the volume contains little speculation on how the everyday lives of the people living in Cyprus were affected by the changes. This can be read as a reaction to the hellenocentric approach toward culture produced by the literary sources and their accounts of cultural relations and interactions.

In the foreword the editor expresses his concern that the volume may seem to have become obsolete in the five years since the actual conference. Indeed, some of the authors have published papers along similar lines elsewhere. One speaker chose to publish his paper in a different monograph in 2004. According to the text, this was done without the permission of the director of the Department of Antiquities, which raises the question of ownership of conference papers. The dissemination of the many new archaeological discoveries in Cyprus generally happens though the annual Report of the Department of Antiquities Cyprus and an increasing number of conference volumes. There is a certain overlapping of the two, but for this volume an effort was obviously made by the contributors to focus on the specific aim of the conference.

The volume follows the attractive format of Report of the Department of Antiquities Cyprus. It is richly illustrated in both black and white and color. It is written in English, Greek, and French, and the introductory addresses in Greek have been translated into English. Unfortunately, the translations appear not to have been done by someone with an archaeological background, which has resulted in some confusion. In the English translation of Hadjisavvas’ introduction in Greek, there is a paragraph discussing the significance of the introduction of “tombs” in Cyprus at the end of the fourth century B.C.E. (xii–xiii). In the Greek text, the word used is τύμβος, which of course means “tumulus” (x).

On the whole, I consider the volume to be most useful to newcomers, to whom it will provide an excellent introduction to the data, literature, and researchers involved in the study of the Late Classical and Hellenistic periods in Cyprus.

Kristina Winther Jacobsen
Centre of Black Sea Studies
Building 1451, Third Floor
University of Aarhus
8000 Aarhus C

Book Review of From Evagoras I to the Ptolemies: The Transition from the Classical to the Hellenistic Period in Cyprus, edited by Pavlos Flourentzos

Reviewed by Kristina Winther Jacobsen

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 112, No. 2 (April 2008)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1122.Jacobsen

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