Stockholm university

Seminar in Classical archaeology and Ancient history: Therese Emanuelsson-Paulson


Date: Tuesday 12 October 2021

Time: 13.00 – 15.00

Location: Zoom:

Polygonal columns in Archaic Cyprus

Abstract: Polygonal columns in Archaic Cyprus

Archaic polygonal columns are found in Amanthus, Idalion, Kition, Marion and Palaepaphos, where the latter is the only site with numerous examples and the polygonal shape might even be more common than other column shapes. 

The inspiration for polygonal columns has been sought in Egyptian or Mycenaean architecture, but probably the Assyrian and Hittite use of polygonal columns down to the 7th century BC is a more likely source of inspiration. 
These columns mainly carry Leaf or Helmet capitals, where the former is inspired by Assyrian or Phoenician capitals, while the later might be a local invention. In the same period similarly shaped polygonal columns with Doric capitals appear in Greece, likely originating from the same inspiration or possibly secondary inspired from Cyprus. 
Simultaneously in both regions, the polygonal columns vanish around 500 BC, when the war with the Persians escalates. 
A decorated column is not a necessary; a wooden pier would often suffice. 

Columns and decorated architecture in general were most often used to express wealth, status or identity, either within the own group or collectively towards other groups of people. The use of polygonal votive columns dedicated in the open air sanctuary in Palaepaphos seems therefore to be a local religious tradition similar to the Phoenician or Canaanite sanctuaries. The column from Kition also originates in a sanctuary, next to a Phoenician temple. It is therefore possible that the few polygonal columns found in other sites, mainly sanctuaries are also dedicated by either people for Palaepaphos or of a similar tradition, possibly Phoenicians. When polygonal columns disappear around 500 BC likely either the people left or the polygonal columns were for some reason too closely connected to the invading occupying power.