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City of Gold

City of Gold

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Published by billcaraher
This is a working draft of an article that summarizes recent work at the site of Polis-Chrysochous in Late Antique and Medieval times.
This is a working draft of an article that summarizes recent work at the site of Polis-Chrysochous in Late Antique and Medieval times.

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Published by: billcaraher on Sep 29, 2011
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12/11/2012

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WORKING DRAFT – DO NOT CITE WITHOUT AUTHORS’ PERMISSION
1
Arsinoe in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages
William Caraher and Amy Papalexandrou
1
 The post-Classical landscape of Arsinoe is best approached through its materialremains. These document a vibrant settlement, one significantly altered through time, political upheavals and an infusion of Christianity but which retained its sense of organization, community, and civic identity. Echoes of ‘the city of the Arsinoeans,’ asrecorded in an inscribed statue base of the third century BCE (Najbjerg, this volume), canstill be detected in a very different inscription dated some seven centuries later.
2
Found atPolis tis Khrysochou in 1960 and displayed today in the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia, thislater text was inscribed on a modest limestone block and captures an important momentin the history of the Late Antique city (fig. 1). Dated to the mid-fifth century CE, itrecords the presence, whether real and literal or spiritual and implied (or both), of twohigh officials who co-sponsored the construction of an important building at Arsinoe:
Ἒν
 
ἔτι 
(sic)
Λς
 
τῆς
 
ἀρχιε
 
ρωσύνης
 
Σαβίνου
 
ἐπί 
 
Φωτηνοῦ
 
ἐπισκό
(
που
)+
διά
 
τῶν
+“In the 36
th
year when Sabinos was Archbishop, when Photinos was Bishop(this was erected) at their own expense.”
3
 
Some seven centuries later still, a different bishop continued to represent thecommunity, this time in a legal document associated with the fourteenth-centuryecclesiastical court at Arsinoe. It is the single, surviving example of official records fromany Greek ecclesiastical court in Cyprus. Its focus is mundane – the tangle of complexlaws surrounding marriage and engagement – but it points up the continued efforts to
 
WORKING DRAFT – DO NOT CITE WITHOUT AUTHORS’ PERMISSION
2
order and mediate the affairs of the local people of Arsinoe. Periodically throughout thesetexts, a simple formula appears:
Γινωσκέτωσαν
 
πάντες
 
οἱ 
 
τὴν
 
παροῦκσαν
 
πληρεστάτην
 
ἀπόφασιν
 
ἀναλαβόντες
 
καὶ 
 
ἀκο
}
 ύσαντες
 
ὅτι 
 
µ
εις
 
δεῖνα
 
ἐλέω
 
θεοῦ
 
ἐπίσκοπος
 
Ἀρσενόης
,
πρόεδρος
 
πόλεως
 
καὶ 
 
ἐνορίας
 
Πάφου
...”“May it be known to everyone who was involved and heard the present and fullestdiscussion, that we, X, by the blessing of God (as) Bishop of Arsinoe, president of thecity and parish of Paphos….”
4
 These modest texts resonate with the more impressive material remains of the cityitself. They confirm the central place of the bishop among the leaders of the community,the survival of the name Arsinoe well into the later Middle Ages, the influence of thechurch in almost all aspects of daily life, and the close ties of the city to other regionalcenters. These are themes that frame the impressive material remains of the Late Antiqueand Medieval city of Arsinoe and underscore the continued importance of this dynamicChristian center in northwestern Cyprus.Returning to the fifth-century inscription, the dedication of a Christian buildingmay in fact refer to one of two substantial early Christian basilicas that have beenrecovered through excavations in the northern periphery of the modern town of Polis. Itmay also refer to an earlier predecessor of one of these churches, a different church, or another significant building in the community, as by Late Antiquity bishops played animportant role in civic patronage of secular as well as sacred structures. The religiouslandscape of Arsinoe certainly shows the wealth or perhaps diversity of the Christiancommunity, for several churches and chapels certainly shared space within and around
 
WORKING DRAFT – DO NOT CITE WITHOUT AUTHORS’ PERMISSION
3
the city.
5
Although the inscription does not reveal the identity of a particular monument,it offers information specific to the time it was cut, including the name of the local bishop, one Photinos (otherwise unattested), the name of his superior, the ArchbishopSabinos, and the fact of their involvement on the ground and in the workings of Arsinoe.The inscription also reflects Christianization of patronage and conceptions of timein the city. The prominent placement of the names of bishops elevated the local,ecclesiastical hierarchy to the rank of eponymous leaders of the community. As a result,the passage of years and changing names of church officials presented time with adistinctly Christian cast.
6
Meanwhile, the act of patronage and its inscription representedthese bishops in the traditional role of the local elite, and perhaps also a general tendencyat this time to over-endow the island with bishoprics so that even smaller towns joined inthe new network of authority.
7
In any case, the inscriptions complement thearchaeological record in showing that these oft-repaired and modified buildings stood asa testimony to the community's enduring commitment to its monuments as the center of social and religious life. The buildings, their patrons, and the dynamic relationship between the community and their built environment mark the gradual transformationfrom the ancient to the Medieval and, indeed, to the modern village.The post-classical buildings recovered by the Princeton team define the actualurban space of the Late Antique city. Three excavated sites, all located within 200 metersof each other along the village’s main road north to the sea, provide evidence for athriving population. The site nearest the center of the modern town, known as area EF2,includes at its heart a modest, three-aisled basilica (23 m x 12
½
m) embedded in a built-up and well-serviced Ancient and Medieval neighborhood (Najbjerg essay, fig. 8).

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