Lambousa, which translates as ‘the shining one’ was once a prosperous area, and is thought to have been founded in the eight century BC by Phoenician traders. Parts of the area still remain today but much of it is not easily accessible due to being located within the confines of an army camp. Lambousa, located in Northern Cyprus, can be reached by walking along the Cyprus coast from Mare Monte Beach.

During the Roman era, the area became a prosperous port area for the town of Lapta, but after continual Arab raids found itself abandoned by the thirteenth century. When you visit Lambousa you will find a rich history and fascinating structures to explore, which help to provide some insight about the various eras of the area.

You will find Roman era fish tanks here, which are large rectangular pools that have been constructed by cutting into the rock. The remains of the Roman harbour wall can also be viewed by visitors, with two churches beyond that wall that can be seen but not explored, as these are within the confines of the army camp.

Early in the twentieth century a number of silver and gold objects from the Byznatine period were also discovered here, and these have become known collectively as the Lambousa Treasure. It is thought that the objects date from between 627 and 630, and may have been buried in order to protect them from raids carried out by the Arabs. However, these finds were sent off and split between various museums, including the Medieval Museum in Limassol, the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the British Museum in London.

Lambousa

The ancient kingdom of Lambousa (translates as -the shining one-) was founded by Phoenician traders in the 8th century B.C. and remained a quietly prosperous until the Christian era, when groves of mulberries fed a highly profitable silk industry. The foundations of a lighthouse, sea-water fishponds and a portion of the city's wall survive from the 6th century Byzantine town. A silver dinner service from this period was found here in the early years of this century, presumably hidden just before the Saracens ransacked the city in the 7th century.

It is the finest example of secular art from early Byzantium and is now split between the collections of the Metropolitan, British and Cyprus museums. Lambousa was revived as a port, though all that remains from this second period are three distinctive medieval churches.

The 13th century double-doomed Monastery of Akhiropietos (translates as -Built without Hands-), was erected over the ruins of an old cathedral. Akhiropietos was enlarged in the 15th century, at the same time that the ancient shrine of St. Evalios was also completely restored.

The curious rock hewn chapel of St. Eulambios is the core remnant of an old quarry. It was turned into catacombs in the late Roman period, and is where the body of Eulambios, an elderly martyr, was interred.
In the last years excavation works have re-started at Lambousa by the Department of Antiquities in collaboration with an archaeological team from Germany, and the site is open to public as an open air museum

There is general agreement that Lambousa was founded as a colony of the Laconians after the Trojan war in about 1000BC. However there is some evidence from excavations that date it as early as 3000BC. In the 4th century BC, Diodoros of Sicily describes Lambousa as one of the 9 Cypriot kingdoms.

In 333BC, the king of Lambousa sent over 200 ships to aid Alexander the Great in his siege of Tyre, helping him take that city. As a reward, Alexander declared Cyprus free from Persians.

During the Roman empire, Lambousa had more than 10000 inhabitants, and experienced great commercial experience because of its harbour and as it became a centre for processing copper and earthenware.

Lambousa City Wall

During the early years of Christianity, the apostles Paul, Barnabas and Mark passed by Lambousa coming from Tarsus.

Lambousa was heavily damaged during the Arab raids from the 7th century, and the population fled from the coast to safety in the hills. However when the Arabs were eventually defeated in 965, the population returned and rebuilt their city further inland.

The town wall, the rock graves and the fish tanks are among the ruins that have survived to this day, and some archaeological work has taken place since 1992.

The fish tanks, or fish breeding tanks are known to be the earliest examples of their kind. There is, however a school of thought that rather than Byzantine fish tanks, has them as a bathing establishment, part of a Roman villa. They are cut into the rock near the harbour, and are designed in such a way that while cool, fresh water entered into them with the tides, the warmer water went out through another channel. Rock Tombs

When the inhabitants abandoned the city, a lot of their treasure was buried to await their return, which never happened. The treasure of Lambousa became a legend and was almost dismissed as such until archaeologists and amateur treasure hunters began unearthing some incredible, stunning and priceless treasure from the area some 300 years later. The so-called Lambousa Treasure was unearthed by two separate groups of archaeologists. The first discovery took place in the late 19th century and the unearthed reliefs, decorative silver vases, pots and spoons with animal motifs on their rims that were found are today on display at the British Museum. (Room 41 if you're visiting). Each of these exhibits are marked with the Byzantium Imperial stamp suggesting that they were brought to Lapta from the Byzantine capital, Constantinople.

The second find took place in 1902. Two stonemasons named Kostis Karilios and Kostis Berberi were at work extracting stones from a house at the ruins of Lambousa. Under the floor of the house they discovered an urn packed full of gold jewellery. Two days later they discovered, hidden in a secret compartment in one of the walls, a collection of silver plates, today known as the "David Plates".

Silver Spoons From the First Lambousa Treasure

In 627, the Byzantine emperor, Heraclius, fought the Persian general Raztis in single combat and beheaded him. Afterwards, having compared his victory with that of David against Goliath, he issued some commemorative plates. These plates, the largest of which depicted David fighting the giant Goliath are considered to be amongst the finest examples of art from the early Byzantine period. Imperial stamps son the plates date them to the period 627-630AD.

The two stonemasons did not surrender their find to the authorities, but smuggled many of them to Paris. Luckily the men's plan was foiled and some of the treasure was returned to Cyprus to be displayed at the Cyprus Museum in south Nicosia. Much of the treasure that was not returned later emerged in museums in Washington, New York and London.

The Lambousa Treasure is a reflection of the high standard of early Byzantine art during the 6th and 7th centuries and is indicative of the Lambousa's wealth and level of social development at the time..

To reach Lambousa, take the coast road from Girne towards Lapta. Immediately after the turning for Alsancak, look for a road on your right signposted to the Mare Monte hotel. You will also see the signs for Lambousa. At the hotel entrance, turn left on to a dirt track towards Lambousa. You will be able to drive along this track to within a few hundred metres of the sea. If you park at the start of the dirt track, Lambousa is about ten minutes walk.