Roman Period (58BC - 330AD)
The rise of the Roman Empire across Europe saw Rome officially annex Cyprus in 58BC, only for it to be returned to Cleopatra in 47BC by Julius Caesar after the Alexandrine War. This final period of Egyptian ownership over the island was not to last long though as Octavian's victory in 31BC brought Cyprus under Roman rule again. This time, it would last for close on 300 years.
Roman rule bought peace and a greater freedom to the Cypriot people than was enjoyed under the Egyptians. Great temples, sculptures, amphitheatres, gymansia and baths were constructed, introducing Cypriots to a new way of life and new deities too. Evidence of these new Gods can be found all around Cyprus. The Roman God of Medicine is celebrated at the Temple of Asclepius near the modern day lighthouse in Paphos, while Venus, the Roman Goddess of Love, and many other Gods such as Bachus, Ceres and Cupid are very prominent in artefacts on the island.
In Roman Cyprus the Greek Gods were 'romanized' and celebrated. Aphrodite, who became synonymous with Venus during the Roman Empire, was worshiped. New temples were built in her honour, while the Greek Gods of Dionysus, Orpheus, Aion and Theseus were cast in a series of mosaics. These mosaics can be seen today in the Roman villa complex near Paphos.
As was the way of the Roman Empire, Cypriots were encouraged to engage in emperor-worship. This practice was adopted wholeheartedly by the Cypriot people, as evidenced by the many sculptures and artefacts fashioned in honour of the great emperors that ruled Rome. Greek architecture was exploited too, as the Romans sought to enhance existing Greek structures for their own purposes. The Greco-Roman theatre at the ancient site of Kourion near present-day Limassol is one such example. Originally, the theatre was built by the Greeks a hundred years or so before the arrival of the Romans. In the 1st Century AD, under the direction of the Roman Emperor Nero, the theatre was remodelled and later enlarged after it was partly destroyed by an earthquake.
By the beginning of the 4th Century AD the Roman Empire began to crumble. Christianity was taking hold and by 391AD the sanctuaries of Aphrodite and Apollo were labelled as 'cults', which were promptly abolished by the ruling emperor, Emperor Theodosius.