An elevated tomb at Paphos in Cyprus might have belonged to a 12-year old Ptolemaic prince


The Tombs of the Kings at Paphos (north of the harbor) in Cyprus pertain to a World Heritage Site, with the earliest structures of the expansive necropolis dating back to even 4th century BC. Now interestingly enough, a recent excavation project aided in the successful unearthing of a grandiosely conceived tomb in the area – and preliminary analysis raises the hypothesis that this ancient complex belongs to a 12-year-old Ptolemy prince. More specifically, according to Theodoros Mavroyiannis, associate professor of ancient history at the University of Cyprus, the tomb might have belonged to Ptolemy Eupator, the son of Ptolemy VI Philometor and Cleopatra II, who reigned for a very short period as co-ruler from 152-150 BC.


One of the first potential evidences point to the two eagle sculptures by the tomb. This symbolism was also used on the back of the Ptolemaic coins when the contemporary ruler was a co-regent. Furthermore, various historical sources mention how Ptolemy Eupator was probably defied, an honor only bestowed upon the kings. The researchers had to investigate this related scope in the unearthed tomb in question.

To their surprise, the archaeologists, aided by Michalis Lefatzis, an architect at the department of restoration of ancient monuments of the Greek ministry of culture, found that the tomb showcased structural deviations that made it different from the other 2nd century BC tombs at the Paphos necropolis. For example, ‘standard’ tombs in Paphos and even Alexandria (the largest city under the dominion of the Ptolemies, as successors of Alexander) tended to have atrium accompanied by Doric columns. However in this case, the atrium was replaced by a rectangular rock surface that in turn supported an imposing structure.


According to Lefatzis, the very elevated nature of this tomb atop a podium, hints at a scenario where the mausoleum was constructed for a deified person. In essence, the tomb might have been built specifically for a ‘king’, and this hypothesis is rather complemented by other engravings and findings in proximity to the main structure. Interestingly, from the architectural perspective, the researchers have also conjectured how this Paphos tomb was possibly visible from a great distance.

But of course, beyond just preliminary impressions, there is the entire science of detailed archaeological analysis to consider. In Lefatzis’s own words – “a documentation of the material and a very well planned study for the monument must be carried out”. And if the studies prove the initial hypothesis of the researchers, it would be the first time that a Ptolemaic noble/king’s tomb had been discovered in the island of Cyprus.


The two eagle sculptures discovered near the tomb.

Source: Cyprus-Mail / Images Credit: Michalis Lefatzis

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