Amathus (Cyprus)

Roman aqueducts Amathus AMATHUS
For the photo's, see below
For the complete website


Cyprus was annexed in 58 BC by Rome and depleted of 7.000 talents from the treasury of the Ptolemy's by Cato the Younger, its first consul, and after 22 BC it became a senatorial province. Under Roman rule Nea Paphos became the center of administration and Amathus declined, its population falling, and the acropolis virtually abandoned. Only the sanctuary of Aphrodite preserved its vitality, and in the later first century AD, perhaps after the earthquake of 77/78, one Loukios Vitellios Kallinikos built a ramp that linked the east side of the acropolis to the lower city. The inscription recording this act of municipal generosity can still be read within a recessed square a little to the north of the east end of the central wall.

The nymphaeum north of the agora of Amathus with in front the terracotta water supply of the agora fountain and the Roman bath complex
The city and the sanctuary of Aphrodite suffered from earthquake damage in 77/78, as attested by repairs to the walls at this period and the restoration of the sanctuary 'inside the stelai'. Also at this time work was undertaken on a temple of proper Greek type in the principal sanctuary of the acropolis.
In the first half of the second century, during the reign of the emperor Hadrian, the Romans intervened on an urban level by repairing the water supply system, public expressions of which can be seen in the nymphaeum reservoir and the fountain of the agora.
The city recovered some of its vitality under the Antonine emperors to judge from the plentifulness of glass and jewelry in tombs, and it thrived from the time of the Severan emperors up to Gordian III (mid third century) to judge from the buildings contributed by private donations in the agora. But major shipping routes no longer included Amathus.

Aqueduct outside the city wall

Two different aqueduct branches supplied the city of Amathus with fresh water: the north one from Akmenokhori and a northwest line from Dhoxamenes.

At the northern edge of the plateau of Armenokhori, along the road to Ayia Marina, 350 m from the village, a permanent spring is used for the modern water supply of the area. Besides a modern tank the remains of an ancient basin was discovered which shows that the source was already in use in antiquity. Some 350 m. southeast, at a place called Lazaridhes, another source was discovered based on four wells that still supply water.
A legend tells that the ancient structures once had a link to the chapel of Ayios Georgios, halfway between both sources; only a few remains of the chapel are left. Oral tradition states that these sources were the origin of the water supply of Amathus. Near the latter source two small figures have been found which support the hypothesis of a cult place linked to fresh water that could have persisted for a time under the patronage of Saint George.
Both sources have been located at an altitude of 250 masl (meters above sea level).

If these sources were indeed the origins of the water supply of Amathus, the only course possible passed through a bypass via a plateau east of Armenokhori. On certain places along the course of the aqueduct the concentration of terracotta pipes was impressive; on the other hand the slopes of the Artakharis are interspersed with pipe fragments, some of which dated by stamps from the second year of Hadrian.
The aqueduct continued just east of Ayios Tykhonas. Some 0,3 km north of the defensive walls of Amathus the northern aqueduct branch met the northwestern line in a collecting basin at Laxia tou Antoniou, at an altitude of 62 masl.

Notwithstanding the quite isolated position of the large reservoir (35 x 20 m) and its adjacent sanctuary in Dhoxamenes - this village name means 'the cisterns' - they form the origin of the northwest aqueduct branch. This source also was placed under the patronage of a deity. The reservoir, at a level of 174 masl, was followed by a water supply system that could not have had an other destination than the city of Amathus. This branch also ended into the collecting basin 300 m north of the city wall.

North of the walls

Standing on the north wall and looking toward the modern highway one can see the rubble foundations of a once arcaded section of the aqueduct that crossed the cemetery field on a - possibly double (see photo) - line just north of tower B (see plan). The aqueduct was linked up with the walls which here doubled in function, also to support the water supply of the city, which was underlined by the discovery of the remains of clay pipes along the city wall, both north and south, the existence of a cistern close to one of the towers on the north wall, conduit elements, and a spillway with a carved mouth of a lion.
A date in the Hellenistic period is suggested by its construction technique using dry jointed stretchers and headers. An important branch of the aqueduct must have carried water to the fountain-reservoir / nymphaeum that in turn supplied the fountain in the agora and the adjacent Roman baths. The network of conduits was reorganized under Hadrian, as shown by inscriptions on terracotta pipes found at the foot of tower A and elsewhere in the countryside, given a fragment of a pipe with the inscription LB ADRI[anou]: the second year of Hadrian.
The presence of a water basin and conduits behind the stretch of the wall east of tower C shows that this system was maintained until the final years of the city.

It does not make sense to follow the contour lines to discover the remains of the aqueduct: there was no need to follow the natural slope. Because its pipes were under pressure, the aqueduct easily crossed irregularities by a siphon - as applied between the collecting basin (nr 72) and the north city wall - without any work of art other than relief basins. Its only constrain was the difference in level between the sources (250 and 174 masl) and the destination, here the north city wall at 52 masl.

Mean fall Start Level (m) End Level (m) Distance (km) Calculated gradient (%)
North aqueduct branch Armenokhori 250 Basin nr 72 60 4,9 3,8
Northwest aqueduct branch Dhoxamenes 174 Basin nr 72 60 1,2 9,5
Common course Basin nr 72 - Wall Basin nr 72 60 North wall 52 0,3 2,7

The Acropolis

The main religious and administrative centers were on the hill, the acropolis, with a palace, a basilica, and an important sanctuary of Aphrodite, from different periods; all were in need of water. Many cisterns were found, fed by rain water or by spring water transported by animal power.

Agora and fountain

The paving in the west half of the agora square is well preserved. A cut running diagonally from the northwest corner marks the path of a late water conduit made of pierced column drums laid end-to-end and runs from the reservoir. An large fountain formed a conspicuous centerpiece in the north part of the square. Architectural elements recovered permit the reconstruction of an elevated central basin and fountain covered by a baldachino, the roof of which, perhaps pyramidal, was supported by four spirally fluted columns of dark stone, originally standing on white marble bases (one is preserved) and topped by Corinthian capitals also of white marble (all four are preserved). Two of these columns have been re-erected, but not in their original position on the central fountain. The central fountain was surrounded on all four sides by a lower basin (a 9,9 x 9,9 m. square) with a low outer wall laid over a foundation of hydraulic cement.

Cyprus and the Tabula Peutingeriana
= See the entry Salamis =

Water was brought to the fountain from the reservoir through an underground conduit of terracotta pipes. It probably spilled from openings on the four sides of the central basin into the subsidiary one, where it would have been accessible to the public, and then drained away to the east. The whole structure is datable to the early second century AD.

Reservoir and nymphaeum

The nymphaeum and reservoir, located north from the agora, were equipped with a ramp and stairs, had a deep basin of 9,30 by 5,80 m. and a facade with two columns. The columns may once have supported Nabataean capitals. The capital currently on top of one of the columns does not belong there. At some stage a water trough was added in front of the reservoir's facade, its base pierced to allow passage of the stone water conduit.

In later periods, the reservoir was divided in half: the west side was filled in, while the east side was vaulted and remained in use. Water ran from an ogival niche in the back wall which must once have sheltered a statue. An open drainage system was later installed in the fill of the westernmost half.

To the east, behind the large rectangular building north of the agora, is a later triangular pool, fed by a branch line from a conduit that was built above ground and then buried.

All the essential components of a small Roman bath complex of the imperial period - east of the agora - are present: cold rooms on the east side and warm ones on the west, but no traces of a piped water supply were found inside the building. A system of terracotta pipes descending from the reservoir north of the agora assured a generous supply.

A large drain ran westward under the street and agora collecting rainwater and runoff from the nymphaeum, the reservoir, the fountain, and the baths.

At present a collection of conduits, basins and pipes from different periods, locations, and sizes, are presented at the south east corner of the agora. The presence of calcareous deposits inside some pipes (called sinter) are indications how long these were in use.

Unfortunately the publications about Amathus were not focused on the technicalities of the water supply system.
Description / diameter Externally Internally
Large stone pipe 0,70 m 0,24 m
Small stone pipe 0,20 m 0,09 m
Terracotta pipe )* Diameter 0,20 m; "large diameter"
)* BCH 114-2 (1990) pag 1028 - 32

As mentioned, it was Hadrian who rebuilt the north aqueduct and, if the fountain-reservoir can also be dated to this period, then it is likely that the whole water system can be attributed to an arrangement between the emperor and the municipality.

It is readily apparent that the agora fountain and the Roman baths were provided with water under pressure through terracotta pipes from this reservoir, but how was the reservoir itself supplied? A rectangular stone conduit is located behind the construction and water could have come only from the great aqueduct restored by Hadrian, but the line between this aqueduct and the conduit in the agora has not yet come to light.

Wilke Schram
primary based on Aupert's reports in the journal Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique and his booklet Guide to Amathus. Unfortunately these publications were not focused on the technicalities of the water supply system of Amathus.

Recommended literature :
  • Reports on the excavations, in the Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 1976 - 1997 (in French), in particular year 1991 (vol 115-2) pag 772 - 785
  • P. Aupert (ed): Guide to Amathus (2000) (also available in Greek and French)
Recommended websites   :
How to visit                  : Follow the Old Road along the shore, a few kilometers east of Limassol / Lemesos. Entry to the agora only € 3,-

HOME More literature on more aqueducts Last modified: August, 2011 - (webmaster)

Kingdom Amathus

Aqueduct course

Plan of the site

View on the acropolis

View on the wall

Plan of the nort wall

View on the substructure

Remains of two channels

Two piers

Terracotta pipe


Plan of the agora

Overview with reservoir

Basin of the reservoir

Basin with conduit

View into the nymphaeum

Water trough

Small basin

Basin with plaster

Triangle basin

Inlet op the basin

Plug in the basin?

Large stone pipes

Terracotta pipeline

Fountain of the agora

Collection of water works

Female side

Male side


Collection of channels

Covered drain