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OVIP :: Lapta

Lapta - Old Laphitos - Lambousa

West of the Girne and North of  the highest peak of the five fingers mountains Selvili Tepe, is  Laphitos(Lapta). It is an attractive small town that is steeped in history and  is one of the most renowned locations in Northern Cyprus. Every corner of Lapta  is covered in lemon and orange groves, and other types of fruit orchards. The  city (designated a city in ancient times) of Lapta which lies at the base of  the mountain, is very fortunate for ıt has its own  source of water, i.e. a series of springs  called ‘Baspinar’. Known throughout history as ‘’ Lapithos or Lapethos ‘, the  city was the capital of one of the nine kingdoms that cyprus was once divided  into.

There have been a number stories  put forward as to the origins of Lapta. They are all to one degree or another  based on historical fact.  

  • According  to rumors,the first residents of Laphitos were migrants from the Laconıa area  of Greece who arrived there in 1300 BC.
  • Antiquarian  author Homeros wrote that, the city of Laphitos as well as Salamis and the city  of Paphos,were established by the Aka’s, on returning from the battle of Troy  in around 1200 BC.
  • It  has also suggested that the king of Laconıa   ‘Praxander’ who established the Peleponnese peninsula in 1200 BC was  responsible for the creation of Lapta.
  • Another  story concerning its origins is that it was established as a Phoenician colony,  by the king of Tyre (Sur) belus in 800 BC.

THE CITY’S MOST BRILLIANT  ERA

Lapta began to become an  important and wealthy city, around 800 BC, when the Phoenicians who dominated  trade in the Easter Mediterranean, became its leaders. During the Christian  period, Lapithos was the capital city of one of the 14 Dioceses (Religious  areas). İt was during Roman and Byzantine rule that it reached the height of  its importance. At this time, and because of the amount of wealth it had  amassed, the city was renamed ‘’Lambousa’’ which means brilliant. Towards the  end of the Roman era and during the early Christian and Byzantine periods, the  city of Lambousa shifted its location to the coastline where it became a  settlement renowned for its wealth. A number buildings for general public use,  such as gymnasiums and theatres were built in the city. Lambousa remained an  important city until the start of Arab incursions of 700 AD.

THE ARAB INCURSİONS AND  THE ESTABLİSHMENT OF LAPTA           Due to Lapta’s reputation as a  city of immense wealth, the Arabs, who began their attacks in 654 AD, besieged  Lambousa. They demanded that members of the community surrender with all their  belongings and jewels, in return they promised to let them leave the city free  of harm and to settle in any other part of Cyprus. Archeological excavations  early in the last century suggest that most of the people in Lambousa had  preferred to bury their valuable belongings and jewels, or hide them inside the  walls or ceilings of their homes rather than surrender them to the Arabs.  During the Lusignian era and up until the Ottoman period, the people of  Lambousa who had abandoned the city established Lapta. In the 1800’s the people  who originated from Lambousa and who lived in Lapta established Karava  (Kyrenia). The remnants of Lambousa functioned as a source of stone for the two  new cities and thus today there is little left of the ancient city.

The Lapta of today

The settlement of Lapithos, which  was thought to have been the main city of one of kingdoms of Cyprus, was  situated in the area where lapta stands today. Today the what is left of the  once powerful city of Lambousa is located in an area close to the sea. It is  believed that the townsfolk of Lambousa, who becoming tired of the constant Arab  attacks, moved their houses to the slopes of the mountain. They used the stones  from their former houses as building material in the construction of Lapta. The  settlement developed significantly thereafter, especially during the Lusignian  period, with the population of Lapta rising to 10.000. From the archaeological  excavations Lapta was not the first settlement established in this area. Two  Iron Age tomb chambers were found which tends to suggest that some form of  human settlement existed during the Neolithic period.

A SYMBOL OF THE CİTY –  THE BASPINAR SOURCE

Today’s Lapta is one of the  greenest and productive corners of Cyprus and is full of citrus groves. As  mentioned the the city owes its wealth and longevity,  to the existence of a plentiful supply of  clean water. The Başpınar springs, which are situated 280 metres above sea  level and on the slopes of the mountain is one of the only two water sources on  the Island that flows without interruption all year round.  

Today the remnants of the  historical city of Lambousa on the coast include its city walls, a number of  stone tombs and a series of rock fish pools. The stone tombs, apart from being  pillaged for centuries by grave robbers,were used in the Middle-Ages as a  source of stone. Adjacent to the port are the fish pools which were carved out  of the rocks during the Roman times. They are the oldest example of their type,  and were used by fisherman to keep their catches fresh. There is a system of  canals that allow cool clean water to replace the warm and dirty water. Some  people argue that these pools are from the early Byzantine era and some say  that they belonged to the bath’s of a Roman villa.

The archaeological excavations in  Lambousa that began in 1992 continue today. It is believed that much of the  wealth of Lambousa still remains hidden.

DAVID’S PLATES

Byzantine Emperor  Heraklius(610-641 BC), who challenged the enemy commander Raztis to ‘one to  one’ combat during a fierce battle with the Persians in 627 BC.. Heraklius, who  beheaded the enemy leader, compared his success with that of when David  defeated the mighty Goliath. To celebrate his victory he had a series of plates  known as the ‘David’s Plates’, cast from silver. In 1903 the said plates were  found in two hoards, in and around the ruins of Lambousa and over a period of  time were distributed to museums in Lefkoşa, New York,Washington and London.  Once the ships of Arab pirates were sighted on the horizon, it is believed that the  silverware was hastily buried in the ground. ‘David and Goliath’ are depicted  in the centre of the largest plates. The plates   are amongst the most outstanding examples of early Byzantine art. As  most of them carry the imperial mark, they were easily identified as  being made between 627 and 630 BC. A large part of the two hoards of treasure found in 1902 were smuggled abroad  and sold to the New York Metropolitan Museum. In 1905, Lambousa was declared a  protected site. In 1913, and on behalf of the Cyprus museum,  John I Myres descended 40 feet down Acropolis  Hill to carry out a study of the ruins. Up until 1991, no other work had been  carried out to explore the Lambousa site. Between 1991 and 1994 the tomb area in  the East of the city was converted in an open air museum suitable for  visitors.  Some of the graves were  cleaned and exposed by a German group who worked in co-operation with the  Antiquities and Museums Department. Currently the structures that can be seen  at Lambousa include the Monastery (6-16th Century AD) Saint Evlalios Church  (6th Century AD), the King’s Pool, the City Walls and the Tomb chambers carved  out of the stone.

AREAS OF THE CİTY: Saint Anastasia (Lapta), Saint Paraskevei  (Lapta), Saint Loukas (Lapta) , Saint Minas (Lapta) Saint Theodoros (Çayırova)

FORESTS: Lapta (Lapithos) , and Alsancak (Kravas).

CHURHES: Saint Marina (in Gürpınar), Saint Varvara  (Girne-Kyrenia district) Saint Sotiros( Girne-Kyrenia district) Panayia  Galaterousa, (Girne-Kyrenia District).


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