In the footsteps of Paul and Barnabas
Archaeologists date the origins of Salamis back to the 11th century BC, following the discovery of a harbour and a cemetery from this period. By the 8th century BC, Salamis was an important trading centre due to the copper ores throughout the island.
Over the centuries, Cyprus came under ancient Greek, Persian, Ptolemaic and Roman rule. Under Ptolemaic rule when Paphos became the capital, Salamis still retained its wealthy status and was favoured by the Roman emperors, Trajan and Hadrian, who restored and maintained its public buildings. An earthquake in the 4th century AD caused significant damage to the city. It was rebuilt, but by this time the harbour had become silted up and Arab raids in the 7th century brought the life of the city to an end.
Pictured below is the Gymnasium with its colonnaded palaestra (wrestling court). The court had a stone basin in the centre with a statue of Augustus during his reign from 31BC - 14 AD. Marble statues surrounded the court, many of which were defaced or destroyed if they depicted Roman paganism when Christianity was adopted as the state religion.
Baths and Theatre
The complex also contains Roman public baths where the remains of the sudatorium (sweating room), caldarium (hot water bath) and frigadarium (cold room) are visible.
The theatre has been extensively restored with a seating capacity of 15,000. An amphitheatre is situated next to the theatre, but it is largely in its ruinous state.
Paul and Barnabas
The main Roman road into the city depicted below brought many dignitaries to Salamis, among whom were Paul and Barnabas, servants of the living God. We read in Acts 13 that Salamis was the first destination of Paul's first missionary journey in the company of Barnabas:
So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant.
Acts 13: 4-5
Example of Barnabas
Barnabas was a Cypriot Levite Jew who had accepted the Gospel and consequently introduced Paul to the apostles in Jerusalem. He was both an encourager and financial supporter in the early church and became a partner with Paul in his work of spreading the Gospel.
Tradition maintains that Barnabas was martyred for preaching the Gospel in Salamis during a later visit. His body is said to have been buried initially in a cave and subsequently interred in a tomb, where a monastery now stands in his memory. Barnabas is regarded as the patron saint of Cyprus.
A visit to Salamis challenges Christians to be an imitator of Barnabas. This devoted believer selflessly gave everything he had for the Gospel of Christ, even to the point of laying down his life. He fully exemplifies obedience to the Lord's radical call:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."