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PAPHOS (pā'fŏs, Gr. Paphos). The capital city of Roman Cyprus, located at the extreme western end of this large island. The Paphos of the Bible is really New Paphos, a Roman city rebuilt by Augustus; the old Greek city of Paphos, dedicated to the worship of Aphrodite, lay ten miles (seventeen km.) to the south. In New Paphos, Paul and Barnabas encountered the wiles of the Jewish sorcerer Elymas in the court of Sergius Paulus, the Roman governor. Paul’s miracle of blinding the magician led to the conversion of Paulus (Acts.13.6-Acts.13.13). New Paphos is now known as Baffa.

PAPHOS pā’ fŏs (Πάφος, G4265). Two settlements in SW Cyprus, distinguished historically as Old and New Paphos. Old Paphos (modern Konklia) lay some ten m. SE of New Paphos, capital of the island of Cyprus in Rom. times. The former was a Phoen. settlement, long identified with the cult of Aphrodite, to whom a temple was dedicated there. New Paphos grew up as the port of Old Paphos, after the Romans had annexed Cyprus in 58 b.c., and became the center of Rom. rule on the island. Largely destroyed by an earthquake in 15 b.c., it was rebuilt with funds received from the emperor and renamed “Augusta” in his honor. The city then became adorned with magnificent public buildings and temples. Its shrine to Venus, or Aphrodite, became particularly famous, as Ephesus was noted for its worship of Diana. Aphrodite as the Gr. goddess of love, beauty, and fertility was akin to the fertility cults of the Phoenician Astarte, the Anatolian Cybele, and the Babylonian Ishtar. The later Rom. equivalent was Venus. In Cyprus, the birth of Aphrodite was associated with her birth on the foam of the sea, floating to the Cypriot shore on a shell near Paphos, a possible allusion to the transmission of the Phoen. cult. The greatest festival in Cyprus was the Aphrodisia held three days each spring, with a procession between New and Old Paphos. De Cesnola identified what he considered was the temple to Aphrodite in New Paphos in the last cent., an enclosure some 690 ft. from E to W and 539 ft. from N to S. Paphos suffered from a second earthquake in a.d. 76 or 77 and was virtually destroyed by a third one in the 4th cent., lying for a long time afterward in ruins. It is now known as Baffa.

Barnabas and Saul landed on Cyprus in a.d. 45 or 46 at Salamis, then the chief commercial center and port of the island. After ministry throughout the island (Acts 13:6), they then proceeded to Paphos, prob. involving a complete tour of all the Jewish synagogues. The route they took is conjectural, but eventually they reached Paphos where they met the governor Sergius Paulus. His conversion was a great victory for the Christian missionary enterprise (13:6-12), for he was the Rom. proconsul (a.d. 46 to 48); an inscr. from Paphos mentioning his name in the middle of the 1st cent. has been found. There the encounter with the sorcerer Elymas in the court of Sergius Paulus took place, a scene painted by the artist Raphael in a well-known work.


L. P. De Cesnola, Cyprus: Its Ancient Cities, Tombs and Temples (1877); G. Hill, A History of Cyprus (1940), Vol. 1.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


1. Site:

The name of two towns, Old (Palaia Paphos, or Palaipaphos) and New Paphos Nea Paphos), situated at the southwestern extremity of Cyprus. Considerable confusion is caused by the use of the single name Paphos in ancient writers to denote now one, now the other, of these cities. That referred to in Ac 13:6,13 is strictly called New Paphos (modern Baffa), and lay on the coast about a mile South of the modern Ktima and some 10 miles Northwest of the old city. The latter (modern Kouklia) is situated on an eminence more than a mile from the sea, on the left bank of the Diarrizo, probably the ancient Bocarus.

2. History of Old Paphos:

It was founded by Cinyras, the father of Adonis, or, according to another legend, by Aerias, and formed the capital of the most important kingdom in Cyprus except that of Salamis. Its territory embraced a considerable portion of Western Cyprus, extending northward to that of Soli, southward to that of Curium and eastward to the range of Troodus. Among its last kings was Nicocles, who ruled shortly after the death of Alexander the Great. In 310 BC Nicocreon of Salamis, who had been set over the whole of Cyprus by Ptolemy I of Egypt, was forced to put an end to his life at Paphos for plotting with Antigonus (Diodorus xx. 21, who wrongly gives the name as Nicocles; see Athenische Mitteilungen, XXII, 203 ff), and from that time Paphos remained under Egyptian rule until the Roman annexation of Cyprus in 58 BC. The growth of New Paphos brought with it the decline of the old city, which was also ruined by successive earthquakes. Yet its temple still retained much of its old fame, and in 69 AD Titus, the future emperor of Rome, turned aside on his journey to Jerusalem, which he was to capture in the following year, to visit the sacred shrine and to inquire of the priests into the fortune which awaited him (Tacitus History ii.2-4; Suetonius Titus 5).

3. History of New Paphos:

New Paphos, originally the seaport of the old town, was founded, according to tradition, by Agapenor of Arcadia (Iliad ii.609; Pausan. viii.5, 2). Its possession of a good harbor secured its prosperity, and it had several rich temples. According to Dio Cassius (liv.23) it was restored by Augustus in 15 BC after a destructive earthquake and received the name Augusta (Greek Sebaste). Under the Roman Empire it was the administrative capital of the island and the seat of the governor. The extant remains all date from this period and include those of public buildings, private houses, city walls and the moles of the harbor.

4. The Temple and Cult:

But the chief glory of Paphos and the source of its fame was the local cult, of which the kings and their descendants remained hereditary priests down to the Roman seizure of Cyprus. The goddess, identified with the Greek Aphrodite, who was said to have risen from the sea at Paphos, was in reality a Nature-goddess, closely resembling the Babylonian Ishtar and the Phoenician Astarte, a native deity of Asia Minor and the Aegean Islands. Her cult can be traced back at Paphos to Homeric times (Odyssey viii.362) and was repeatedly celebrated by Greek and Latin poets (Aeschylus Suppl. 555; Aristoph. Lys. 833; Virgil Aen. i.415; Horace Odes i.19 and 30; iii.26; Statius Silvae i.2, 101, etc.). The goddess was represented, not by a statue in human form, but by a white conical stone (Max. Tyr. viii.8; Tacitus History ii.3; Servius Ad Aen. i.724), of which models were on sale for the benefit of pilgrims (Athenaeus xv.18); her worship was sensuous in character and she is referred to by Athanasius as the deification of lust (Contra Genres 9). Excavation has brought to light at Old Paphos a complex of buildings belonging to Roman times and consisting of an open court with chambers or colonnades on three sides and an entrance on the East only, the whole forming a quadrilateral enclosure with sides about 210 ft. long. In this court may have stood the altar, or altars, of incense (Homer speaks of a single altar, Virgil of "a hundred altars warm with Sabean frankincense"); no blood might be shed thereon, and although it stood in the open it was "wet by no rain" (Tacitus, loc. cit.; Pliny, NH, ii.210). On the south side are the ruins of another building, possibly an earlier temple, now almost destroyed save for the western wall (Journal of Hellenic Studies, IX, 193-224). But the fact that no remains or inscriptions have been found here earlier than the Roman occupation of Cyprus militates against the view that the sanctuary stood at this spot from prehistoric times. Its site may be sought at Xylino, a short distance to the North of Kouklia (D.G. Hogarth, Times, August 5, 1910), or possibly on the plateau of Rhantidi, some 3 miles Southeast of the village, where numerous inscriptions in the old Cyprian syllabic script were found in the summer of 1910 (M. Ohnefalsch-Richter, Times, July 29, 1910).

5. The Apostles’ Visit:

After visiting Salamis and passing through the whole island, about 100 miles in length, Barnabas, Paul and Mark reached Paphos, the residence of the Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus (for the title see Cyprus). Here too they would doubtless begin by preaching in the synagogue, but the governor--who is probably the same Paulus whose name appears as proconsul in an inscription of Soli (D.G. Hogarth, Devia Cypria, 114)--hearing of their mission, sent for them and questioned them on the subject of their preaching. A Jew named Bar-Jesus or Elymas, who, as a Magian or soothsayer, "was with the proconsul," presumably as a member of his suite, used all his powers of persuasion to prevent his patron from giving his adherence to the new faith, and was met by Paul (it is at this point that the name is first introduced) with a scathing denunciation and a sentence of temporary loss of sight. The blindness which at once fell on him produced a deep impression on the mind of the proconsul, who professed his faith in the apostolic teaching. From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed in a northwesterly direction to Perga in Pamphylia (Ac 13:6-13).

Paul did not revisit Paphos, but we may feel confident that Barnabas and Mark would return there on their 2nd missionary journey (Ac 15:39). Of the later history of the Paphian church we know little. Tychicus, Paul’s companion, is said to have been marryred there, and Jerome tells us that Hilarion sought in the neighborhood of the decayed and almost deserted town the quiet and retirement which he craved (Vita Hilar. 42). The Acta Barnabae speak of a certain Rhodon, who was attached to the temple service at Old Paphos, as having accepted the Christian faith.


Besides the works already referred to, see Journal of Hellenic Studies, IX, 175-92 (citation of passages from ancient authors relating to Old Paphos, together with a list of medieval and modern authorities), 225-271 (inscriptions and tombs), and the bibliography appended to article CYPRUS.

Marcus N. Tod