A town on the east coast of Cyprus, situated some 3 miles to the North of the medieval and modern Famagusta. It lay near the river Pediaeus, at the eastern extremity of the great plain of the Mesorea, which runs far into the interior of the island toward Nicosia (Lefkosia), the present capital. It possessed a good harbor and was the most populous and flourishing town of Cyprus in the Hellenic and Roman periods, carrying on a vigorous trade with the ports of Cilicia and Syria. Its population was mixed, consisting of Greek and Phoenician elements. The former, however, gave its tone and color to the city, and the chief cult and temple were those of Salaminian Zeus.
2. Early History:
Tradition represented Salamis as rounded soon after the fall of Troy by Teucer, the prince of Greek archers according to the narrative of the Iliad, who named it after his home, the island of Salamis off the Attic coast. In the 6th century BC it figures as an important Hellenic city, ruled by a line of kings reputed to be descended from Teucer and strengthened by an alliance with Cyrene (Herodotus iv.162). Gorgus, who was on the throne in 498 BC, refused to join the Ionic revolt against Persia, but the townsmen, led by his brother Onesilus, took up arms in the struggle for freedom. A crushing defeat, however, inflicted udder the walls of Salamis, restored the island to its Persian overlords, who reinstated Gorgus as a vassal prince (Herodotus v.103). In 449 a Greek fleet under Athenian leadership defeated the Phoenician navy, which was in the service of Persia, off Salamis; but the Athenian withdrawal which followed the battle led to a decided anti-Hellenic reaction, until the able and vigorous rule of the Salaminian prince Euagoras, who was a warm friend of the Athenians (Isocrates, Euag.) and a successful champion of Hellenism. In 306 a second great naval battle was fought off Salamis, in which Demetrius Poliorcetes defeated the forces of Ptolemy I (Soter), king of Egypt. But 11 years later the town came into Ptolemy's hands and, with the rest of the island, remained an appanage of the Egyptian kingdom until the incorporation of Cyprus in the Roman Empire (58 BC).
3. Visit of the Apostles:
When Barnabas and Paul, accompanied by John Mark, set out on their 1st missionary journey, they sailed from Seleucia, the seaport of Antioch, and landed at Salamis, about 130 miles distant, as the harbor nearest to the Syrian coast. There they preached the gospel in the "synagogues of the Jews" (Acts 13:5); the phrase is worth noting as pointing to the existence of several synagogues and thus of a large Jewish community in Salamis. Of work among the Gentiles we hear nothing, nor is any indication given either of the duration of the apostles' visit or of the success of their mission; but it would seem that after a short stay they proceeded "through the whole island" (Acts 13:6 the Revised Version (British and American)) to Paphos. The words seem to imply that they visited all, or at least most, of the towns in which there were Jewish communities. Paul did not return to Salamis, but Barnabas doubtless went there on his 2nd missionary journey (Acts 15:39), and tradition states that he was martyred there in Nero's reign, on the site marked by the monastery named after him.
4. Later History:
In 116 AD the Jews in Cyprus rose in revolt and massacred 240,000 Greeks and Romans. The rising was crushed with the utmost severity by Hadrian. Salamis was almost depopulated, and its destruction was afterward consummated by earthquakes in 332 and 342 AD. It was rebuilt, though on a much smaller scale, by the emperor Constantius II (337-61 AD) under the name Constantia, and became the metropolitan see of the island. The most famous of its bishops was Epiphanius, the staunch opponent of heresy, who held the see from 367 to 403. In 647 the city was finally destroyed by the Saracens. Considerable remains of ancient buildings still remain on the site; an account of the excavations carried on there in 1890 by Messrs. J. A.R. Munro and H.A. Tubbs under the auspices of the Cyprus Exploration Fund will be found in the Journal of Hellenic Studies, XII, 59-198.
M. N. Tod