One of the easiest ways to understand why Cyprus is so special is to walk on the beach at Petra tou Romiou – the mythological birthplace of the goddess of love, Aphrodite. This is one of the prettiest stops on the Aphrodite Cultural Route.
The Legends of Petra tou Romiou
Petra tou Romiou, also Aphrodite’s Rock is a stack at the shores of the sea in Kouklia. According to the legend, this is the place where the goddess of love emerged from the sea. This passage from Homer’s Hymn to Aphrodite (VI.1) tells the story of her Cypriot origins:
“I will sing of stately Aphrodite, gold-crowned and beautiful, whose dominion is the walled cities of all sea-set Cyprus. There the moist breath of the western wind wafted her over the waves of the loud-moaning sea in soft foam, and there the gold-filleted Hours welcomed her joyously. They clothed her with heavenly garments: on her head they put a fine, well-wrought crown of gold, and in her pierced ears they hung ornaments of orichalc and precious gold, and adorned her with golden necklaces over her soft neck and snow-white breasts, jewels which the gold-filleted Hours wear themselves whenever they go to their father's house to join the lovely dances of the gods. And when they had fully decked her, they brought her to the gods, who welcomed her when they saw her, giving her their hands. Each one of them prayed that he might lead her home to be his wedded wife, so greatly were they amazed at the beauty of violet-crowned Cytherea.”
The birth of the goddess is depicted in many artworks, of which, the most distinctive is Botticelli's Birth of Venus, a Renaissance masterpiece currently on display at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.
Hesiod’s Theogony account of the birth of the goddess of love is different: she was born out of the foam of the sea after Uranus was attacked by his son Cronos with a sickle and his genitals were cast into the “surging sea:”
“They were swept away over the main a long time: and a white foam spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it there grew a maiden. First she drew near holy Cythera, and from there, afterwards, she came to sea-girt Cyprus, and came forth an awful and lovely goddess, and grass grew up about her beneath her shapely feet. Her gods and men call Aphrodite, and the foam-born goddess and rich-crowned Cytherea, because she grew amid the foam, and Cytherea because she reached Cythera, and Cyprogenes because she was born in billowy Cyprus, and Philommedes because she sprang from the members. And with her went Eros, and comely Desire followed her at her birth at the first and as she went into the assembly of the gods. This honor she has from the beginning, and this is the portion allotted to her amongst men and undying gods,— the whisperings of maidens and smiles and deceits with sweet delight and love and graciousness.”
Aphrodite’s birth is not the only myth linked with Petra tou Romiou. In English translation, Petra tou Romiou means the “Rock of the Greek,” and it connects to the epic hero Basil, called “Digenes Akritas.” Digenes Akritas means “Two-Blood Border Lord,” which refers to his mixed Byzantine-Cappadocian Greek and Arab blood. According to this legend, Basil threw the rock into the sea to destroy Arab ships during a raid by the Saracens looking to take over the island.
As fascinating as these legends may be, nothing compares to the vision of the rock emerging from the foamy sea in Kouklia, on the way from Paphos to Limassol. The beach at Petra tou Romiou is one of the most popular tourist landmarks in Cyprus, attracting thousands of visitors year-round. For those who believe in Greek legends, swimming three times around Aphrodite’s Rock secures everlasting love. The breathtaking landscapes surrounding Petra tou Romiou are a mesmerizing sight too. It’s worth to take your camera to capture a memento of your visit. As soon as you see this spot in real life, you will understand why so many couples choose it for wedding photography.
The beach at Petra tou Romiou is pebbly, which keeps the water sparkling clean. It attracts mainly foreign tourists from Germany, United Kingdom, Russia, and the Netherlands, although it is not uncommon to find some of the locals splashing around in the sea around the rock too. There are no facilities of any kind on the beach so come prepared.