The History of Idalion
A View of the East Acropolis from the West Acropolis Looking across the Road to Ancient Kition
During the first millennium BCE there were 10 City Kingdoms on the island of Cyprus. The economy of the island was based on international trade, particularly in copper. The inland city kingdoms, including Idalion, controlled the mining and refining of copper, while the coastal cities controlled the shipping.
At the beginning of the 7th century BCE, Idalion was listed as first among the city kingdoms on the stele of the Assyrian emperor, Esarhaddon. Excavation over the past half century has revealed the remarkable size, prosperity, and complexity of the ancient city. When the island of Cyprus eventually fell under the sway of the Hellenistic rulers, trade was centralized and streamlined, and the city of ancient Ledra to the north (modern-day Nicosia) became the single most important inland urban center. Idalion appears to have dwindled to an industrial and agricultural adjuncts to the Hellenistic trading economy. It was apparently a way-station between ancient Kition (modern Larnaca) and Ledra. Copper was now processed on the platform where earlier, massive administrative “palaces” once stood. The city walls fell into disrepair, and the once-mighty city became a market town of moderate size during the Roman period.
Over the succeeding Middle Ages, the once thriving town stopped processing copper and became one among many sizable agricultural villages. It became known as “Dhali,” a recognizable shortening of the former proud city name. It remained a prosperous village specializing in dairy products until the 1970’s, when a massive super-highway nearby made the sleepy village accessible to the capital, Nicosia, 12 miles away. Dhali is now a thriving suburban town center, and offers excavators all the amenities of restaurants, shops, and easy access to travel that one expects of any such town in the EU.