Temple to Aphrodite at Paphos was one of the most famous religious centres
of the Greek and Roman worlds because of its antiquity and fabulous wealth.
There were other sanctuaries dedicated to Aphrodite but Paphos was unique
as the birthplace of the goddess. The oldest structures, found on the
same site as the Roman sanctuary, date back to the Late Bronze Age on
Cyprus. There was unbroken continuity of cult from that time until 391
AD when the Roman Emperor Theodosius I outlawed all pagan religions and
the sanctuary fell into the ruins in which we find it today. The cult
at the sanctuary blended Aegean and Oriental ritual. Cypriots worshipped
a fertility deity at Paphos and on Cyprus in general before the arrival
of the Greeks or the Romans and perhaps this explains the association
of the Greek goddess of love and fertility with the island. The Ashmolean
collections offer illustration of the long tradition of female figurines
and fertility deities associated with Cyprus, even before the founding
of a sanctuary at Paphos.