History – Establishment of the Municipality
The history of Athienou has the same duration as Hellenism in Cyprus.
Seeking the principles of its existence, somebody reaches the first Greeks who arrived in Cyprus more than 3,000 years ago and established the first Greek kingdoms on the island. Among the ancient kingdoms was the Kingdom of Golgoi.
Theocritus, already in the 3rd century BC refers to Golgoi, saying that it is a city of Cyprus that took its name from Golgos, son of Adonis and Aphrodite. Golgoi became known pan-Hellenicly by the worship of Aphrodite, who was honored there before her worship was introduced to Paphos.
Athienou today is situated a little further south than the ancient Golgoi and it seems to have been named since the early years of the Frankish occupation, but this is not clear where it came from.
Athienou is one of the most ancient municipalities in Cyprus, been a Municipality since 1926.
Athienou is located south of the Mesaoria plain. During the Ottoman domination, it was a road junction, in the middle of the road connecting the port of Larnaca with the capital Nicosia. Taking advantage of this advantageous position, many Athienou people served the profitable profession of kiratzi (dagger, muller) by transporting people and merchandise with mules not only in the aforementioned cities but also in various other parts of Cyprus. During the Ottoman domination (1571 – 1878), most Europeans who traveled to Cyprus and wrote about it used kiratsis of Athienou during their tours along the island. The kiratsis contributed significantly to the development of Athienou.
Excavations made by the Jewish Archaeological Mission showed that the Athienou area was inhabited at least since the 14th century BC. In the 12th century, Achaioi from the city of Sikyona of Peloponnissos, Greece, established a colony in the area. Their leader was the Golgos, who gave his name to the city. The ruins of the fortified town of Golgoi are one kilometer north of Athienou. Golgoi experienced their greatest prosperity in the classical period (5th and 4th centuries BC). The most important cause of their acne was the existence in the area of the sanctuary of Aphrodite Golgia with a pan-Hellenic reputation. It is even more likely that the goddess Goghia was the one who gave the name to the city. The city was destroyed during the Hellenistic period (294-58 BC) after its siege and occupation by Ptolemy I at the end of the 4th or the beginning of the 3rd century BC. The settlement continued to exist during the period of Roman rule (58 BC – 330 or 395 AD) and during the Byzantine period (330 or 395-1191 AD), unknown by what name. The name Athienou is mentioned for the first time in the chronicle of the Cypriot chronographer Leontios Machairas, who lived between 1360 and 1450 AD, during the Frankish rule (1192 – 1489). The name Athienou has remained unchanged till today, although on Venetian maps it is noted corrupted as Atirna. The Turks named Athienou Kirakitzikioyiou, a village of kiratsis (daggers, mullers).
During the last years of Ottoman rule, Athienou was administratively owned by Famagusta’s kassa or chalet (district) of Famagusta and in the nahieh (nahieh=sub-administration, territory) of Mesaoria. This was the case and during the first decade of the British occupation, while Athienou was then under Nicosia and the territory Deyirmenlik or Kythrea. Since 1927 Athienou belongs to the district of Larnaca.
In 1926 Athienou became a Municipal town. At the request of its inhabitants, the municipality was abolished in 1935, but it was re-established in 1948. Since then, it has been operating unceasingly and it is an extremely important factor in the development of Athienou.
Today’s Athienou seems to have this name since the early years of the Frankish rule, but it is not clear where this came from. Many argue that the name Athienou came from the word “atta” or “atha”, which means great stone, and which indicated the stony ground in the area of the village. Others claim that the name was given to the village by a few residents of Athens, Greece, who came and lived in the area to remember their home town. Others claim the name to a Lusignian named Etienne, who owned a great part of the land in the area and people said “we go to Etiennou.” Slowly slowly this became ” to Athienou”.
It is a fact that Leontios Machairas, since the 13th century, refers to Athienou with its well-known name. Writing for the saints of Cyprus, Leontios Machairas states: “………… Saint Photios near Athienou …”.
During the English nomination (1878-1960), Athienou lost its privileged position, because Nicosia and Larnaca were connected with a new road passing through Pyroi and Koshi. A secondary road linked Athienou with the Nicosia – Larnaca road at a point near Pyroi. Through Pyroi the distance of Athienou to Nicosia was 13 miles (21km) and Athienou – Larnaca 16 miles (26km). After the capture of the Piroi by the Turkish troops in August 1974, Athienou was communicating with Nicosia with a new road, which was linked to the road Lympia – Dhali – Nicosia. Through this road the distance of Athienou to Nicosia is 35 km, while the distance to Larnaca via Koshi is 27 km. Since 1989 Athienou has been communicating with Nicosia and Larnaca via a four-lane highway, with which a secondary road is connected from Athienou to a point near Lympia. Via the four-lane motorway, the distance of Athienou to Nicosia is 38 km. For Larnaca the connection to the motorway is near Koshi and the distance is 33 km. Since 2003, Athienou has been linked to Larnaca via a road passing through Avdellero and joining near Aradippou by the Larnaca motorway – the tourist area of Ayia Napa and Paralimni.
A road east of Athienou connects it to the Turkish village of Melousia (3,5 km away) and from there to the mixed villages of Tremetousia and Arsos and the Greek Lysi, where it joins to the old Nicosia – Famagusta road. At the north of Athienou is the Turkish village of Agia (3 km distance) and the Greek Tymbou (5 km distance), with a slight deviation to the east the first and to the west the second. Their connection with Athienou was made by dirt roads. Northwest of Athienou is the mixed village Pyroi (6 km away) and 1 kilometer further the Markos. Southwest of Athienou is the Turkish village of Petrofani (3 km away) and 2 km further is the archaeological site of Malloura. Just south of Athienou is the Greek village of Avdellero (6 km) and southeast the Greek village Troulloi (7 km). The old road of Athienou – Avdellero was asphalted in 2003, while the one to Troulloi remained for coaches.
Reference and Special Interest Points
The traditional center of Athienou retains the features of the medieval architectural heritage. The policy of preservation and revival in the traditional center and more generally in the municipal area was the basic aim of the Municipality of Athienou, despite all the interventions, the new additions and the wear and tear over time.
The Municipality of Athienou, with the main aim of implementing a policy of preservation and revival of the traditional center and of the wider region, proceeded with the purchase of remarkable and serious architectural value, as well as significant historical reference, buildings, with the aim of transforming them into preservatives, highlighting the traditional local architectural heritage and culture. Some of these, which are of special interest, are the following.
- Father’s house of famous monk Kallinikos Stavrovouniotis and Cheese House. Here takes place the presentation of the traditional halloumi preparation.
- House of George and Fotini Pougerasi. It has been rented to individuals and operates as a hostel and cafeteria, under the name “Athieno”.
- Traditional Flour Mill. Here takes place a presentation of traditional bread making.
- An old coffee shop that operates as a Youth Multicultural Center.
- Also, in cooperation with the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, the old “Hani”, a remarkable building of the past, has been restored.
Other remarkable points of reference and of special interest are:
- The archaeological site of Malloura, with excavated graves and more.
- The Kallinikeio Municipal Museum, a remarkable museum with ancient finds of Golgoi and Malloura, a Byzantine collection of icons by the famous monk and icon-painter Kallinikos Monachos and many others. The Museum is housed in the same building of the imposing Kallinikeio Municipal Hall.
- The churches of Athienou. The old church of the Virgin Mary of Chryseleoussis of 1711, declared an ancient monument, the entirely icon painted on roof and walls new church of Virgin Mary of Chryseleoussis, which includes the Slipper of Saint Spyridon and the bones of the patron saint of Athienou, Saint Fokas, the old churches of Saint Phokas and Saint George and others.
- The excellent Constantineio Municipal Park.
Elements of Athienou in the National Catalog of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Cyprus
The Municipality of Athienou and the Kallinikeio Municipal Museum of Athienou, after research and collaboration with various local actors, have so far achieved the inclusion of three elements in the National Catalog of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Cyprus. The elements are: “Venis laces” or “pittotes” and Athienou lace full of lace (2015), “The tradition of bakery in Athienou” (2018) and “The Feast of Saint Fokas in Athienou” (2018).
Also, for the year 2018, the UNESCO National Committee of Cyprus, in accordance with a decision of the Special Committee on the Intangible Cultural Heritage, approved the “Athienou Loukkoumi of Wedding” to be included in the “Customs of the traditional Cypriot marriage” already registered in the National Catalog.
- Volunteerism is booming in Athienou. The City has been approved as a Best Practice City, within the framework of the European URBACT Program, and has been approved as a Lead Partner in a Transfer Network for transferring its Good Practice in 7 other European cities.
- At the beginning of October of each year, Constantineio Municipal Park is hosting the Pancyprian Festival of Athienou Products, where all the Athienou products are presented (dairy products, bread, trachanas, sweets, eggs, ofto of Athienou, feast items, Athienou nuts, spoon sweets, liqueurs, traditional embroidery, etc). During the festival takes place a representation of the production of halloumi, spoon sweet of almond and the Athienou bread, and this is enriched with exceptional artistic activities.