The ‘Tombs of the Kings’ is the splendid necropolis that is located just outside the walls, to the north and east of Pafos town. It was built during the Hellenistic period (3rd century B.C.) to satisfy the needs of the newly founded Nea Paphos. Its name is not connected with the burial of kings, as the royal institution was abolished in 312 B.C., but rather with the impressive character of its burial monuments. The ‘Tombs of the Kings’ was the place where the higher administrative officers and distinguished Ptolemaic personalities as well as the members of their families were buried. The necropolis was continuously used as a burial area during the Hellenistic and Roman periods (3rd century B.C.-beginning of 4th century A.D.). There is sufficient evidence to support the fact that the first Christians also used the site for their burials, while at the same time the site constituted an endless quarry. Squatters established themselves in some of the tombs during the Medieval period and made alterations to the original architecture.
The existence of the site was already known from the end of the 19th century by Cesnola, who severely looted the tombs. In 1915-16 the then curator of the Cyprus Museum, Markides excavated some shaft tombs, while the honorary curator of Paphos Museum Loizos Philippou started clearance work in a few other tombs in 1937. But it was in 1977 that systematic excavations were undertaken by the Department of Antiquities, which brought to light eight large tomb complexes.
Most of the tombs are characterised by an underground, open aired, peristyled rectangular atrium completely carved into the natural rock. Columns or pillars of the Doric style supported the porticoes, which surrounded the atrium. The burial chambers and the loculi for single burials were dug into the portico walls. It seems that the walls were originally covered with frescoes although today only small fragments are preserved. The tombs’ architectural characteristics directly relate them to Hellenistic prototypes from Alexandria, Delos, Pergamon and Priene.