The Great Goddess of Cyprus

More than 500 people turned out at the Filoxenia Conference Centre on Monday night to give tribute to Stavros Papageorgiou’s new documentary but perhaps also prove the awe that we, as residents of Aphrodite’s island, pay to the goddess’ legacy.

Papageorgiou’s most recent work attempts to depict the evolution of Aphrodite on the island; from when the worship of fertility first appeared in the Chalcolithic period up until Roman times when the goddess is said to have changed form or begun to bear influences from surrounding areas; the East, Syria, Babylonia and the Aegean basin in general.

As the first documentary film on the goddess in the world, it’s warming to hear that the challenge was undertaken by a Cypriot producer and director.

Yet, as he will admit, it’s through years of research and with the support of Dr Jacqueline Karageorghis, the scientific consultant of the documentary, that the subject matter was handled.

“We’re talking about the most well- known goddess of the ancient Greek civilisation,” says Papageorgiou, while pointing to a lack of interest in portraying any aspect of the Goddess, without denying the complex subject matter.

“In 1976, a BBC producer came to Cyprus, two years after the war, and asked for funding from the president of Cyprus to do a documentary on the goddess.

At the time, Archbishop Makarios was dealing with the aftermath of the war and declined the request,” reveals Papageorgiou.

Little did Papageorgiou know that, 38 years later, he would himself be the first to deal with Aphrodite’s legacy on camera, a documentary film which was preceded by a concrete collection of works (films) which have been pro- duced under Stavros’ platform known as Tetraktys Production Company.

The story behind Tetraktys
Twenty years ago, Papageorgiou founded ‘Tetraktys’ in order to build a platform in which he could create. “I had been working for a TV station (Logos) which I felt wasn’t what interested me,” begins Papageorgiou, without denying the benefits of be- ginning one’s career in such an environment.
It was the lack of creative opportunities within such settings however that drove him to seek out projects which represented him but also created a place where other, like-mind- ed people could join in and collaborate.

This initiative has resulted in numerous film productions, films for which Papageorgiou has taken on the director’s or producer’s role or at times both.

These have always placed Cyprus at the centre of the thematology while seeking to disseminate knowledge. Whether this is done through fiction genres or documentaries, Papageorgiou is determined to contribute to education.

Looking back at the works Papageorgiou holds under his wing, we move in and out of talking about the documentaries he has produced, their philosophies, the myths he has attempted to unravel, the history he has touched upon, the people he has met.

Some of these include a documentary on renowned Cyprus fine artist Telemachos Kanthos on 35mm film, another about the writers of Cyprus, as well as ‘Cyprus on the Silk Routes’, a documentary which looked at the importance silk had in the history of Cyprus, to name a few.

The road to The Great Goddess of Cyprus
One of his commissioned films was a travel documentary. An initiative of Yeroskipou Municipality, it features nine towns – five from Cyprus, two from Greece, and one each from Malta and Italy – and their relation to the myth of Aphrodite, either because they host monuments and temples or because of locales with a mythological link to the goddess.

“This was perhaps the start for my documentary (on Aphrodite),” reveals Papageorgiou. “This is how the re- search began. I went to Greece, I went to Malta where it was not Aphrodite who was cherished but Astarte, a goddess closely related to Aphrodite. I travelled around Cyprus, I went to Larnaca where Ancient Kition is found, to Paphos; Yeroskipou and Kouklia, Polis Chrysochous, Morphou where Aphrodite was also worshipped and I began understanding that there was material for more in-depth research,” adds Papageorgiou. Simultaneously, Papageorgiou began another documentary which focused on the archaeo-astronomical dimensions of ancient monuments in Cyprus, “based on the research of Grigoriades who had found that two temples of Aphrodite and one of Apollon created an isosceles triangle, while the temples location was in relation with the solstice,” explains Papageorgiou.

A chance meeting with Karageorghis after she published her own work on Aphrodite, the financial support of the Ministry of Education and Culture, as well as the material Papageorgiou had collected through the years sparked a collaboration which gave an avenue for Papageorgiou to pursue his vision.

As Karageorghis explained in her speech at the premiere, “My own research may have contributed to a better perception of the Goddess of Cyprus, but just re- search is not enough anymore. The only way to create a wider interest is to present a topic through contem- porary information media. And here is when the cinematographer appears, who knows how to combine the researched information with the magic of image, particularly when he is passionate about the topic he presents.”

Finding the plot
“At the time, I imagined I would include all aspects of Aphrodite, not just the archaeological and historical ones, but also the oral and artistic tradition of the goddess and the arts,” Papageorgiou reflects. “Talking about how contemporary man understands the goddess nowadays and especially women also interests me.”

It was experiences such as his participation at an international congress on Aphrodite at the University of Reading in England which moved things along even further.

“I filmed on location; I watched presentations from people from all over the world who each specialised in Aphrodite. This was a treasure for me, the elite of specialised people on the matter were all gathered in one place,” he adds.

It wasn’t until the editing phase that Papageorgiou realised the amount of footage he had collected; some 400 hours. This demanded a more specific approach, a thematic one which due to Jacqueline’s expertise on the matter, could only be one: The Worship of the Great Goddess in Cyprus, from the Chalcolithic Period to the Roman Era.

After “The Great Goddess of Cyprus’” premiere, the documentary is scheduled to be screened around the island beginning with its first official screening at the University of Nicosia as part of the screenings organised by the Friends of Cinema Society, with English subtitles on December 15.

In early 2015, the documentary will be made into English.
For more information visit www.tetraktys-

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About Melissa Hekkers

I am freelance journalist and author, who has frequently been featured in mainstream news outlets and other publications in Cyprus. Recently, I've been focusing on developing my writing, promoting my own books and teaching creative writing to children and adults. My most recent publication (2020) - Amir's Blue Elephant- pushes the boundaries of creative non-fiction, and recreates the moments that marked me the most, whilst volunteering in refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece, and during her ongoing involvement with the refugee community in Cyprus. In 2018 I published My Capre Greco Mandala which is the third in a series, an interactive colouring book about the biodiversity of the Cape Greco peninsula in Cyprus. My Akamas Mandala, the second in the series, is a colouring book inspired by the variety of endemic plants found on the Akamas Peninsula. In 2016, I published My Nicosia Mandala, the first of the above series, an innovative, interactive colouring book about the historic fortifications of the old town of Nicosia. I also focuses on silenced communities in Cyprus: I writes about migrants and refugees, both as a reporter and a features writer; I profile them and teach them creative writing skills. In 2007, soon after graduating with a Communications degree, I published my first children’s book in both English and Greek entitled Crocodile, which won the Cyprus State Illustration Award. In 2012, I launched my second children’s book Flying across Red Skies (in English and Greek), using an experimental approach to literature, for which I was nominated for the Cyprus State Literary award. My third, similarly well-received children’s book was Pupa (Greek and English), published in 2014. In between the last two books, I published my first free-verse poetry book entitled Come-forth. In 2019 she was contributing author to the anthology Nicosia Beyond Barriers: Voices from a Divided City, published by Saqi Books, London