The earliest archaeological finds go back to the 11th century BC (Late Bronze Age III). Children's burials in Canaanite jars indicate a Phoenician presence. A harbour and a cemetery from this period have been excavated. The town is mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions as one of the kingdoms of Ia'. The first coins were minted in the 6th century BC, following Persian prototypes.
In 450 BC Salamis was the site of a simultaneous land and sea battle between Athens and the Persians. (This is not to be confused with the earlier Battle of Salamis in 480 BC between the Greeks and the Persians at Salamis in Attica.)
The most important ruler of the kingdom of Salamis was Evagoras (410–374 BCE), who became ruler of the whole island, and won its independence from the Persian Empire. Salamis was afterwards besieged and conquered by Artaxerxes III.
After Alexander the Great destroyed the Persian Empire, Ptolemy I of Egypt ruled the island of Cyprus. He forced the last king of Salamis, Nicocreon, who had been the Ptolemaic governor of the island, to commit suicide in 311 BC, because he did not trust him any more. Nicocreon is supposed to be buried in one of the big tumuli near Engomi. Salamis remained seat of the governor.
In Roman times, Salamis was part of the Roman province of Cilicia. The seat of the governor was relocated to Paphos. The town suffered heavily during the Jewish rising of AD 116/117. Several earthquakes led to the destruction of Salamis at the beginning of the 4th century. The town was rebuilt under the name of Constantia by Constantine II (337-361 AD) and became Episcopal seat. The silting of the harbour led to a gradual decline of the town. Salamis was finally abandoned during the Arab invasions of the 7th century AD after destructions by Muawija. The inhabitants moved to Arsinoë (Ammochostos).
Most of the extant ruins date to the Roman period. There are very extensive ruins. The amphitheatre, and the gymnasium have been extensively restored. Numerous statues are displayed in the central court of the gymnasium most of which are headless, destroyed by Christians. While a statue of Augustus originally belonged here, some columns and statues originally adorned the theatre and were only brought here after an earthquake in the 4th century. The theatre is of Augustean date. It could house up to 15.000 spectators. It was destroyed in the 4th century.
There are baths, public latrines (for 44 users), various little bits of mosaic, a harbour wall, a Hellenistic and Roman agora and a temple of Zeus that had the right to grant asylum. Byzantine remains include the basilica of Bishop Epiphanos (AD 367–403). It served as the metropolitan church of Salamis. St. Epiphanos is buried at the southern apse. The church contains a baptistry heated by hypocausts. The church was destroyed in the 7th century and replaced by a smaller building to the south. The town was supplied with water by an aquaeduct from Kythrea, destroyed in the 7th century. The water was collected in a large cistern near the Agora.
The necropolis of Salamis covers ca. 7 km² to the west of the town. It contains a museum showing some of the finds. Burials date from the geometric to the Hellenistic period. The best known burials are the so-called Royal-Tombs, containing chariots and extremely rich grave gifts, including imports from Egypt and Syria.
- Vassos Karageorghis, Salamis in Cyprus, Homeric, Hellenistic and Roman (1969), ISBN 0500390061.