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Cyrene(sīrē`nē), ancient city near the northern coast of Africa, in CyrenaicaCyrenaica
, historic region, E Libya, bordering on the Mediterranean Sea. Benghazi, Al Marj, Darnah, and Tobruk are the chief cities. The Greeks colonized N Cyrenaica in the 7th cent. B.C., founding numerous settlements. In the mid-1st cent. B.C.
..... Click the link for more information. (now E Libya). It was a Greek colony founded (c.630 B.C.) by Aristoteles of Thera, who became king of Cyrene as Battus. For eight generations the monarchs were alternately named Battus and Arcesilas. Having important commerce with Greece, the little city-state flourished. Other cities were founded in Cyrenaica, notably Barca, but Cyrene retained power. In the late 6th cent. Cyrene submitted to the Persians under Cambyses II (see under CambysesCambyses
, two kings of the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia. Cambyses I was king (c.600 B.C.) of Ansham, ruling as a vassal of Media. According to Herodotus he married the daughter of the Median king Astyages; some scholars dispute this. Cambyses' son was Cyrus the Great.
..... Click the link for more information. ), but later (after 480 B.C.) became independent again. Although the city became subject to Alexander the Great in 331 and was later practically annexed by the Ptolemies of Egypt, it seems to have had nominal independence until the marriage of BereniceBerenice,
c.273–21 B.C., queen of ancient Cyrene and Egypt. She was the daughter and successor of King Magas of Cyrene. In 247 B.C. she married Ptolemy III, thereby effectively annexing Cyrene to Egypt.
..... Click the link for more information. (d. 221), daughter of Cyrene's king, to Ptolemy IIIPtolemy III
(Ptolemy Euergetes) , d. 221 B.C., king of ancient Egypt (246–221 B.C.), of the Macedonian dynasty, son of Ptolemy II and the first Arsinoë. He plunged immediately into a war with Syria, where his sister, Berenice, was trying to secure the throne for her
..... Click the link for more information. . Cyrene remained part of the Ptolemaic kingdom until 96 B.C. It was later the center of a Roman province. Under the Roman emperor Trajan there were Jewish uprisings, which were severely punished, and Cyrene declined. At its prime Cyrene was a large and beautiful city and an intellectual center noted for its schools of medicine and philosophy. AristippusAristippus
, c.435–c.360 B.C., Greek philosopher of Cyrene, first of the Cyrenaics. He held pleasure to be the highest good and virtue to be identical with the ability to enjoy.
..... Click the link for more information. , CallimachusCallimachus,
fl. c.280–45 B.C., Hellenistic Greek poet and critic, b. Cyrene. Educated at Athens, he taught before obtaining work in the Alexandrian library. There he drew up a catalog, with such copious notes that it constituted a full literary history.
..... Click the link for more information. , EratosthenesEratosthenes
, c.275–c.195 B.C., Greek scholar, b. Cyrene. A pupil of Callimachus in Athens, he became (c.240 B.C.) head of the library at Alexandria. Known for his versatility, he wrote poetry and works (most of them lost) on literature, the theater (notably on ancient
..... Click the link for more information. , and Synesius were born here. Extensive ruins include the temple of Apollo (dating from the 7th cent. B.C.), the agora, the capitol, the acropolis, and the theater.
(now Shahhat, Libya), an ancient city 15 km from the Mediterranean coast, chief center of Cyrenaica. It was founded circa 630 B.C. by Greek settlers from the island of Thera; later its population became mixed Greek and Libyan. Until 460 it was ruled by the royal dynasty of the Battiadae, whereupon a slave-holding democracy was established. Circa 331 the city was conquered by Alexander the Great, and in 322 it became part of the empire of the Ptolemies. Beginning in 96 B.C. it was under Roman rule.
Cyrene was one of the major commercial and cultural centers of the classical world. It was important for the export of the Cyrenaican vases, grain, wine, fruits, and especially silphium, a medicinal plant. During the fourth and fifth centuries A.D., however, the city began to decline in importance, and in the seventh century it was destroyed by the Arabs.
Excavations conducted in the 20th century have revealed the remains of several ancient structures, including the complexes of the acropolis, the capitolium, the Caesareum, and agora; the temples of Apollo (late seventh century B.C., rebuilt in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., second century A.D., and later), Artemis (sixth century B.C.), and Olympian Zeus; large and small thermae (first and second centuries A.D.); and a theater. Outside the city walls is a Christian basilica of the Byzantine era. Also discovered were ceramic items and stone sculptures. There is an archaeological museum.
REFERENCESOliverio, G. Scavi di drene. Bergamo, 1931.
Chamoux, F. Cyrène sous la monarchie des Battiades. Paris, 1954.
Goodchild, R. G. Cyrene and Apollonia. [No place] 1959.