"Cyrene" Shahhat by grets

Shahhat Travel Guide: 47 reviews and 115 photos

Following the instructions of the Oracle at Delphi, Aristotle, later known as Battus, left Thera (now Santorini) with a small band of around 100 settlers in the 7th century BC. There were two reasons for their journey, firstly an internal power struggle on Thera, secondly the island was beginning to suffer from overcrowding.

On arrival at Derna, Battus was dissatisfied with the conditions and moved to current Cyrene in 631BC with the help of the cunning Giligami tribe, who led him to an eroded river valley in Jebal Akhdar occupied by a different tribe. The surrounding gorge walls protected the city from desert winds, and a spring ensured the fertility of the ground. Battus made Cyrene the capital of his kingdom Cyrenaica and the citadel saw the creation of temples, markets, dwellings and tombs. It became a thriving community with its medicinal plants and horses being renowned throughout the region. Coins were formed here from its plentiful precious metals often featuring Cyrenaica’s greatest export, the medicinal herb silphium. Unfortunately the plant was harvested to extinction.

Battus ruled for 40 years as more and more settlers arrived from Greece and close relations between the Greeks and the Libyans were forged, including a few generations of intermarriage. Its early history was a volatile one, characterised by murder and conflict among the ruling families. Cyrene fought two battles in its early days; one war was launched against the native Libyans, while the other hostilities were against Carthage. Reconciliation was achieved and peace returned to the people. Another eight kings followed during Battus’ dynasty, until year 440BC with monarchs alternately names Battus and Arcesilas. Cyrene was considered at the time to be one of the greatest cities in the Greek world, next only to Athens in importance, and an eminent cultural centre with its own school of philosophers. Pindar, the ancient Greek poet, described it in one of his odes as ''the city built on a gold crown". Aristippus, Callimachus, Eratosthenes, and Synesius were born here.

In the late 6th cent. Cyrene submitted to the Persians under Cambyses II but around 480BC it became independent again.

Alexander the Great took over command of Cyrene in 331BC, and when his empire collapsed, Pentapolis (the five cities of Barce, Tocra, Ptolemais, Apollonia and Cyrene) became essentially autonomous. It remained independent for a while, even under Ptolemy I’s stepson Magas, who broke free from the Ptolemies of Egypt. Later it was incorporated into Egypt again and once more ruled by the Ptolemies dynasty. In 96BC, Pentapolis was bequeathed to the Romans and became an important Roman capital.

Whereas under Egyptian rule, Jews had enjoyed equal rights, once the city became a Roman province, the citizens of Cyrene were divided into four classes: citizens, farmers, resident overseas nationals and lastly the Jews, whose minority group now felt that they were being oppressed by the Greek inhabitants.

After the Jewish revolt of AD115 -117 where 200,000 Romans and Greeks were killed, and the subsequent destruction of Cyrene, Emperor Hadrian sought to rebuild the city and the city of Cyrene again prospered. Two devastating earthquakes, in AD262 and AD365, contributed to the decline of Cyrene; and it was unable to resist the Islamic invasion in AD643.

The remains that are visible today are mostly from the Roman period, but the layout is Hellenic. There is a large necropolis approximately 10 km² between Cyrene and its ancient port of Apollonia.

  • Last visit to Shahhat: Feb 2005
  • Intro Written Mar 12, 2005
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Reviews (41)

Comments (5)

  • VideoDave's Profile Photo
    Jun 23, 2005 at 7:00 AM

    You've put an awful lot of work into the information here - very interesting page. :-)

  • Sirvictor's Profile Photo
    May 8, 2005 at 11:20 AM

    Hello Grete have a look at my Silifke page forThe 3 graces.

  • sachara's Profile Photo
    Apr 7, 2005 at 12:07 PM

    Interesting and informative page, tips and travelogues, Grete. A pity I have to wait 11 months before I will go there (during the eclips in March 2006).

  • freya_heaven's Profile Photo
    Mar 24, 2005 at 11:58 PM

    Fascinating stuff Grete! I love learning about the lives of the ancient gods, although I quite often get Greek & Roman mixed up! I would love this place, you have done a really great job, wonderful photos to, thank you! (~_~)

  • kyoub's Profile Photo
    Mar 17, 2005 at 6:18 PM

    Very interesting page, Grete. Thanks for sharing. The bathhouses looked like they would have been enjoyable.


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