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"Cyrene" Libya Things to Do Tip by grets

Libya Things to Do: 206 reviews and 690 photos

by grets

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.
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.

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.

For more information, see my Cyrene page.


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  • Updated Apr 11, 2005
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