Kyrene (Cyrene) and the Cyrenaica
Cyrenaica 's coast was visited by Cretan fishermen in the 7th century, and the Greeks soon became aware that it was the only area in North Africa still available for colonization. A severe overpopulation on the small Cyclades island of Thera (Santorini) led to the foundation of Cyrene c.630) as a colony of the Thera on a site within easy reach of the sea, well watered, and in the fertile foothills of the Mountains. The first colonists settled at an island called Platea in front of the Libyan coast (modern Bomba). Later, they occupied a coastal strip called Aziris, and finally, after concluding a treaty with the native Libyans, they founded the town of Cyrene .
According to Greek mythology, Cyrene (Kyrene) was the daughter of the naiad Creusa and the mortal Hypseus, king of the Lapiths. Apollo fell in love with her and took her to Africa , where he built her a city (called Cyrene ), in the region that came to be known as Cyrenaica in eastern Libya . Herodotus tells a slightly different tale regarding the founding of Cyrene (or modern Shahat) circa 630 BC. According to the Histories, Grinus of Thera received a oracle at Delphi that Thera should found a colony in Libya . No notice was taken by the Therans of the oracle, until their island was afflicted with seven years of terrible drought. A visit to Delphi to determine the cause of their woes produced the advice that "that if they and Battus would make a settlement at Cyrene in Libya , things would go better with them."
Not knowing quite where Libya was, the Theran elders searched far and wide for a guide, finally finding a cloth merchant who offered to lead them to the island of Platea off the Libyan coast. After reconnoitering the island, the advance party returned to Thera where the elders drafted colonists by lots and put them under the command of Battus and equipped them with two penteconters. Not long after setting out, the would-be colonists attempted to return to Thera, but were driven off with showers of missiles. They eventually settled on Platea, but the drought continued in Thera and another oracle chided the Therans for not establishing their settlement on the mainland of Libya . This they finally did, convincing Battus and the Therans on Platea to shift the colony to Aziris on the Libyan mainland, where they struggled for six years. Finally, the native Libyans led the Theran colonists to the west, across the rich district of Irasa in the dead of night, to a high plateau on the upper slopes of Jabal Al-Akhdar, overlooking the sea. Here there was a spring, dedicated to Apollo, which was named Cyre (Kyre).
According to the Cyrenaeans (Herod. iv. 150-156), Battus, having an impediment in his speech, consulted the oracle at Delphi , and was told to found a colony in Libya ; according to the Theraeans, Battus was entrusted with this mission by their aged king Grinus. In another version, there was civil war in Thera; Battus, leader of one party, was banished, and, on applying to the oracle, was recommended to take out a colony to the continent (Schol. Pindar, Pyth. iv. 10). In any case the foundation is attributed to the direct instructions of Apollo. The name was connected by some with f3arrapi~w, ( stammer ), but Herodotus (iv. 155) says that it was the Libyan word for king, that Battus was not called by the name until after his arrival at Libya, and that the oracle addressed him as Battus by anticipation. This, however, would imply on the part of the oracle a knowledge of Libya , which was not shared by the rest of Greece (Herod. i.e.), and it is noteworthy that the name occurs in Arcadian and Messenian legends. Herodotus does not know his real name, but Pindar (Pyth. v. 116), no doubt rightly, calls the founder of the colony Aristoteles, while Justin (xiii. 7) gives his name as Aristaeus who was worshipped at Cyrene . Tradition held that Aristotle of Thera and his two hundred companions settled by "a hole in the sky," by which the guides meant a place of abundant rainfall.
Archeology in the area seem to suggest a third reason for the orgin of Cyrene . The question that is not answered in the other two accounts is what motivated the Greeks to land in an area unsuitable to agriculture. Recent escavations in Cyrene seem to indicate that Greeks were frequenting the area for some time before the founding of Cyrene . At around the same time that Egypt was under going considerable turmoil. The Assyrians had invaded in 671BC with some of the populations fleeing south along the nile and parts of Egypt falling into foreign hands. Causing major distruption of trade along the nile and forcing the link between the Sudan and the Mediterranean to move westward following the oasis. From Herodotus account, Battus spent 2 years on the island of Platea and 6 years at Aziris before founding Cyrene to the west. Battus was not alone in his founding of Cyrene he was accompanied by Corobius (the pilot), the Samian Colaeus, the Spartan Chionis (a merchant) and the Lindians. Together the evidence seems to suggest that the Greeks intended to build a commercial station and not an agriculture colony. The first oracle also made not mention of farming. It was only the secound later oracle the mentions the potential for farming sheep.
The early importance of Ammon can the also be explained if the overland caravans ended at Cyrene , the closest point on Africa to Crete . The rapid growth and prosperity of Cyrene is thus easily explained and the attempts and failures of Egypt to invade Cyrene only 60 years afters its founding.
For some time friendly relations existed with the local peoples, and there was more intermarriage with non-Greek women than was usual in Greek colonies. Later, during the reign of Battus II, the oracle at Delphi encouraged the migration of Greeks to Cyrene and new settlers were invited from the homeland. They received Libyan land, which caused great resentment. The Libyan king Adicran appealed to Egypt for aid, prompting the Pharoah Apries to lead a large army against Cyrene , blissfully ignorant of the military prowess of Greek hoplites. The Cyrenaeans soundly defeated Apries,
"Apries, who collected a strong force sent it against Cyrene . The
Cyreneans took the field and, marching to the `Well of Thestis in
Irsa', engaged and defeated the Egyptian army. This severe defeat
- so severe that few of them returned home alive - was doubtless
due to the fact that the Egyptians had had no previous experience
of Greek fighting and were not prepared to treat it seriously.
Apries' subjects blamed him personally for this disastrous campaign,
and it was the reason for their rebellion against him."
[Herodotus, Bk. IV, Sec. 159]
And his defeat prompted an Egyptian revolt in 570 BC. The Egyptian army on the Libyan front mutinied. Apries sent Amasis (Ahmose), the general, to win over the rebels. Instead, Amasis himself was persuaded by the army to become king. Apries sent his vizier to arrest Amasis, and through him Amasis replied that he would come with his men. Apries cut off the nose and ears of his vizier for bringing this message. Because of this deed the people of the capital* became hostile to the king, Apries had to fight his own army, and he could not depend on his own bodyguard of Carians and Ionians, descendants of the mercenaries settled in Egypt by Seti, also known as Psammetich, and Ramses II, also known as Necho.
Meanwhile, Cyrene had established other Greek cities in the area-Barce
(al-Marj), Taucheira (Tukrah), and Euhesperides (Banghazi), all of which were
independent of their founding city. During the 6th century, Cyrene rivaled the
majority of other Greek cities in its wealth, manifested in part by substantial
temple building. Prosperity was based on grain, fruit, horses, and, above all,
an apparently extinct species of the medicinal plant Silphium which was the most
famous export of the city.
In the following centuries, Battus' descendants ruled Cyrene .
Aristoteles Battus I c.631-c.599
Arcesilas I c.599-c.583
Battus II the Blessed c.583-c.560
Arcesilas II the Tough c.560-c.550
Battus III the Lame c.550-c.530
Arcesilas III c.530-c.514
Battus IV the Fair c.514-c.470
Arcesilas IV c.470-c.440
When Arcesilas II became king in c.560, he had to cope with serious opposition, which was led by his brother Learchus. In the end, the members of the opposition left Cyrene , settled in a Libyan city, Barca, and allied themselves to the Libyans. When Arcesilas attacked the Libyans, he was defeated (7,000 soldiers were killed), and was murdered by his brother (c.550). Queen Eryxo retaliated: Learchus was assassinated too, and her son Battus III became king.
He realized that he was not strong enough to rule effectively, and invited Demonax, a Greek from Mantinea , who was to give Cyrene a new constitution. He divided the people into three groups: those who came from Thera, those who originated from the Peloponnese and Crete , and those who came from other Aegean isles. The king's power was restricted to religious tasks. However, the monarchy remained, which was a rare development in the Greek world.
At this point, the dynasty of Cyrene started to look for support against the Libyans and the aristocracy. It was found in Egypt : Battus III married his daughter Ladice to king Amasis, and the alliance was concluded.
The Achaemenids conquered Egypt in 525 BC, ending Egyptian attempts at hegemony, while showing only modest interest in Cyrene itself, allowing the Battiad Dynasty to rule as satraps.In 525, the Persian king Cambyses conquered Egypt , and king Arcesilas III of Cyrene sided with the new ruler in the east. The Persians granted an alliance while showing only modest interest in Cyrene itself, allowing the Battiad Dynasty to rule as satraps. Arcesilas felt strong enough to demand the royal prerogatives again, which resulted in civil strive in his city. In 518, the opposition expelled the king, but he went to Samos , where he recruited an army. Using these soldiers, he defeated his opponents, and returned to Cyrene . His men received land, but ultimately, Arcesilas was unable to rule, and fled to his father-in-law, the Libyan king Alazeir of Barca. However, both men were killed.
At this moment (513?), the Persian alliance proved its worth. Queen Pheretima, who had lost her father and husband, invited the Persians to Cyrene . The satrap of Egypt , Aryandes, accepted the invitation, and conquered Cyrene . The new king, Battus IV, was no longer the ruler of an independent kingdom, but a puppet. It is possible but not likely that he was able to throw of the Persian yoke after the disastrous expedition of king Xerxes to the Greek mainland (480-479). After Battus reign, which lasted more than forty years, his son Arcesilas IV became king (c.470). He was one of the celebrities of his age, having won the chariot race of 462 at the Pythian games at Delphi . This victory was celebrated by Pindar in the Fourth and Fifth Pythian ode. 'You are a king over great cities, and this great privilege is a shining heritage of your house,'" It is remarkable that he stresses the rightfulness of Arcesilas' rule, because this ought to have been obvious after eight generations. Even more striking is Pindar's advice to the young king to reconcile himself to the opposition. The civil strife continued, and it comes as no surprise that in 440, Arcesilas was expelled. He fled to Euhesperides, a city in the neighborhood (modern Banghāzi), but In 431 BC, Arkesilas IV was assassinated, ending the Battiad Dynasty. According to Thucydides (7.59), Spartan reinforcements (comprised of helots and ex-helots) bound for Sicily was blown off course to Libya in 414/413 BC. They were given two trieres by Cyrene , and repaid the favor by joining with Euesperides against the Libyans.
The dynasty of Battus ended with with his death and the establishment of a democratic constitution like that of Athens , and the general prosperity of Cyrenaica continued through the 4th century in spite of some political troubles. Cyrenaica submitted to Alexander the Great in the late 4th century. He was succeeded in Egypt by his friend Ptolemy.
In 324 BC, a rogue band of 5000 mercenaries under the command of Harpalus (who was later assassinated) and the Spartan captain Thibron (who happened to own a large amount of money the amount of taxes once paid by Babylonia) took refuge in Crete, where a number of Cyrenean exiles persuaded them to reestablish themselves in Cyrenaicia. The pirate army landed first at Cyrene , seizing the nearby harbor and defeating the Cyrene army outside their gates. Beseiged, the city fathers paid a ransom of 500 talents of gold and chariots, and Thibron's pirates moved out to prey on other Cyrenaician cities. Feuded by local rivalies, the cities of Barca and Hesperis supported Thibron, who also recruited mercenaries from the Peloponnese . Cyrene raised its own army of 30,000 with Carthaginian and Libyan allies. A great battle ensued, with the Cyrenaician army proving no match for Thibron's experienced veterans. Cyrene was beseiged, and at the height of the siege, a republican coup within the city prompted the oligarchs and upper class to flee, many taking refuge with Thibron and others trekking to Egypt to plead for Ptolemaic intervention. Ptolemy sent an army under Ophellas, which prompted erstwhile foes Thibron and Cyrene into a futile alliance. Ophellas easily overwhelmed the allied force, capturing and crucifying the Spartan adventurer Thibron.
At this time, there were five important towns, which were called the pentapolis.
Apollonia (Sūsah); this was the harbor of Cyrene
Ophellas added a sixth city, Ptolemais (Tulmaythah)
Ophellas, was appointed Ptolemy's governor or satrap (c. 322 BC) he restored order and united all towns in one single province, but revolted in 312 BC, ruling thereafter as an independent leader, thus representing the start of the Cyrenean I/56b list. Ophellas took an Cyrenean army with Athenian allies to support Agathokles of Syracuse against the Carthaginians in the first Punic War, but was murdered for his troubles in 308 BC. Again Cyrenea resisted attempts to restore Ptolemaic rule, but after five years Ptolemy's half-brother Magas (son of Berenice) was able to capture Cyrene (301) and establish himself as governor, after the death of Ptolemy (282), Magas fashioned himself as king of Cyrene (283/277 BC) and planned an invasion of Egypt. Ptolemy hired mercenaries and garrisoned the frontier in anticipation of their advance, but the Cyrene army was forced to turn back to deal with the revolt of the Marmaridae, a tribe of Libyan nomads. His military plans thwarted, Magas turned to political intrique. Using his marriage ties to Apame, daughter of Antiochus, Magas persuaded Antiochus to break the treaty which his father Seleucus had made with Ptolemy and to attack Egypt . Although Antiochus' plans failed to come to fruition, the threat distracted Ptolemy's attention from Cyrene . Magas ruled until his death in 250 BC "suffocated by his own bulk" and was succeeded by Demetrius the Fair, the son of Demetrius Poliorcetes, one of the Diadochi. The younger Demetrius was murdered after a brief reign, whereupon the Cyrenaica formed a loose federal government aided by Demophanes and Ekdemus of Arcada. Maga, gained sufficient fame in his lifetime to be mentioned in a monument erected by King Asoka in India .
In 246 AD, Berenike II, the daughter of Magas, married Ptolemy III, and Cyrenaica was reunited with Egypt . During the subsequent period of loose Ptolemaic rule, the Cyrenaican cities continued to grow and were equipped with permanent defensive walls. The old port of Barca was greatly expanded and renamed Ptolemais. Euesperides (Beaghazi) was renamed Berenice, and Taucheira (Tocra) became Arsinoe. Cyrene 's port at Apollonia was recognized as an independent city, and the region of Cyrenaica became known as the Pentapolis or the land of the five cities.
From now on, Cyrene and the Cyrenaica were part of the Ptolemaean empire, although there were periods of independence. . The cities, nevertheless, enjoyed a good deal of freedom in running their own affairs. The constitution of Cyrene was elaborated as a fairly liberal oligarchy, with a citizen body of 10,000 and two councils. During the 3rd century a federal constitution for all the Cyrenaican cities was introduced. Apollonia, the port of Cyrene , became a city in its own right; Euhesperides was refounded as Berenice, and a new city , Ptolemais, was founded, while Barce declined. A second period of independence was during the reign of Ptolemy VIII Euergetes Physcon nicknamed "Physcon" (Potbelly) for his obesity, a son of the Egyptian king Ptolemy V Epiphanes. In 163 the two brothers, Philometor and Physcon, split up rule; Physcon ruling the western province of Cyrenaica and Philometor ruled Egypt . Almost immediately the Cyreneans revolted against Ptolemy Physkon. In a pitched battle, Physkon drove off the Cyreneans Libyan allies but was unable to crack the Cyrenean phalanx. Physcon eventually overcame with support from Rome . Cyrenaicia remained an independent kingdom under Ptolemy VIII as a Roman protectorate until reabsorbed in 146 BC when upon Philometor's death, his son, Philopator, took over the throne with his mother as co-regent. Physcon married Philopator's mother, Cleopatra II, and had Philopator killed at the wedding feast and Ptolemy VIII was made king of Egypt. When he died in 116, he appointed his son Ptolemy Apion as successor in Cyrenaica. The reign of the last king of independent Cyrenaica lasted twenty years In 96 Ptolemy Apion died and as he was childless, he followed the example of the last king of Pergamun, bequeathing Cyrenaica to Rome, which annexed the royal estates but left the cities free. Disorder led the quaestor Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus to arrive in 74 BC and officially annexed the region as a Roman province, to which Crete was added seven years later. During the civil wars it was briefly ruled by a Selene, the daughter of the Roman general Marc Antony and the last Ptolemaean queen, Cleopatra VII (34-31). Augustus reestablished it, together with Crete , as a senatorial province.
After this incident, Cyrenaica enjoyed a lasting peace under a Roman
governor. Much of the Roman period in Cyrenaica was peaceful. Some Roman
immigrants resided there at an early date, and some of the Greeks received Roman
citizenship. A famous inscription of 4 BC contains a number of edicts of the
emperor Augustus regulating with great fairness the relationship between Roman
and non-Roman. The emperor Augustus presented its capital with a new temple for
the god Zeus (with a replica of Phidias' famous statue of Zeus), and other
emperors gave similar presents. The tranquility was only briefly interrupted in
115, when a Jew named Lukuas claimed to be the Messiah and launched a revolt in
Cyrene that spread to Egypt . There were large-scale destructions, but
ultimately, the Romans regained their province, The heavy-handed Roman General
Marcus Turbo suppressed the rebellion by killing over 20,000 civilians and
destroying much of the city, which never fully recovered .Emperor Hadrian took
special measures to reconstruct Cyrene , ordered the Jews to pay for the
reconstruction and also sent out some colonists.
Peaceful conditions returned, but in 268-269 the Marmaridae, inhabiting the coast between Cyrenaica and Egypt , caused trouble. In the reorganization of the empire by Diocletian, Cyrenaica was separated from Crete and divided into two provinces, Libya Superior, or Pentapolis (capital Ptolemais), and Libya Inferior, or Sicca (capital Paraetonium, Marsa MatIuh). A regular force was stationed there for the first time under a dux Libyarum. At the end of the 4th century, the Austuriani, a nomad tribe that had earlier raided Tripolitania , caused much damage, and Cyrenaica began to suffer from the general decline of security throughout the empire, in this case from desert nomads. A notable phenomenon of the 5th and 6th centuries, as in Tripolitania , is the number of fortified farms, most frequent in the Akhdar Mountains and south of Boreum (Bu Quraydah) and also apparently in the region of Banghazi.
Christianity no doubt spread to Cyrenaica from Egypt . In the 3rd century the bishop of Ptolemais was metropolitan, but by the 4th century the powerful bishops of Alexandria consecrated the local bishops. The best known Cyrenaican is Synesius, a citizen of Cyrene of philosophic tastes who was made bishop of Ptolemais in 410 partly because of his ability to obtain help for his province from the imperial authorities. Under Justinian a number of defensive works were constructed as elsewhere in Africa -e.g., Taucheira, Berenice, Antipyrgos (Tobruk), and Boreum. Recent excavations of a series of churches in the province also reveal the expenditure he devoted to their beautification, in what was a province of minor importance. On the eve of the Arab conquest (AD 643) the general condition of Cyrenaica would appear to have been on a par with most of the other eastern provinces of the empire.