Cyrene, Libya

The Greek colonizations of Crete and Rhodes of the 9th century BC were shortly followed by their colonizations of Cyrenaica in Eastern Libya. The city of Cyrene was a Greek colony, built in the seventh century BC (631 BC) upon the oracle advice of Delphi, on one of the best verdant regions of Eastern Libya's Green Mountain, by immigrants (or refugees according to some sources) from the island of Thera (Santhorini). However, there was also a failed attempt to colonise Tripolitania under the command of Dorieus, the king of Sparta, who reached the River Cinyps (Wadi Caam), just east of Leptis Magna, in 520 BC and founded a city by that name. 
 Ancient marble floor
The prosperity of Cyrene was founded on the silphium plant, pictured on Cyrenaican coins, where it resembles a stylised leek or a sunflower. The plant once grew only in Libya and apparently its extinction was a grievous blow to the city's economy. 

Cyrene was founded in 630 BC as a settlement of Greeks from the Greek island of Thera (Santorini), traditionally led by Battus I, at a site ten miles from its associated port, Apollonia (Marsa Sousa). Traditional details concerning the founding of the city are contained in Herodotus' Histories IV. Cyrene promptly became the chief town of ancient Libya and established commercial relations with all the Greek cities, reaching the height of its prosperity under its own kings in the 5th century BC. Soon after 460 BC it became a republic. In 413 BC, during the Peloponnesian War, Cyrene supplied Spartan forces with two triremes and pilots. After the death of Alexander the Great of Macedon (323 BC), the Cyrenian republic became subject to the Ptolemaic dynasty.
Ophelas, the general who occupied the city in Ptolemy I's name, ruled the city almost independently until his death, when Ptolemy's son-in-law Magas received governorship of the territory. In 276 BC Magas crowned himself king and declared de facto independence, marrying the daughter of the Seleucid king and forming with him an alliance in order to invade Egypt. The invasion was unsuccessful and in 250 BC, after Magas' death, the city was reabsorbed into Ptolemaic Egypt. Cyrenaica became part of the Ptolemaic empire controlled from Alexandria, and became Roman territory in 96 BC when Ptolemy Apion bequeathed Cyrenaica to Rome. In 74 BC the territory was formally transformed into a Roman province.
The inhabitants of Cyrene at the time of Sulla (c. 85 BC) were divided into four classes: citizens, farmers, resident aliens, and a minority population of Jews. The ruler of the town, Apion, bequeathed it to the Romans, but it kept its self-government. In 74 BC Cyrene was created a Roman province; but, whereas under the Ptolemies the Jewish inhabitants had enjoyed equal rights, they now found themselves increasingly oppressed by the now autonomous and much larger Greek population. Tensions came to a head in the insurrection of the Jews of Cyrene under Vespasian (73 AD, the First Roman-Jewish War) and especially Trajan (117 AD, the Kitos War). This revolt was quelled by Marcius Turbo, but not before huge numbers of people had been killed. According to Eusebius of Caesarea the outbreak of violence left Libya depopulated to such an extent that a few years later new colonies had to be established there by the emperor Hadrian just to maintain the viability of continued settlement.

Plutarch in his work De mulierum virtutibus ("On the Virtues of Women") describes how the tyrant of Cyrene, Nicocrates, was deposed by his wife Aretaphila of Cyrene around the year 50 BC
The famous "Venus of Cyrene", a headless marble statue representing the goddess Venus, a Roman copy of a Greek original, was discovered by Italian soldiers here in 1913. It was transported to Rome, where it remained until 2008, when it was returned to Libya. A large number of Roman sculptures and inscriptions were excavated at Cyrene by Captain Robert Murdoch Smith and Commander Edwin A. Porcher during the mid nineteenth century and can now be seen in the British Museum. They include the Apollo of Cyrene and a unique bronze head of an African man.

A colony of the Greeks of Thera, Cyrene was one of the principal cities in the Hellenic world. It was Romanized and remained a great capital until the earthquake of AD 365. A thousand years of history is written into its ruins, which have been famous since the 18th century.

Cyrene was founded in the 4th century BC by Greeks of Thera (Santorini) guided by Battos, within a zone where Carthaginian influence was preponderant. From 631 BC (the traditional accepted date of its foundation) to 440 BC, this trading centre, situated in the interior, away from the sea, was dominated by the dynasty of the Battiadae. Within little less than a century (430-331), this kingdom was succeeded by a democratic regime; following which the city spontaneously submitted itself to the rule of Alexander the Great and, at his death, was annexed to the kingdom of the Lagids. One of the last of the line of descendants of Berenice and Ptolemy III Euergetes bequeathed it to the Roman people in 96 BC.
Entrance of Temple to Apollo

Established as a Roman province in 74 BC, Cyrenaica shared in the fortunes of the empire and, as such, never ceased to play a preponderant role in the Mediterranean world: it was given by Mark Anthony to Cleopatra, united with Crete by Augustus, who decreed the date of the battle of Actium (34 BC) as the beginning of a new era, and then separated from Crete by Diocletian in a reform of 305, which united it with Egypt. Its capitol, which was reconstructed in the 1st century AD and damaged during the insurrection of the Jews in 116, was entirely rebuilt from the reign of Hadrian. Its decline did not begin until the earthquake and tidal wave of 365, one of the great catastrophes of history. Ammianus Marcelinus found it deserted.

Cyrene, which was described by geographers from Herodotus to Synesius and had its praises sung by Pindar and Callimachus, is not only one of the cities of the Mediterranean world around which myths, legends and stories have been woven over more than 1,000 years, but it is also one of the most impressive complexes of ruins in the entire world.

To the north, the sanctuary and sacred fountain of Apollo, the fountain celebrated by Pindar, Herodotus and Callimachus, regroups the temples of Apollo (7th-4th centuries BC) and Artemis (7th-6th centuries BC), the sacella of Persephone, Hades and Hecate, votive monuments and treasuries. This cultic zone was completed, during the Roman period, by extremely large buildings of which the most important are the Baths of Trajan, restored in the 2nd century. To the west, the Greek theatre was transformed into an amphitheatre by the Romans. To the south-west, the Acropolis constitutes an immense archaeological reserve, whose exploration has been postponed for some time owing to the strategic nature of the site.
To the south-east, about 500 m from the sanctuary of Apollo, the agora and the Roman forum, which are well preserved, formed the centre of the civic life. This sector is characterized by the coexistence of both Greek and Roman forms of urban planning within a unified whole of very ample proportions: the Bouleuterion and Capitolium, Agora and Forum, Nomophylakion (public archives depository), and similar are placed side by side with Heroa, of which the best known is that of Battus. It is the urban centre of the ideal city; proud of its past, conscious of the continuity of its history and turned towards the future. The archaeological site of Cyrene is not limited to these three monumental complexes of the sanctuary of Apollo, the Acropolis and the Agora. Excavations have revealed the great interest of the north-eastern sector, where the grandiose ruins of the Augustan period were inhabited until the end of Cyrenian history.

Elsewhere, Cyrene preserves a necropolis complex which is numbered among the most extensive and varied of the ancient world.

Site Monuments 

Ancient forum
 Ruins of ancient theatre in Cyrene, Libya

 Ruins in Cyrene

 Agora walls

Agora of Cyrene
 Ginnasio Propilei

Temple to Apollo

Burial chambers, Necropolis

 The temple of Zeus

The Temple of Demeter

Cyrenaica Archaeological Project
The extra-mural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone in the Wadi bel Gadir
The extramural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone was laid out about a generation after the initial foundation of Cyrene (ca 620 B.C.) and continued in use throughout the Roman period, The Sanctuary was badly damaged by an earthquake in A.D. 262 and eventually totally destroyed by an even more severe one in A.D. 365. In its heyday, which in terms of architectural expansion seems to have coincided with the reigns of Trajan through Antoninus Pius (A.D. 98 - 161), the Sanctuary covered more than 9,000 sq m. Its structures were distributed over 20 m of abruptly rising ground, broken into three major terraced divisions designated as the Lower, Middle, and Upper Sanctuaries.
 One of the largest and best-preserved sanctuaries dedicated to Demeter and Persephone in the eastern Mediterranean, the hillside sanctuary is terraced on at least three levels supported by various retaining walls. The Upper Sanctuary area is still largely unexcavated. Its importance and the richness of finds are a testament to the prosperity of the city of Cyrene: in seven seasons of excavation, a great quantity of votive materials spanning the life of the sanctuary were unearthed: these include ca 4.500 terracotta figurines, ca 750 pieces of marble and limestone sculpture and reliefs, a large amount of high quality Attic Black and Red Figure, Corinthian, Rhodian, Chiot, other East Greek, and Laconian pottery, as well as Hellenistic and Roman fine wares, small votive bronzes, Archaic gem stones and scarabs, jewelry, faience, glass, lamps, inscriptions, and gold, silver, and bronze coins.
 Entry to the lower northwest corner of the Sanctuary from the nearby walled city was gained in antiquity by means of a bridge across the wadi drain. Narrow steps cut in the steep opposite face of the wadi above the bridge permitted access to the city's agora through some still undisclosed opening in the walled ramparts. A monumental staircase connected the Sanctuary's upper grounds to an unidentified walled complex installed at a higher level on the great hill rising to the south. The principal entrance to the Upper Sanctuary during the Roman period was provided by a four-columned propylaeum or gate-way, strategically positioned in front of the junction of the monumental hillside staircase and the ancient road leading back to the southeast suburban quarter of the city along the rim of the wadi. In this way, the Sanctuary grounds were architecturally linked with both the city and the countryside that lay to its south. Extensive necropoli with well-articulated architectural facades stretch along the north end of the Wadi bel Gadir and also along the main road leading to Balagrae. The proximity of these cemeteries in the area around the Wadi bel Gadir Sanctuary may all be connected to the chthonic activities of the two goddesses in their capacity to protect the dead.
The history of the cult of Demeter and Persephone/Kore is linked to that of the city. Cyrenean society was a well-documented and complex mixture of peoples, most notably Greek, Libyan, Ptolemaic Egyptian, and Roman, created by the social and cultural melding of the indigenous societies with the waves of newly arriving colonists. The architectural development of the extramural sanctuary can be seen to wax and wane with the city's fortunes.
Rural and extra-mural sanctuaries can often be expressive of the territorial sovereignty of a Greek polis-the rituals conducted within them help to define local politics, society, and culture. A sanctuary in an extra-urban setting such as the one at Cyrene has a dual nature. It is first an exclusive space-the embodiment of the sacred in the countryside, a space that marks off the city from the "untamed" world of nature or from the space of other communities. It is also an inclusive space which serves, through its festivals, cult forms, and ritual practices, as a center for civic expression and for mediating contact with the peoples of the surrounding area.
In the choice of its divinities, the timing of its foundation, and its siting, the extra-mural Sanctuary in the Wadi bel Gadir conforms to de Polignac's theories on extra-urban sanctuaries in the Greek colonial world. Founded after the first generation of colonists had arrived, the sanctuary in the Wadi bel Gadir marked the young colony's first territorial expansion into the surrounding countryside. On a hillside, near a spring, in a peri-urban location (at the base of the city walls, but outside them, near the rich farmland surrounding the city), the Sanctuary was intended to be a transitional element between city and country. It served both to link the two areas and to assert the power of the city over that of the countryside.
The goddesses Demeter and Kore/Persephone and their agrarian festival, the Thesmophoria (known to have been celebrated at Cyrene), must have been important to Cyrene, whose economy was heavily dependent on the production of grain and livestock. The rites of the Thesmophoria, with their emphasis on the recurrent cycling of the seasons, symbolize the ancient city's concern or a secure future-the birth of an abundant number of healthy citizen children and the growth of sufficient crops to feed them. Married women were placed in charge of the festival's conduct in accordance with the Greek view that, despite many societal restrictions, females had one inviolate power-the control of reproduction.
The Thesmophoria were of interest to the women of both the city and the countryside as well as to the local Libyan tribes who also farmed and pastured flocks. At Cyrene, this celebration may have included a procession which began in the Demeter temple in the city's agora and ended in the extra-mural Sanctuary, a procession that perhaps inspired the Cyrenean poet Kallimachos when he composed his "Hymn to Demeter", while serving as librarian to the Ptolemaic court in Alexandria. The physical movement of the women from within the city walls to the wadi outside would have a symbolic resonance. Their procession linked the "inner city" to the "outside territory" and displayed the potential fertility of the Cyrenean citizenry to those outside the polis. Rituals such as this serve both to clarify and to bridge societal gaps.
The main celebration of the Thesmophoria at Cyrene seems to have been held in the Wadi bel Gadir Sanctuary, where the remains of piglet sacrifices and the broken crockery from the ritual meals have been found. The networks of alliance, solidarity, and dependence instituted in the Thesmophoria were strengthened by the ritual meal shared by the participants. These sacrificial meals were an opportunity for the assertion of authority by persons controlling access to food, most particularly meat. In the Wadi bel Gadir Sanctuary, the leading female citizens of the polis had this power and probably used it to advantage to extend their authority over the inhabitants of the region. It was advantageous for the city's land-owning elite to control the Wadi bel Gadir cult, whose rituals symbolically protected the territory around the polis.
The extra-mural Sanctuary in the Wadi bel Gadir provides a detailed look at localized cultic activity spread over more than 800 years. The first six centuries of its architectural development display a gradual accumulation of separate parts-outer walls, terraces, gateways, steps and access doorways, "storage" rooms and other miscellaneous but all too frequently unidentifiable utilitarian structures, water works, and, above all, individual independent shrine houses, whose collective appearance appears to be the consequence of practical requirements present from the outset of the cult. To a large extent the execution of the various separate parts exhibits a pervasive conservatism. In perhaps equal measure their final assembly betrays a form of topographical determinism in which the site, as opposed to any set of abstract religious/aesthetic theories, governs the cumulative architectural result. The close link with the surrounding agricultural region has been argued to be both physical through the mechanism of monumental stairs that led to a second architectural complex on the hilltop to the south and economic based on revenues derived from the adjacent fields and grazing lands that in part may have been owned by the priesthood or were at least subject to their taxation. The extent to which the sanctuary in its final form "faced" north in the direction of the walled city or south toward the grain fields and pasture lands stretching toward ancient Balagrae will be determined by future work.
The extra-mural Sanctuary appears to have been the preserve of the city's elite for most of its existence. The emphasis on a traditional Greek cult practice, with some local variations, squares with what is said of Cyrenean culture in general-that it is a combination of traditional Hellenic, contemporary Greek, Roman, and Libyan elements. This conservative city was controlled by a land-owning elite, who sustained many of their agrarian interests through the worship of Demeter and her daughter Persephone in the extra-mural Sanctuary in the Wadi bel Gadir, and who, through the rituals practiced within that Sanctuary, extended the authority of their polis over the surrounding region.

Sources / Bibliography / Photos

Durant, W. Caesar and Christ. Simon & Schuster, 1980. 
McEvedy, C. Cities of the Classical World. Penguin Global, 2012.
Strassler, R.B. The Landmark Herodotus. Anchor Books, 2009.
Shahhat or (Cyrene) City by
للغة العربية اضغط هنا
Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War (The Landmark Thucydides edition, Robt. B. Strassler, editor), Touchstone, New York, 1998, sec.7.50
Cassius Dio, lxviii. 32
Plutarch. De Mulierum Virtutibus (Loeb Classical Library, Plutarch III) 1931. Retrieved February 2008.
Martyrologium Romanum (Typographia Vaticana 2001 ISBN 978-88-209-7210-3)
Michel Lequien, Oriens christianus in quatuor Patriarchatus digestus, Paris 1740, Vol. II, coll. 621-624
Raymond Janin, v. Cyrène in Dictionnaire d'Histoire et de Géographie ecclésiastiques, vol. XIII, Paris 1956, coll. 1162-1164
Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 870
"21 World Heritage Sites you have probably never heard of". Daily Telegraph.
"Interview with archaeologist Mario Luni". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved 2009-05-22.
Global Heritage Fund (GHF) Where We Work. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
"Benghazi Treasure". Trafficking Culture Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2012-09-06.
"Destruction of Cyrene Necropolis". Archaeological Institute of America. Retrieved 2013-08-26.