Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cyrene Libya – North Africa’s most complete ancient Greek city.

The Extramural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persep...
The Extramural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone at Cyrene, Libya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Established by the Greeks and then Romanized, Cyrene is a one of the great cities of antiquity. A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the vast evocative ruins of Cyrene in North Eastern Libya are one of the most impressive from the ancient world and provide a majestic insight to its wondrous and celebrated past.

In the 7th century BC, the Greek island of Thera (modern Santorini) was experiencing a severe drought which overwhelmed its resource causing it great struggles in feeding its increasingly distressed population. As a result of this, the island’s leaders sent a committee to mainland Greece to seek advice from Apollo’s Oracle at Delphi, the largest religious and spiritual centre in the ancient Mediterranean world.

The Oracle at Delphi advised the committee that to change their fortunes and to survive as a people that they had to establish a new settlement in the lush and abundant north-eastern coast of Libya, a place that rained regularly, a place that the “sky leaked through a hole in the heavens”.

So in 631 BC, led by Heroic Battus (the first Greek King in Libya) ) the Therans founded their new city-state, Cyrene, on the fertile highland ground overlooking the Green Mountain plateau or Jebel Akhdar uplands, 13 kilometres inland from the Mediterranean.

The city and people thrived in the lush environment and Cyrene quickly established a profitable maritime trade with Greek cities. Cyrene soon became the principal and most prosperous city of Libya and as a result of its success; four more cities were founded in the region. Known as the Pentapolis, these flourishing cities were Cyrene, Apollonia, Teuchira, Ptolemais and Eusperides.

The city was established as a Roman province in 74 BC, and continued to prosper and be a major influence and important player in the Mediterranean world. The city was severely damaged in AD 115 as a result of the Jewish revolt and then completely rebuilt during the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian (117 to 138).

In 365 AD a catastrophic earthquake (and subsequent tsunami) struck off the Western coast of Crete that lifted that island 9 metres. As a result of this event, Cyrene and many other cities in the region were severely damaged or destroyed and many thousands of people died.

Cyrene never recovered from this and eventually declined as an influence fell under the Arab conquest in 643; however by then it was only dusty footprint of its glorious and opulent past.

Further photos from Cyrene, Libya and the Mediterranean can be viewed and purchased from my image library website – Mediterranean Heritage and Travel photography.

All images, text and content on this blog are copyright Steven Sklifas.
You can see them at link.