Cyrene (sĪrēˈnē) [key], ancient city near the northern coast of Africa, in Cyrenaica (now E Libya). It was a Greek colony founded (c.630 B.C.) by Aristoteles of Thera, who became king of Cyrene as Battus. For eight generations the monarchs were alternately named Battus and Arcesilas. Having important commerce with Greece, the little city-state flourished. Other cities were founded in Cyrenaica, notably Barca, but Cyrene retained power. In the late 6th cent. Cyrene submitted to the Persians under Cambyses II (see under Cambyses), but later (after 480 B.C.) became independent again. Although the city became subject to Alexander the Great in 331 and was later practically annexed by the Ptolemies of Egypt, it seems to have had nominal independence until the marriage of Berenice (d. 221), daughter of Cyrene's king, to Ptolemy III. Cyrene remained part of the Ptolemaic kingdom until 96 B.C. It was later the center of a Roman province. Under the Roman emperor Trajan there were Jewish uprisings, which were severely punished, and Cyrene declined. At its prime Cyrene was a large and beautiful city and an intellectual center noted for its schools of medicine and philosophy. Aristippus, Callimachus, Eratosthenes, and Synesius were born here. Extensive ruins include the temple of Apollo (dating from the 7th cent. B.C.), the agora, the capitol, the acropolis, and the theater.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.