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Classical Cities of Libya
The most important Greek city in North Africa, Cyrene was founded in the 7th century BC by a party of immigrants who had fled the drought-inflicted island of Thera in the Aegean Sea. Its early history was a volatile one, characterised by murder and conflict among the ruling families. Under King Battus IV (515-470 BC), it enjoyed a period of relative calm and prosperity, although his successor, Arcesilaus IV, was assassinated. From 322 BC, Cyrenaica came under the control of the Greek general Ptolemy I and his dynasty.
In 96 BC the Romans took possession of Cyrenaica, and it became a province of Rome eighteen years later. Thereafter, it enjoyed a period of peace until a Jewish revolt in 115 AD caused widespread destruction.
Following reconstruction of the city, principally under the Emperor Hadrian, Cyrene again entered a period of prosperity. In 365 AD, during the Byzantine period, an earthquake destroyed much of the city, which, at the time, had not yet embraced Christianity. A grand rebuilding programme took place, although former places of pagan worship were desecrated including the great temple of Zeus.
Built on a series of levels, the spectacular ruins of Cyrene include the Sanctuary and Temple of Apollo, the Acropolis, the Agora, the Forum, the Stoa of Hermes and Heracles, the House of Jason Magnus, the Nine Muses and the Temple of Zeus.
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