Archaeological Site of Cyrene (1982)
Libyan Arab Jamahirya

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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 365. A thousand years of history is written into its ruins, which have been famous since the 18th century. 

Cyrene was founded in the 7th century BC by Greek settlers led by Battus I, who established a ruling dynasty and made Cyrene the capital of the ancient kingdom of Cyrenaica. 

Libya 1966. The Forum of Cyrene.

Libya 1938. Bimillenery of Emperor Augustus.

The descendants of Battus I ruled the state until a republic was established, about 450 BC. Cyrene submitted to the rule of Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great around 331 BC, after which the city was dominated by the Ptolemaic dynasty. It was accorded a constitution by King Ptolemy I, who ruled from 323 to 285 BC. It then came under the rule of the Roman Empire. 

A series of ordinances was granted by Augustus, who ruled as the first emperor of Rome from 27 BC to 14 AD. Under Roman rule, Cyrene retained its importance as a seat of government in the province of Cyrenaica. 

  • Libya 1966. The Forum of Cyrene. 
  • Libya 1938. Bimillenery of Emperor Augustus. Note the spelling of the word Libia. 
The community of Cyrene thrived from its very beginning, due to the fertility of the region. Its flocks, herds, and especially its horses were famous, and it had a monopoly on certain medicinal plants. It also had an abundance of precious metals, from which it produced its coinage. 

Greek lyric poet Pindar celebrated the successes of Cyrene’s rulers in the ancient games of the Greeks, and also sang of Aristaeus, the child produced by the nymph Cyrene and the Greek god Apollo. Cyrene had its own local school of philosophers. 

  • Libya 1966. Temple of Apollo at Cyrene. 

Libya 1966. Temple of Apollo at Cyrene.

Libya 1984. Temple Ruins of Cyrene. 60d. Italy / Cyrenaica 1934. Air Post. Venus of Cyrene. Libya 1984. Temple Ruins of Cyrene. 160d.

Many of the principal features of Cyrene were uncovered through archaeological research. The city was built around a spring in an eroded river valley 550 m (1800 ft) above sea level, where it was protected from the oppressive desert wind by the higher ground on its south. The settlers established a sanctuary to Apollo near the spring, and they also built simple dwellings there. The city eventually spread out along both sides of the depression, with a citadel to the south, a market center to the southeast, and a temple of Zeus to the east. Tombs occupied the hillsides around the site. Artifacts from Cyrene are housed in a museum in nearby Banghazi, Libya.

Sources and links: 

Other World Cultural Heritage Properties in Libya (on this web site). Inactive links are not described on postage stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Libya-section, for more information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 20 jul 2006  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
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