City in Libya, 8 km from the coast and 620 m above sea-level on a plateau of the al-Jabal al-Akh?ar (Green Mountain). The Greek city flourished from its founding as a Dorian colony c. 630 bc to Hellenistic times, and its Greek culture was maintained during the long period of Roman rule, when its fortunes declined somewhat.
F. B. Sear
Cyrene’s principal monuments, restored by their Italian excavators, reveal the splendours of the Greek city. It changed only superficially in Roman times, when alterations to existing buildings were more common than new projects.
Herodotus (IV. cl–clviii) related how a party of Therans, forced by drought to leave their native island, settled at Cyrene because of its high rainfall. Their leader, Battos, became king and established a dynasty that lasted until 440 bc. The site is protected on three sides by gorges with gently sloping ground to the east. A low hill, the acropolis, rises to the west and immediately below its north slopes is the Sanctuary of Apollo. Springs emerge from the rock at this point, ensuring a constant water supply. The plateau is divided by the valley street, which runs from the east gate down to the Sanctuary of Apollo and then past the north necropolis to the port of Apollonia, 19 km away. Parallel to the valley street is the Street of Battos, which runs from the south-east gate through the agora to the acropolis. A main transverse street intersected both streets just east of the Hellenistic gymnasium. The earliest settlers presumably occupied the acropolis, and the eastern fringe of the later agora seems to have been used as a burial ground, which suggests that the early town could not have extended far to the east. Other evidence for the early city is pottery from ...