Site of Cyrene

Site of Cyrene


Cyrene was originally a Greek colony, founded in 631 BC  by a group of emigrants.  Under the Battiad dynasty, Cyrene thrived until 570 BC when Greek-Libyan relations failed and Cyrene fell victim to a Persian invasion in 525 BC.  It wasn’t until 323 BC that Cyrene came under the protection of the pharaohs.  With their protection, Cyrene became one of the greatest intellectual cities of the classical world.  In 96 BC Cyrene came under Roman rule and prospered for 200 years but then steadily declined.  In 365 AD, Cyrene was destroyed by a massive earthquake.  After the Arab conquest in 642 AD the city no longer existed.

There are three main areas of the site of Cyrene that have been excavated.  They are the fountain and sanctuary of Apollo, the upper city, and the center of the Roman town.

The upper city of Cyrene.


Sanctuary of Apollo.


Temple of Zeus located in the Roman town center.


  • The site at Cyrene has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site because it meets three different criteria.
    • Criteria ii; for the interchange of values.
      • With its rich history, Cyrene was a place where Greek and Roman values combined.
    • Criteria iii; for unique cultural tradition.
      • This comes from the influence of Greek, Persian, Libyan, Egyptian, and Roman culture.
    • Criteria vi; for being directly associated with a belief system.
      • According to Hellenism, Cyrene is believed to be one of the locations of the Greek Gods.  It is believed that Apollo had a love affair with Kyrene in this area.  The Romans called the city Cyrene because it was the Latin translation of Kyrene.
  • Cyrene is in danger from two main factors: development and terrorism threats from ISIS.

Endangering Factors

  • Uncontrolled development is a big issue at Cyrene.  According to Abdulkariem and Bennett (2014), illegal development  takes place continuously in and around the site of Cyrene.
    • A lot of this development is for housing and agriculture.  Many people do not feel obligated to follow laws pertaining to development near the site because they know that there will not be repercussions since the government is in transition and is unstable.
    • Simply by monitoring sites, archaeologists have been able to study development as shown by Saad et al (2016).  They were able to find that development near sites harms and destroys unknown smaller sites.  However, with the right protection, the main sites at Cyrene are well protected from development by fences and because owners of the site fight for its preservation.
    • Archaeologists can also study satellite images of a specific area by using Google Earth archives.  This is what Raeid et al (2016) did to determine what areas were under threat from development.
  • Terrorism and vandalism are also constant threats at the archaeological site of Cyrene but are not as prominent as development.  ISIS targets sites that don’t align with their religion.  So far they have attacked sites or have a presence in cities near Cyrene such as Derna and Benghazi.
    • Aside from terrorism threats, vandalism from locals has occurred.  Local gangs and ISIS have vandalized the site at Cyrene for religious purposes.

      The heads of these ancient statues have been removed because ISIS has an intolerance to antiquities that depict humans.  Image source.

Insight into Global Issues

The archaeological research by Abdulkariem and Bennett (2014) shows that development can be controlled.  He lays out steps that UNESCO and the local government can take to better protect the site.  He states that the Department of Archaeology in Shahat needs to create buffer zones around the site for protection, Libyan heritage laws should be reviewed and made up to date so that they are better understood and easier to enforce, Department of Archaeology staff should be better trained through international missions, and that community outreach needs to occur to inform people of the heritage of the site and to get more people interested in its preservation.  By taking these steps, development would become controlled, terrorism and vandalism would be less likely, and future problems threatening the sites preservation would be lessened.  These actions would work for the site of Cyrene and also for other archaeological sites that face similar problems.


Abdulkariem, Ahmad, Paul Bennett
2014 Libyan Heritage Under Threat: The Case of Cyrene. Libyan Studies 45: 155-161. Electronic document,, accessed December 2, 2016.

Anderson, Jon Lee
2015 ISIS and the Destruction of History. The New Yorker 4 December. New York. Electronic document,

Encyclopædia Britannica
Cyrene; Ancient Greek Colony, Libya. Electronic document,, accessed December 3, 2016.

Moore, Jack
2015 The Ancient Sites Now Under Threat From ISIS in Libya. Newsweek 4 December. New York. Electronic document,

Page, Thomas
2016 The Battle to Save Libya’s World Heritage Sites. CNN: Style 3 December. Atlanta, Georgia. Electronic document,

Raeid, Fawzi Al, Eugenio Di Valerio, Maria Giorgia Di Antonio, Oliva Menozzi, Mazen A. S. El Mziene, and Clara Tamburrino
2016 The Main Issues of the Cyrene Necropolis and the use of Remote Sensing for Monitoring in the Case of the Eastern Necropolis. Libyan Studies 47: 7-30.  Electronic document,, accessed December 2, 2016.

Saad, A. Abdalrahim Sheriff , S. Farag Abdel Hati, Sonia Antonelli, Oliva Menozzi, Veronica Petraccia, and Maria Carla Somma
2016 GIS of the Chora of Cyrene: Fortifications and Christian Buildings in Late Antiquity. Libyan Studies 47: 31-66. Electronic document,, accessed December 1, 2016.

UNESCO World Heritage website
The Criteria for Selection. Electronic document,, accessed November 8, 2016.

Violatti, Cristian
2010 Cyrene. Ancient History Encyclopedia 3 December. England. Electronic document,

4 thoughts on Site of Cyrene

  1. This is a good start. Think about adding photos and maps to illustrate your points! Check out the example archaeological site page to see how we would like you to do the citations (we will go over this in class on December 1st as well).

  2. Hey! I love your page, Hatra and Cyrene have a lot in common. They are both endangered by conflict and have fallen victim to the destruction of ISIS; particularly having statues destroyed because ISIS regarded them as false idols, very sad, but the picture you used of the two beheaded statues was very powerful in getting that point across. I was wondering what you meant by “After the Arab conquest in 642 AD the city no longer existed.” ?

  3. Your page looks really good! I though since both of ours were on the coast of Libya, we would have some endangering factors in common, but not quite! Mine are more environmental and yours has to do with a lot of conflict, which is interesting. I would think that a site like this would be affected more by coastal affects. I find it really sad that statues were vandalized by taking the heads off. It is also interesting that the vandalisms didn’t destroy the entire statue, just the head? Great array of images!

  4. I really liked your page. My site is in Libya as well, however not much has been able to be excavated like your site has been. I was wondering if you came across any examples of people not wanting this site to be protected? Because it has been excavated and it is falling apart I could image some people would rather development happen to be more modernized.

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