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This article is about the city in Cyrenaica. You may be looking for the goddess the city was named after.

Cyrene was an ancient Greek city stationed in present-day Libya, situated in a lush valley in the Green Mountains. It was the oldest and most important of the five Greek cities in the region.

The city was named after a spring, Kyre, which the Greeks consecrated to Apollo and was also the seat of the Cyrenaics, a famous school of philosophy in the 4th century BCE, founded by Aristippos, a disciple of Sokrates; it was then nicknamed the "Athens of Africa". Cyrene became part of the Ptolemaic Kingdom controlled from Alexandria during the 3rd century BCE, before becoming Roman territory in 96 BCE when the Ptolemies bequeathed Cyrenaica to Rome.

During the 1st century BCE, Cyrene was home to one of the gladiator arenas in Ptolemaic Egypt, the other located in Krokodilopolis.



The city's origin traced back to Battos I, a Theran who sought out the Pythia at the Sanctuary of Delphi in the 7th century BCE. The Pythia gave him a prophecy and ordered him to find and establish a city in North Africa.[1] Battos did so and led a group of residents from Thera to Libya, thus founding the city of Cyrene and its colony of Cyrenaica in 630 BCE. The population steadily increasing, eventually making it the first and largest of the five colonial cities in the region.[2] Battos served as its king until his death in 600 BCE, and a tomb was later erected in the city to serve as his resting place.[3] During the first two centuries of the city's lifespan, a series of kings reigned over it. But rebellion eventually ended the monarchy and afterward the city was ruled by the aristocracy.[1]

Roman period

Control of the city and colony was ceded to the Ptolemaic Kingdom and eventually to the Roman Republic in 96 BCE.[1] Under the Roman influence, the city became an economic powerhouse and rose in status throughout the Mediterranean. Cyrene had a medicinal school established in the city, it rivaled all other Greek institutes bar the school of Kos, Greece. The city spawned several influential mathematicians, astronomers, and geographers, those that weren't born in the city established schools in it. Aristippos, a pupil of Sokrates, founded a philosophy institute there.[4]

The Romans also built many temples in the city dedicated to their own gods, including Zeus, Apollo, and Cyrene. Many fountains were also erected to honor the gods, including Cyrene, the city's namesake.[5]

Bayek meeting with Diocles in Cyrene

Since at least 49 BCE, the city was governed by Flavius Metellus, a leader of the Order of the Ancients. In 47 BCE, the Medjay Bayek of Siwa arrived in Cyrene in order to hunt down Flavius, who obtained an Apple of Eden. Upon arriving in the city, Bayek met with Diocles, a friend of the Greek healer Praxilla whom Bayek had met in a farm south of Cyrene. Diocles directed Bayek to the Roman Akropolis, a fortification wherein Flavius resided. Bayek infiltrated the fort and confronted the Roman, killing him and retrieving the Apple of Eden from him.[6]

After Flavius' defeat, Bayek met with Diocles in the Agora, where he was informed of a corrupt magistrate Leander who worked with Flavius. Diocles sent Bayek to locate his friend Simonides, who previously attended an event at Leander's villa but had not yet return, liking drinking at a tavern in the city.[7]


From 115 to 117 CE, a revolt in the Jewish quarter greatly damaged the city of Cyrene, the city was not rebuilt for some years. Over time, multiple continuous battles, poor management of its silphium crop and earthquakes took their toll on the city. By 365 BCE, the city had been completely abandoned.[8]


Cyrene's cultivation and export of poppies and silphium made the city prosper. Opium oil was also harvested from the poppies.[9] the silphium flower was considered a gift from the gods, with the extracted material selling at high prices and greatly increasing Cyrenaica's overall wealth.[10] However, increased demand, over-exploitation and changes in climate eventually led to the total extinction of the flower.[11]

Behind the scenes

Cyrene is depicted in Assassin's Creed: Origins to be much closer to Alexandria than it was in reality. It was actually located almost 500 miles west, near the modern-day village of Shahhat in Libya.

The Roman soldiers depicted in the various artworks wear anachronistic equipment typical for the mid 1st century CE.

The gatehouses of the city walls look more like triumphal arches rather than proper gatehouses.




  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Discovery Tour: Ancient EgyptTours: The Founding of Cyrene: "Cyrene"
  2. Discovery Tour: Ancient Egypt – Tours: The Founding of Cyrene: "Cyrenaica"
  3. Assassin's Creed: Origins
  4. Discovery Tour: Ancient Egypt – Tours: The Founding of Cyrene: "An Economic Powerhouse"
  5. Discovery Tour: Ancient EgyptTours: Important Monuments of Cyrene: "Temples & Statues"
  6. Assassin's Creed: OriginsThe Final Weighing
  7. Assassin's Creed: OriginsAbsolute Power
  8. Discovery Tour: Ancient Egypt – Tours: The Founding of Cyrene: "The Fall of Cyrene"
  9. Discovery Tour: Ancient EgyptTours: Major Exports of Cyrene: "Silphium & Poppy"
  10. Discovery Tour: Ancient Egypt – Tours: Major Exports of Cyrene: "The Yellow Flower"
  11. Discovery Tour: Ancient Egypt – Tours: Major Exports of Cyrene: "Extinction"