The stunning Greek ruins
Old Roman cities are fairly well represented all over North Africa, but it proves difficult to find any better site of Greek ruins than Cyrene. Not only does it have a fantastic setting, at the beginning of the beautiful Akhdar Mountains, looking out in direction of the Mediterranean Sea, but the site is deliciously only partly excavated. Adding to the delight is the surrounding landscape, with green and fertile valley below, and a forest on the hill above.
The legend of how Cyrene was founded has survived. A prominent man, Battus, went to the oracle of Delphi to seek advice. The oracle told him that he should bring people along with him, and settle in Libya. Battus so did. But he and his expedition landed on a small island. Dissatisfied with this island, Battus returned to the oracle, only to be told that he had not yet arrived in Libya. Once again Battus had to set out, and this time he did arrive in Libya. 6 years later the colonists moved to the site of Cyrene, and in the centuries that followed the place prospered.
How much of this has a historical core, we cannot know. But Cyrene was a colony, and one believes that the colonists came from the island today known as Santorini. Cyrene coexisted well with Libyan locals, and some generations of intermarriage brought made the two peoples into one. However, new groups of Greeks continued to come, so it never really lost its Greek touch.
The city site is about 1.2 by 1 kilometre, but much of it has grown together with the village of Shahat, and agricultural fields around it.
In the centre of Cyrene, on the agora (the town square), the Tomb of Battus is located, giving some substance to the stories of the origin of Cyrene. Around Cyrene, the Necropolis has taken up an unbelievable size, an estimated 10 kmē. There are still hundreds of tombs cut into the hills, and many have the shape of mausoleums or temples.
The main attractions of Cyrene are the two stunning temples of Apollo and Zeus.
Cyrene is added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, as one of 5 places in Libya.
Eat and Sleep
One hostel in Shahat, but it is not of very good quality. Food is served here.
Buses and taxis between Al-Bayda and Shahat.
75 km east: Derna
20 km northeast: Apollonia
25 km west: Al-Bayda