Simon of Cyrene

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CYRENE , ancient capital of Cyrenaica, on the northern coast of Africa. In 321 b.c.e. Cyrene came under Ptolemaic rule, remaining part of the Egyptian empire until 96 b.c.e. when it fell to the Romans. Josephus (Apion, 2:44) relates that Jews were sent by Ptolemy i Soter (304–282 b.c.e.) to "Cyrene and the other cities of Libya" to strengthen that king's hold upon the area. Strabo, in a passage quoted by Josephus (Ant., 14:115), describes the four classes of citizens in Cyrene in the year 85 b.c.e. "The first consisted of citizens, the second of farmers, the third of resident aliens (μέτοικοι), and the fourth of Jews." The Jews of Cyrene seem to have been at odds with the local Greek population as is shown by various Roman decrees supporting the rights of Cyrenean Jewry (i Macc. 15:23). Though under the Ptolemies Jewish civic equality (ὶσονομία) had been guaranteed, the Jews of Cyrene were persecuted by the local population and prevented from sending their donations to the Temple at Jerusalem. Only when Augustus and Marcus Agrippa intervened in 14 b.c.e. were these rights fully restored (Ant., 16:160ff.). The Jewish community in Cyrene maintained close ties with those in Palestine. A detailed history of the Hasmonean uprising was chronicled by *Jason of Cyrene (ii Macc. 2:23), and in the first century c.e. numerous Jews of Cyrene resided in Jerusalem (Matt. 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26; Acts 2:10; 6:9). This fact sheds light on the attempt made by some *sicarii under the leadership of a certain Jonathan to incite the Jews of Cyrene to rebellion after the fall of Jerusalem. This attempt would have been highly unrealistic had there been no intermediaries between Jerusalem and Cyrene. Though Jonathan made headway with the lower classes of the population, the leader of the Jewish community immediately reported his actions to the Roman governor, Catullus, who promptly put down the insurrection (Jos., Wars, 7:43ff.; Life, 424f.).

Far more serious was the Jewish uprising during the last years of Trajan (115–7), which spread across North Africa. The Jews of Cyrene, under their "king" called Lukuas or Andraeas, played a leading role in these bitter revolts, referred to by Greek authors as "the Jewish war" (ὸ ουδαικός πόλεμος). Various Greek and Latin inscriptions describe the destruction caused by the "Jewish tumult," which, although finally suppressed by the Roman legions, nevertheless left Cyrene in ruins (Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, 2; Dio Cassius 68, 32).


Hirschberg, Afrikah, 1 (1965), 8–11; Schue rer, Gesch, 4 (19114), 41f. (index); Corpus Papyrorum Judaicorum, 1 (1957), 86–92; Allon, Toledot, 1 (19583), 233–6, 239f.; Appel baum, Yehudim vi-Yvanim be-Kirenyah ha-Kedumah (1969); idem, in: Zion, 19 (1953/54), 23–56; 22 (1956/57), 81–85; K. Friedman, in: Miscella nea… H.P. Chajes (It., 1930), 39–55; J. Gray, in: University of Manchester, Cyrenaican Expedition 1912; N. Slouschz, Hébraeo-Phéniciens…. (1908), 223ff.

[Isaiah Gafni]

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Cyrene (sīrē´nē), ancient city near the northern coast of Africa, in Cyrenaica (now E Libya). It was a Greek colony founded (c.630 BC) by Aristoteles of Thera, who became king of Cyrene as Battus. For eight generations the monarchs were alternately named Battus and Arcesilas. Having important commerce with Greece, the little city-state flourished. Other cities were founded in Cyrenaica, notably Barca, but Cyrene retained power. In the late 6th cent. Cyrene submitted to the Persians under Cambyses II (see under Cambyses), but later (after 480 BC) became independent again. Although the city became subject to Alexander the Great in 331 and was later practically annexed by the Ptolemies of Egypt, it seems to have had nominal independence until the marriage of Berenice (d. 221), daughter of Cyrene's king, to Ptolemy III. Cyrene remained part of the Ptolemaic kingdom until 96 BC It was later the center of a Roman province. Under the Roman emperor Trajan there were Jewish uprisings, which were severely punished, and Cyrene declined. At its prime Cyrene was a large and beautiful city and an intellectual center noted for its schools of medicine and philosophy. Aristippus, Callimachus, Eratosthenes, and Synesius were born here. Extensive ruins include the temple of Apollo (dating from the 7th cent. BC), the agora, the capitol, the acropolis, and the theater.

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Cyrene an ancient Greek city in North Africa, near the coast in Cyrenaica, which from the 4th century bc was a great intellectual centre, with a noted medical school.

See also Simon of Cyrene.

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Simon of Cyrene (sīrē´nē), in the New Testament, bystander made to carry Jesus' cross. He was probably an African Jew, and is identified as the father of Alexander and Rufus.