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A titular see of Northern Africa. The city was founded early in the seventh century B.C. by a Dorian colony from Thera and named after a spring, Kyre, which the Greeks consecrated to Apollo; it stood on the boundary of the Green Mountains (Djebel Akhaar), ten miles from its port, Apollonia (Marsa Sousa). It was the chief town of the Lydian region between Egypt and Carthage (Cyrenaica, now vilayet of Benghazi), kept up commercial relations with all the Greek cities, and reached the height of its prosperity under its own kings in the fifth century B. C. Soon after 460 it became a republic; after the death of Alexander it passed to the Ptolemies and fell into decay. Apion bequeathed it to the Romans, but it kept its self-government. In 74 B.C. Cyrene became a Roman colony. There were many Jews in the region, with their own synagogue at Jerusalem (Mat., xxvii, 32; Acts, ii, 10; vi, 9, xi, 20, sq.), who rebelled, A.D. 73, against Vespasian and in 115 against Trajan.
Cyrene is the birthplace of the philosophers Aristippus, Callimachus, Carneades, Eratosthenes and Synesius; the latter, a convert to Christianity, died Bishop of Ptolemais. Lequien (II, 621) mentions six bishops of Cyrene, and according to Byzantine legend the first was St. Lucius (Acts, xiii, 1); St. Theodorus suffered martyrdom under Diocletian; about 370 Philo dared to consecrate by himself a bishop for Hydra, and was succeeded by his own nephew, Philo; Rufus sided with Dioscorus at the Robber Synod (Latrocinium) of Ephesus in 449; Leontius lived about 600. Lequien (III, 1151) mentions also six Latin bishops, from 1477 to 1557. The Latin titular see was suppressed by a papal decree of 1894. The old city, ruined by the Arab invasion in the seventh century, is not inhabited, but its site is still called Qrennah (Cyrene). Its necropolis is one of the largest and best preserved in the world, and the tombs, mostly rock-hewn, are of Dorian style.
SMITH AND PORCHER, Discoveries at Cyrene (London, 1864); THRIGE, Res Cyrenensium (Copenhagen, 1828); ROSSBERG, Quæstiones de rebus Cyrenarum prov. rom.; STUDNICZKA, Kyrene (Leipzig, 1890); BORSARI, Geografia. . . della Tripolitana, Cirenaica e Fezzan (Turin, 1888); SMITH, Dict. of Greek and Roman Geog. (London, 1878), I, 734-36.