The project

A comprehensive corpus of the inscriptions of Greek Cyrenaica is a longstanding desideratum among the scholars of the ancient world. Greek inscriptions from Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic Cyrenaica are currently scattered among many different, sometimes outdated publications, while new texts have been recently discovered and edited.

In 2011 Catherine Dobias-Lalou, who has been a member of the French archaeological mission in Libya since 1976 and has been studying the inscriptions of the Greek period since 1970, agreed to edit a comprehensive epigraphic corpus in EpiDoc with the collaboration of scholars from the University of Bologna (Lucia Criscuolo, Alice Bencivenni), the University of Macerata (Silvia Maria Marengo, Gianfranco Paci) and the University of Roma Tor Vergata (Simona Antolini).

In the same year the Inscriptions of Greek Cyrenaica (IGCyr) project became part of the wider international Inscriptions of Libya (InsLib) project, incorporating Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania (IRT , already online), the Inscriptions of Roman Cyrenaica project (IRCyr, in preparation), and the ostraka from Bu Ngem (already available on the website The collaborative undertaking was agreed upon between Charlotte RouechŽ, Catherine Dobias-Lalou and Lucia Criscuolo in May 2011 and involves the Universities of Bologna (Dipartimento di Storia Culture Civiltˆ), Macerata (Dipartimento di Studi umanistici), Paris IV Sorbonne (Centre de recherche sur la Libye antique) and King's College London (Centre for Hellenic Studies and Department of Digital Humanities).

Since then the thematic corpus Greek Verse inscriptions of Cyrenaica (GVCyr) has been designed as a corpus cutting across IGCyr and IRCyr. It includes Greek metrical texts from both the Greek and the Roman periods in Cyrenaica. An essential addition to the IGCyr and GVCyr corpora, as well as a natural outcome of the study of the inscriptions, is the planned publication of the Prosopographia Cyrenaica.

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IGCyr | GVCyr

The IGCyr corpus assembles nearly 900 inscriptions from Greek Cyrenaica (VII-I centuries B.C.). The majority of these inscriptions have been published previously, sometimes in versions which can be improved, while nearly 100 of them are unpublished. The GVCyrcorpus assembles about 60 Greek metrical inscriptions from Greek and Roman Cyrenaica; some have been published already, but they have never been studied together.

Most of these texts have been re-read by Catherine Dobias-Lalou, who as a member of the French archaeological mission in Libya from 1976 was able to examine most of the material available in Shahat (Cyrene), Susa (Apollonia) and paid shorter visits to Tulmaytha (Ptolemais), Tocra (Taucheira), Benghazi (Euesperides/Berenike) and other locations. Further improvements have been provided by Gianfranco Paci and Silvia Maria Marengo, who have both studied the inscriptions from Cyrenaica for many years; it has also been possible to draw on the archive of earlier epigraphists of the Italian mission held by the University of Macerata. The GVCyr corpus, where texts from the Greek period are not the most numerous, profited from Joyce Reynolds’ documentation, including some unpublished items. Documents that are both prose and verse have been inserted into the GVCyr corpus (except for gvcyr033 and igcyr097100, which are distinct entries; the same for gvcyr042 and IRCyr C.749). The publication, online, of all these inscriptions in one single new critical edition has been made possible by Lucia Criscuolo, Alice Bencivenni and the University of Bologna, which is hosting the IGCyr-GVCyr corpora.

The collection is made up of transcriptions, squeezes and illustrations for the majority of the texts, held in the archives of the Centre de recherche sur la Libye antique de l'UniversitŽ Paris IV Sorbonne, in the personal archive of Catherine Dobias-Lalou and in the archives of the University of Macerata. Some of the remainder are illustrated in photographs held in the archives of the Libyan Department of Antiquities at Shahat (Cyrene). Furthermore Catherine Dobias-Lalou took advantage of the IRCyr project archive in London, which was generously put at her disposal. We did not include, as being part of other collections, the inscriptions painted on vases (see for the AVI project), captions on coins and marks on anphoras and tiles.

The Inscriptions of Greek Cyrenaica project is publishing these materials in two online EpiDoc corpora: IGCyr and GVCyr, which can be consulted separately, or cross-searched. Each inscription record presents metadata description, bibliography, Greek text, apparatus, translation into modern languages (English, French, Italian and Arabic), and commentary, together with the fullest available collection of illustrations. The new corpora are presented as two series of documents; but, as with IRT and the IRCyr corpus, they also include geographical information linking to the project of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, in New York, Pleiades. That information can in turn be linked to other ancient world data via the Pelagios system. The Advanced Search page, in addition, will offer the opportunity to browse the Prosopographia Cyrenaica, a long awaited study, carried out by the late AndrŽ Laronde, which is currently being completed.

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Greek Cyrenaica

Ancient Cyrenaica is the eastern coastal region of Libya, which, at least from the first century A.D., was also known as the Pentapolis, i.e. the federation of five cities (Pliny, Naturalis Historia 5.5.5.): these are, from west to east, Euesperides/Berenice (Benghazi), Taucheira/Arsinoe (Tocra, Tukrah), Barka/Ptolemais (Tolemaide, Tulmaytha), Cyrene (Shahat), and Apollonia (Susa). These cities were founded by Greek colonists who did not completely control their hinterland: many villages and small towns grew up in the surrounding areas leaving visible remains to this day.

«The settled region of Cyrenaica is characterized largely by the upland plateau of the Jabal Akhdar (the Green Mountain) which projects northwards into the Mediterranean between the Gulf of Sidra (the Greater Syrtis) to the W and the low, arid coastlands of the Marmaric region towards Alexandria. The plateau rises in two steps, and while on the W there is a wide coastal strip between the foot of the jabal and Benghazi, this narrows progressively as one travels north-eastward; disappearing almost completely beyond Ptolemais. Towards the E, the land drops more gradually and as it becomes drier, so settlement is more sparse toward Tubruq. ... The Jabal Akhdar, composed mainly of limestone, rises to over 800 m above sea level and enjoys higher rainfall than any other part of Libya... The vegetation and the general character of the terrain are more reminiscent of Greece and Asia Minor than of Tripolitania or other parts of North Africa.» [Kenrick 2013: 1].

Cyrenaica was originally occupied by a semi-nomadic population conventionally known as Libyan. Contacts between this area and both Mycenaeans and Minoans during the Bronze Age are attested by sporadic though significant discoveries. The region was settled by Greek colonists in and after the late seventh century B.C. The first settlers were Greeks from the Aegean island of Thera led by a certain Aristoteles, who, after two unsuccessful attempts in the island of Platea off the Libyan coast and in the nearby site of Aziris, settled definetively in the site of Cyrene on the traditional date of 631 B.C. (Herodotus 4.150-158 and SEG 9.3, the well known inscription bearing the founders' oath). Aristoteles became king of Cyrene as Battos (Pindarus, Pythia 5.87) and there followed from 631 until c. 440 B.C. a succession of eight kings, alternately named Battos and Arkesilaos, until the assassination of the last, Arkesilaos IV (Herodotus 4.159-205).

The Greeks eventually established four more cities. Euesperides was founded at the end of the seventh century B.C., but received new settlers coming from different cities of Greece in 462 B.C. through the initiative of king Arkesilaos IV of Cyrene. Around 250 B.C. the site was abandoned in favour of the new foundation nearby of Berenice, named after the wife of Ptolemy III Euergetes king of Egypt. Taucheira (or Teucheira) was said to have been founded from Cyrene shortly after 631 B.C. The city received the name Arsinoe, after a queen of Egypt, during the Hellenistic period (between 322 and 220 B.C., not necessarily in 246 B.C., as it was assumed until recently). The settlement known in the archaic period as the 'port of Barka' was also founded in the seventh century B.C., as the archaeology shows, though Herodotus assigns the founding of Barka (al-Marj) itself to the reign of Arkesilaos II (560-550 B.C.). The port was named Ptolemais during the Hellenistic period (either in 246 B.C. in the time of Ptolemy III Euergetes who returned Cyrenaica to the control of the Lagid family or as early as the end of the fourth century B.C. in the time of Ptolemy I). At the beginning of the 20th century the Italians founded a new village on the site which became known as Tolemaide, modern Tulmaytha. Apollonia was for many centuries known as the 'port of Cyrene'. The city may have received both its name honouring the patron god of Cyrene and its independence from the mother-city in the second half of the second century B.C.

After the end of the monarchy at Cyrene, the region saw conflicts between aristocratic and popular parties on the one hand, alliances between different cities and raids by displaced Libyans on the other. At Cyrene itself, the fourth century B.C. was characterized by political struggles. In 401 B.C. a revolution put a democratic government in place: the reconciliation which followed forced the oligarchs to compromise with their opponents and to set up a mixed constitution (Diodorus 14.34). It is probably to this moderate constitution that the fourth century B.C. decree bearing the ancient oath of the founders (SEG 9.3) belongs. During the next decades, perhaps in the sixties at the latest, an aggressive reaction by the aristocrats took place, following the intolerable increasing growth in the number of citizens (Aristoteles, Politica, 1319b): a restrictive regime with one thousand citizens was then established [Laronde 1987]. As to Euesperides, to cite the most prominent case of a vulnerable situation, the city was attacked by Libyan tribes in 414 B.C. and was saved only by the accidental arrival of the Spartan fleet commanded by Gylippus who was sailing towards Syracuse (Thucydides 7.50).

In 331 B.C., when Alexander the Great, king of Macedon, during his successful Asian expedition, founded Alexandria in Egypt and marched towards the desert oasis of Siwa, the Cyreneans sent an embassy with gifts for the king, namely 300 horses and five four-horses chariots, and were secured against his intervention, becoming his friends and allies (Diodorus 17.49.3; Curtius Rufus 4.7.8).

After the death of Alexander in 323 B.C, the region was partially conquered by a Spartan adventurer, a former associate of Alexander's treasurer Harpalus, named Thibron. A faction of aristocrats, exiled from Cyrene by the democrats who gained power during the siege imposed by Thibron, sought help from Ptolemy, now in control of Egypt [Laronde 1987]. He sent an army led by Ophellas. Thibron was defeated, but the Cyreneans lost their freedom: the famous constitutional diagramma by Ptolemy, acting as an agent of the king of Macedon, was imposed on - and inscribed at - Cyrene (SEG 9.1) in 321 or 320 B.C.

Cyrene and the Greek cities of Cyrenaica were from now on almost continuously in Ptolemaic hands. The cities were actually ruled by a governor installed by Ptolemy and his son and descendant Ptolemy II Philadelphos (Ophellas, 322-308 B.C.; Magas, a stepson of Ptolemy, from 308 or 300 until 258 or 250 B.C.) or by kings of the Ptolemaic dynasty (though they were not always controlled from Alexandria). It is in the third-second centuries B.C. that the Greeks were joined by groups of Greek-speakers of varied origins brought in by the kings of Egypt.

After the death of Magas, who had at some point taken the royal title at Cyrene and appointed governors for the other cities, some years of struggle followed. Cyrene and the Greek cities of Cyrenaica were again in firm Ptolemaic control in 246 B.C. with the accession of Ptolemy III Euergetes, who married Magas' daughter Berenike. In an inscription found at Adoulis (OGIS I 54) the king contends that he has acquired 'Libya' by inheritance from his father [Bagnall 1976].

It is only in 163 B.C. that Cyrene changed its status. The conflict between the brother kings Ptolemy VI Philometor and Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II led to the agreement of 163 B.C.: while Ptolemy VI was to be the king of Egypt and of the other possessions outside, Cyrene became the kingdom of Ptolemy VIII. One year later Cyrene revolted with the help of the governor left by Ptolemy VIII in charge of the whole Cyrenaica, Ptolemaios Sympetesis (Polybius 31.18.6-7). The separate status of Cyrene ended in 145 B.C. when Ptolemy VIII became king of Egypt: it remained in his hands until his death in 116 B.C. This king is known, from an inscription found at Cyrene (SEG 9.7), to have bequeathed his kingdom to Rome should he die without an heir. As in fact he left an heir, Cyrenaica still remained in Ptolemaic hands [Bagnall 1976].

It is not generally agreed though who controlled the region during the last quarter of the second century. Despite the testimony of Iustinus (39.5.2) who writes that Ptolemy VIII left Cyrene to Ptolemy Apion, his son by the concubine Eirene, the epigraphic sources testify that the legitimate son of Ptolemy VIII, Ptolemy IX Soter II, king of Egypt from 116 until 108/7 B.C., remained in control of Cyrenaica until some time between 104 and 101 B.C. According to the literary sources, Ptolemy Apion died in 96 B.C. bequeathing Cyrenaica to Rome. Cyrenaica passed then into Roman control, which, however, was only seriously exercised more than 20 years later.

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European travellers and scholars began visiting Cyrenaica already in the 18th century, although the area was difficult to access since its incorporation in the Ottoman empire in the 16th century. These first travellers were interested in copying inscriptions as well as - or, often, more than - in recognizing ancient ruins [Laronde 1987: 18].

The French consul in Tripoli, Claude Le Maire, visited Cyrene in 1706, briefly reported about it and copied the first inscription, SEG 9.169 [Le Maire in Lucas 1712; cf. Omont 1902]. Granger, pseudonym of Félix Tourtachot, a French surgeon, went to Cyrene in the thirties of the 18th century and probably copied there three inscriptions that were later attached to the papers of Michel Fourmont, professor at the Collège de France [Laronde 1987: 18-19]. In 1817 the Italian physician Paolo Della Cella was the first traveller who extensively visited the antiquities of Cyrenaica, describing in particular Cyrene and Apollonia [Della Cella 1819]. A man with a good classical education, he was able to copy Greek and Latin inscriptions. Father Pacifico from Monte Cassiano visited the Pentapolis in 1819 leaving a brief description of it [published in Delaporte 1825] and some copies of inscriptions. Subsequently, the French painter Jean-Raimond Pacho visited Cyrenaica in 1824-1825 and the detailed account of his voyage, published after his death, mentions copies of a great number of inscriptions from Cyrene, Taucheira and Barka [Pacho 1827]. These works, together with some copies by the Danish count J.C. Graber de Hemsö, consul at Tripoli, and some others, probably those by Father Pacifico, handed over to Pietro Negri, the consul of Sardinia in Tripoli, were the principal sources for the edition of the Greek inscriptions from Cyrenaica included by Johannes Franz and August Boeckh in the third volume of the Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum (CIG) [Berlin 1853: pars XXXI nos. 5129-5362b].

An expedition sponsored by the British Admiralty in 1822 and led by the brothers Frederick and H. George Beechey had, as a principal outcome, the drawing of two important maps of Cyrene [Beechey 1828: 404-405; 430-431]. As a consequence of this voyage, the British vice-consul in Tripoli W. Warrington sent two expeditions in 1826 and in 1827 led by his sons Frederick and H. George Warrington with the declared purpose of collecting antiquities: five boxes, including one inscription, arrived in England as a result [Luni 1998: 336]. The French vice-consul in Tripoli and then in Benghazi Jean Vattier de Bourville was entrusted with a mission by his government and in 1847-1848 observed some inscriptions during his excavations at Benghazi, Cyrene and Ptolemais (where from the fortress wall he removed the inscription of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius now in the Louvre): these inscriptions, reported by A.-J. Letronne [1848; 1848-1849] and republished by Vattier de Bourville [1850], were included in the Addenda of the fourth volume of CIG [Berlin 1859].

The first 'scientific' expedition to excavate in Cyrenaica was the one led by R. Murdoch Smith and Edwin A. Porcher in 1860-1861 [Kenrick 2013]. They began excavating in Cyrene at their own expense, but they were later funded by the British government: about thirty new texts were discovered on that occasion.

These new Greek inscriptions were included in two important epigraphic collections which made them known to a wider public: in 1905, the Sammlung der griechischen Dialekt-Inschriften (SGDI), by Hermann Collitz and Friedrich Bechtel (III.2, 4833-4870) and in 1923, the Dialectorum graecarum exempla epigraphica potiora (DGE), by Eduard Schwyzer.

The next authorized expedition to Cyrene was led by the Americans with Richard Norton in 1910-1911: the epigraphist of the team, Herbert de Cou, was shot dead for unknown reasons on the excavation (March 11, 1911). The promising work of the group is attested by the Inscriptions from the Cyrenaica published in 1913 by D.M. Robinson in the American Journal of Archaeology [17, 1913: 157-200; cf. 193-200 for the corrections of CIG following the notes by H. de Cou].

In the same year, 1910, the Italian archaeologist Federico Halbherr had led an expedition to Libya with the support of the Italian Government and the consent of the Turks: Gaetano De Sanctis was in the team. Many drawings of inscriptions by Halbherr are to be found in his archive kept at the Accademia Roveretana degli Agiati [Paci 1991].

After their invasion of Libya in 1911, the Italians started to investigate the antiquities of Cyrenaica systematically, excavating mainly in Cyrene, but also at Ptolemais and Apollonia, from 1912 until 1942. In 1912 a Soprintendenza per le Antichitˆ della Cirenaica was established in the region and from 1925 onwards an Extraordinary Mission worked every summer. Although connected with a military occupation that led to inescapable episodes disrespectful towards the preservation of the archaeological remains, these regular excavations made a fundamental contribution to the knowledge of the sites and their epigraphy.

A lot of important publications appeared during this period in the Notiziario Archeologico (1915-1927) and in the series of the Africa Italiana (1927-1941). Already in 1925 Silvio Ferri published some major texts such as the diagramma by Ptolemy (SEG 9.1) and in 1928 a special issue of the Rivista di Filologia e di Istruzione Classica was wholly dedicated to the inscriptions from Cyrene. In 1932-1936 the two fundamental volumes Documenti antichi dell'Africa italiana by Gaspare Oliverio were published.

The need of a corpusdevoted to the Greek inscriptions of Cyrenaica was already felt. J.J.E. Hondius collected a first group of inscriptions in the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum (SEG), volume 9.1 (1939) and a second in volume 9.2 (1944). Although completed by an index, this comprehensive pubblication of the inscriptions edited in the years 1912-1935 can of course not be considered as a corpus, and was never intended to be one; it lacks images and, while some new readings were suggested, none were based on access to the original texts [Laronde 1987: 19-20].

The outbreaks of the Second World War ended archaeological activity in the area and, in due course, the Italian occupation. Gaspare Oliverio, who died in 1956, was unable to publish the inscriptions recovered in the years immediately before the war. His Supplemento Epigrafico Cirenaico (SECir) was not published until 1961-1962 by Giovanni Pugliese Carratelli and Donato Morelli.

The British Military Administration responsible for Cyrenaica until the establishment of the sovereign state of Libya by the United Nations at the end of 1951 preserved the structure of the Italian Antiquities service. The activity of British archaeologists, in particular those working at the British School at Rome, became intense. John Ward Perkins, the Director, and Joyce M. Reynolds, a student of the school, started to travel in the region and in 1952 they published the Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania. The British Controller of the Antiquities service in the period 1953-1966 was Richard Goodchild who carried out excavations at Taucheira, at Ptolemais, at Cyrene and in some rural sites. Many Greek and Latin inscriptions were found and published by Goodchild himself alone or with the help of Joyce Reynolds. A corpus of the inscriptions of the Roman period was then first planned, but it never came to light. The achievements of Richard Goodchild includes the renewed involvement in excavation of Italian scholars led by Sandro Stucchi as well as the encouragement of other foreign expeditions (the Americans at Ptolemais, the French at Apollonia) and the training of native Libyan archaeologists. The work of these years and the involvement of the local Department of Antiquities can be appreciated through the Proceedings of the Historical Conference Libya in History held at the University of Libya [Benghazi 1968] and the articles of the new review Libya Antiqua (Tripoli, from 1964). From the epigraphic point of view, mention should be made of the Inscriptions from Cyrene published by Peter Marshall Fraser in 1958 and the works by Lidio Gasperini [1965; 1967], the epigraphist of the Italian mission guided by Stucchi.

After the revolution in 1969 and the rise of Muammar Qadhafi, the Department of Antiquities continued to function side by side with many foreign missions, even though without the opportunity to embark on initiatives of its own as it did in Goodchild's time [Kenrick 2013: 17]. An American mission worked at Cyrene in the sanctuary of Wadi Bil Gadir from 1969 to 1978: the inscriptions found have been published by Joyce Reynolds [2012]. After Stucchi's death, the Italian mission at Cyrene was directed by Lidiano Bacchielli (1991-1996) and by Mario Luni (1996-2014), the epigraphists being Lidio Gasperini, Gianfranco Paci and Silvia Maria Marengo. A French mission has been working at Apollonia since 1976, under the direction of Franois Chamoux (until 1981), AndrŽ Laronde (1981-2011) and now Vincent Michel. Catherine Dobias-Lalou has been working on inscriptions as a member of the mission since its beginnings. British missions have worked at Benghazi, one in the area of Berenice from 1971 to 1975, another one at Euesperides from 1995 to 2006, while a Polish mission has been working at Ptolemais since 2001.

Some outstanding publications appeared in the seventies and the eighties of the 20th century. Among the most important for the knowledge of new Greek texts and the improvement of old ones, are the two volumes by J. Boardman, J. Hayes, Excavations at Tocra 1963-1965 [London 1966, 1973]; the fundamental monograph Cyrne et la Libye hellŽnistique. Libykai historiai de lÕŽpoque rŽpublicaine au principat dÕAuguste by the late AndrŽ Laronde [Paris 1987]; and the article Les comptes de dŽmiurges ˆ Cyrne by Franois Chamoux [Neuch‰tel 1988].

The last 35 years have seen an increase in the epigraphical researches devoted to specific issues concerning the history of the region: political and military events, the composition of the ancient population of Cyrenaica, the contacts with other people from the Mediterranean world, the institutions, the cults, the prosopography and onomastics, the original Cyrenean numerals, the archaeology and topography; simultaneously many new inscriptions have been published in authored articles [see the analytical reviews appeared in Quaderni di Archeologia della Libia and in the series L'Africa romana]. The edition of an up to date and authentic corpus of the inscriptions from Greek Cyrenaica cannot be further postponed.

The team working on the IGCyr-GVCyr corpora and, in particular, the lead epigraphy researcher of the project, Catherine Dobias-Lalou have a long tradition of researches devoted to Cyrenaica. As a member of the French archaeological mission in Libya since 1976, Catherine Dobias-Lalou regularly visited the region until the revolution of 2011. Her interest in the inscriptions of Cyrenaica already began in the seventies. She wrote many articles through the eighties and the nineties concerning the language of the Greek inscriptions, Cyrenean onomastics, the contrast between the Cyrenean dialect and the koinŽ attested in Cyrenaica in the Hellenistic period as well as the specific vocabulary of Cyrenean metrical texts. In 2000 her fundamental monograph Le dialecte des inscriptions grecques de Cyrne appeared. Other fields of research have in the meanwhile enriched her commitment to Cyrenean inscriptions alongside the continuing linguistic interest, leading to a series of articles on important texts and new inscriptions. Catherine Dobias-Lalou has also been responsible, since 1988, for the section CyrŽna•que et Afrique Mineure of the Bulletin ƒpigraphique in the Revue des ƒtudes Grecques. Gianfranco Paci and Silvia Maria Marengo have for their part contributed to the development of the epigraphic studies regarding the region, the first thanks to his work on the field and his publications of new texts, the second thanks to her essential Lessico delle iscrizioni greche della Cirenaica [1991] and many articles about old and new inscriptions. Lucia Criscuolo, historian and papyrologist, has been studying Cyrenaica because of her interests in the reign of the Ptolemies and has contributed to the interpretation of the most important historical inscriptions of Cyrene.

In the aftermath of the revolution it seemed that Libya was Çfacing an era of unparelleled changeÈ and it was Çgreatly to be hoped that thisÈ would have brought Çnew benefits both to archaeology and to tourism, and that itÈ would have resulted Çin a level of public understanding of history and archaeology amongst the Libyans themselves which they have never previously been invited to participate in.È [Kenrick 2013: 17]. The IGCyr project was launched in the same period, in the same spirit. At the time of writing, everything is very uncertain, archaeological expeditions are impossible and foreign diplomatic missions are closing and evacuating their citizens; but scholars who are prevented from visiting Libya can take stock of their work at this point, and aim to make it more fully available than ever before, in the hope of providing a rich resource for Libyan scholarship in the future.

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