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 Antichità 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 François Chamoux (until 1981), André 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 Cyrène et la Libye hellénistique. Libykai historiai de l’époque républicaine au principat d’Auguste by the late André Laronde [Paris 1987]; and the article Les comptes de démiurges à Cyrène by François Chamoux [Neuchâtel 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 koiné 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 Cyrène 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 Cyrénaïque et Afrique Mineure of the Bulletin Épigraphique in the Revue des Études 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 «facing an era of unparelleled change» and it was «greatly to be hoped that this» would have brought «new benefits both to archaeology and to tourism, and that it» would have resulted «in a level of public understanding of history and archaeology amongst the Libyans themselves which they have never previously been invited to participate in.» [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.

AB (rev. CR)