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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.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.