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Cyrenaican Greeks (DBA I/54)
630-74 BC)

According to Greek mythology, Cyrene (Kyrene) was the daughter of the naiad Creusa and the mortal Hypseus, king of the Lapiths. Apollo fell in love with her and took her to Africa, where he built her a city (called Cyrene), in the region that came to be known as Cyrenaica in eastern Libya. Herodotus tells a slightly different tale regarding the founding of Cyrene (or modern Shahat) circa 630 BC. According to the Histories, Grinus of Thera received a oracle at Delphi that Thera should found a colony in Libya. No notice was taken by the Therans of the oracle, until their island was afflicted with seven years of terrible drought. A visit to Delphi to determine the cause of their woes produced the advice that "that if they and Battus would make a settlement at Cyrene in Libya, things would go better with them."

P>Not knowing quite where Libya was, the Theran elders searched far and wide for a guide, finally finding a cloth merchant who offered to lead them to the island of Platea off the Libyan coast. After reconnoitering the island, the advance party returned to Thera where the elders drafted colonists by lots and put them under the command of Battus and equipped them with two penteconters. Not long after setting out, the would-be colonists attempted to return to Thera, but were driven off with showers of missiles. They eventually settled on Platea, but the drought continued in Thera and another oracle chided the Therans for not establishing their settlement on the mainland of Libya. This they finally did, convincing Battus and the Therans on Platea to shift the colony to Aziris on the Libyan mainland, where they struggled for six years. Finally, the native Libyans led the Theran colonists to the west, across the rich district of Irasa in the dead of night, to a high plateau on the upper slopes of Jabal Al-Akhdar, overlooking the sea. Here there was a spring, dedicated to Apollo, which was named Cyre (Kyre).

During the reigns of Battus (40 years) and his son Arcesilaus (16 years), the colony struggled. During the rein of the third king, Battus the Happy, however, the oracle at Delphi encouraged the migration of Greeks to Cyrene, and a multitude of new settlers expanded outward to form new settlements, seizing lands from the neighboring Libyans. The port city of Barca (Barke) was founded at this time. The Libyan king Adicran appealed to Egypt for aid, prompting the Pharoah Apries to lead a large army against Cyrene, blissfully ignorant of the military prowess of Greek hoplites. The Cyrenaeans soundly defeated Apries, and his defeat prompted an Egyptian revolt in 570 BC. The Achaemenids conquered Egypt in 525 BC, ending Egyptian attempts at hegemony, while showing only modest interest in Cyrene itself, allowing the Battiad Dynasty to rule as satraps.

In subsequent years, Cyrene and its port at Apollonia (Marsa Sousa) became the chief town of the Lybian region between Egypt and Carthage, and traded with all the major Greek cities, reaching the height of its prosperity in the 5th century BC. Greek colonists continued to overflow the city, creating new cities and ports, which operated within the Cyrenean sphere. The region was fertile and well-watered, with hills and light woods, in sharp contrast to the balance of Libya.

In 431 BC, Arkesilas IV was assassinated, ending the Battiad Dynasty. Cyrene became a republic following a civil war with Thibron in which the Cyrenean republicans mustered an army of 30,000, including Carthaginian and Libyan allies.

According to Thucydides (7.59), Spartan reinforcements (comprised of helots and ex-helots) bound for Sicily was blown off course to Libya in 414/413 BC. They were given two trieres by Cyrene, and repaid the favor by joining with Euesperides against the Libyans. a allied with Euesperides against the Libyans.

The city made alliance and was subsequently absorbed into Alexander's Macedonian empire. In 324 BC, a rogue band of 5000 mercenaries under the command of Harpalus (who as later assassinated) and the Spartan captain Thibron took refuge in Crete, where a number of Cyrenean exiles persuaded them to reestablish themselves in Cyrenaicia. The pirate army landed first at Cyrene, seizing the nearby harbor and defeating the Cyrene army outside their gates. Beseiged, the city fathers paid a ransom of 500 talents of gold and chariots, and Thibron's pirates moved out to prey on other Cyrenaician cities. Feuded by local rivalies, the cities of Barca and Hesperis supported Thibron, who also recruited mercenaries from the Peloponnese. Cyrene raised its own army of 30,000 with Carthaginian and Libyan allies. A great battle ensued, with the Cyrenaician army proving no match for Thibron's experienced veterans. Cyrene was beseiged, and at the height of the seige, a republican coup within the city prompted the oligarchs and upper class to flee, many taking refuge with Thibron and others trekking to Egypt to plead for Ptolemaic intervention. Ptolemy sent an army under Ophellas, which prompted erstwhile foes Thibron and Cyrene into a futile alliance. Ophellas easily overwhelmed the allied force, capturing and crucifying the Spartan adventurer Thibron.

Ophellas was appointed Ptolemy's governor or satrap (c. 322 BC) but revolted in 312 BC, ruling thereafter as an independent leader, thus representing the start of the Cyrenean I/56b list. Ophellas took an Cyrenean army with Athenian allies to support Agathokles of Syracuse against the Carthaginians in the first Punic War, but was murdered for his troubles in 308 BC. Again Cyrenea resisted attempts to restore Ptolemaic rule, but after five years Ptolemy's half-brother Magas (son of Berenice) was able to capture Cyrene and establish himself as governor.

After a time, Magas fashioned himself as king of Cyrene (283/277 BC) and planned an invasion of Egypt. Ptolemy hired mercenaries and garrisoned the frontier in anticipation of their advance, but the Cyrene army was forced to turn back to deal with the revolt of the Marmaridae, a tribe of Libyan nomads. His military plans thwarted, Magas turned to political intrique. Using his marriage ties to Apame, daughter of Antiochus, Magas persuaded Antiochus to break the treaty which his father Seleucus had made with Ptolemy and to attack Egypt. Although Antiochus' plans failed to come to fruition, the threat distracted Ptolemy's attention from Cyrene. Magas ruled until his death in 250 BC, whereupon the Cyrenaica formed a loose federal government aided by Demophanes and Ekdemus of Arcada.

In 246 AD, Berenike II, the daughter of Magas, married Ptolemy III, and Cyrenaica was reunited with Egypt. During the subsequent period of loose Ptolemaic rule, the Cyrenaican cities continued to grow and were equipped with permanent defensive walls. The old port of Barca was greatly expanded and renamed Ptolemais. Euesperides (Beaghazi) was renamed Berenice, and Taucheira (Tocra) became Arsinoe. Cyrene's port at Apollonia was recognized as an independent city, and the region of Cyrenaica became known as the Pentapolis or the land of the five cities.

According to Polybios, the Cyreneans revolted against Ptolemy Physkon in 163 BC. In a pitched battle, Physkon drove off the Cyreneans Libyan allies but was unable to crack the Cyrenean phalanx. Cyrenaicia remained an independent kingdom under Ptolemy VIII until reabsorbed in 146 AD

In 96 B.C. the region of Cyrenaica was willed by Ptolemy Apion to Rome as an independent kingdom. The quaestor Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus arrived in 74 BC and officially annexed the region as a Roman province, thus ending this army list. The city of Cyrene thrived under Roman rule until factions within the city rebelled during the Jewish revolt of 115 AD. The heavy-handed Roman General Marcus Turbo suppressed the rebellion by killing over 20,000 civilians and destroying much of the city, which never fully recovered.

Army List

630-314 BC 313-74 BC Description
1x LCh or 3Cv or 4Sp (Gen) 1x 3Kn (Gen) General. Knights represent the Companions of Ophellas or the similar household cavalry of the Ptolemaic rulers of Cyrene.
2x LCh Cyreneans with javelins on Libyan-style four horse light chariots.
2x LCh//4Sp Dismountable Hoplites. Treated here as Light Chariots although these are presumably carts used to transport the hoplites to prevent fatique and not a fighting platform.
4x 4Sp 6x 4Sp Cyrenean Hoplites in the classic Greek style
2x 4Pk or 4Ax Representing Ophallas' Macedonian garrison (pike phalanx), household troops of the Ptolemaic ruler trained in the Macedonian agema style or mercenaries. The Ax represent mercenary Greek peltasts, perhaps Iphikrateans.
3x 2Ps 3x 2Ps Skirmishers. Representing Libyan javelinmen and/or Greek archers and slingers in the earlier period and mercenary Greek archers/slingers or Cretan archers in the later period.

Enemies and Allies

The enemies of Cyrene include the Early Libyans (I/7cd), the Saitic Egyptians (I/53), the Early Achaemenid Persians (I/60ac), Early Carthaginians (I/61ab), Later Achaemenid Persians (II/7), Alexandrian Macedonians (II/12) and Ptolemaic Egyptians (II/20a).

The Ptolemiac II/20c list should probably also be included to represent the rebellion against Ptolemy Physkon in 163 BC. Marian Romans might also be included as a hypothetical enemy for the Cyrene B list in a civil war/revolt scenario.

In Big Battle DBA, Cyrene armies can ally with Early LIbyans (I/7c) and Early Carthaginians (I/61b). The murder of Ophallas aside, Cryrene should also be allowed to ally with Syracuse (II/9) in 308 BC.

Camps and BUAs

Classical camps might include the spring at Cyre, and/or a temple to Apollo. Since the Cyrenes were known for transporting their hoplites to battle in carts, a wagon park of sorts might also make an interest subject.

BUAs might depict the walled city of Cyrene or any of the five cities of the Pentapolis.


A low-aggression (O) littoral army, the Cyrenean Greeks offer ample opportunity for those interested in marine landing tactics, although historically, the majority of Cyrenaican battles were fought in the dry Libyan desert.

Light Chariots that dismount give the early Cyrenean general considerable flexibility against an aggressive Libyan foe, especially in good going.

Against Macedonians, Saitic and Ptolemiac Egyptians, the Cyrenean Greeks have many of the same troop types, albeit in slightly different proportions. Here Generalship is at a premium, including effective deployments, use of terrain, and your ace in the hole, the littoral landing.

Against Early Achaemenid Persians, send your Hoplites confidently forward into the Persian bow and trust your dice. Against the Later Achaemenids, you will lack mobility, but can use littoral tactics to throw them off balance. But beware of letting your landing force be cut off and isolated by Persian cavalry with your main force out of support range.

Carthaginians present a different challenge. The Heavy Chariots and Warband of the Early Carthaginians pose a threat to the Cyrenean Spear, and there is no Littoral advantage. Elephants and Warband of the Later Carthaginians represent a similar challenge. Carthage's high aggression, however, will tend to give the Cyrenean general a terrain advantage, which must be used to best effect.


Depending on the list chosen, a Cyrenean Greek army can be easily pieced together using miniatures from the classical or hellenistic Greek, Macedonian Successor, and early Libyan ranges offered by various manufacturers. Popular 15mm options include Xyston, Essex, Alphacast, Museum, Old Glory, Tumbling Dice, Xth Legion, AB Miniatures and others. Essex offers Cyrenean Greek army packs for both the a and b options.

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Last Updated: June 28, 2003