Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria Ariana (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in the Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Two more cities of Libya’s Pentapolis: Taucheira and Euesperides

The Libyan Pentapolis included Cyrene, Apollonia, Ptolemais (or Barca), Arsinoe (or Taucheira) and Euesperides (or Berenice), all situated in Cyrenaica in eastern Libya. The region was very fertile and produced wheat and barley, as well as olive oil and wine; the orchards, in turn, were filled with fig and apple trees; sheep and cattle roamed widely; and above all, this was the only place in the world where silphium grew, a natural medicine, a contraceptive, and aphrodisiac.

I previously developed the history and roles of major cities like Cyrene, Apollonia, and Ptolemais, so, this time, I’ll concentrate on Arsinoe or Taucheira (modern Tocra) and Euesperides or Berenice (near modern Benghazi) to make the story complete although I have not personally visited these sites.

Ancient Taucheira lies 70 km to the east of Benghazi and was probably the smallest city of the Pentapolis. It was founded by colonists from Cyrene not too long after Cyrene’s own foundation. It was Ptolemy II Philadelphus who changed the city’s name into Arsinoe after his sister and wife. Unfortunately, Justinian gave orders to build a new wall around the city for which stones from earlier constructions were used – in accordance with the typical Byzantine fashion. As a result, not many ruins are left to see although the general layout is still recognizable in spite of the overgrowth. A good viewpoint is the tower erected by the Italians who occupied Libya early last century.

Euesperides, on the other hand, was founded around 525 BC, probably by people from Cyrene or from Barca, on an edge of the lagoon opening towards the sea. The name Euesperides is thought to refer to the mythological gardens of Hesperides. After Ptolemy III married Berenice, the daughter of the governor of Cyrene in 246 BC, the city was named Berenice after his wife. But that was not enough in Ptolemy’s eyes for he moved the entire city to the present location of Benghazi, although the move may have been triggered by the silting up of the lagoon.

The oldest coins minted in Euesperides are from 480 BC and carry an engraving of Delphi with on the reverse a picture of the now disappeared silphium plant. This is a sign that the city enjoyed a certain independence from Cyrene at the time. The constitution of Euesperides was similar to that of Cyrene, meaning that it was ruled by a board of chief magistrates and a council of elders.

After the death of Alexander the Great, the city knew uncertain times and even the Ptolemaic dynasty was not able to keep a true hold on the Pentapolis. It later became a bishopry and was taken by the Ottomans in 1540. Modern Benghazi is built right on top of Ptolemy’s city, meaning that there is only a slim chance to find any tangible remains from antiquity.

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