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Cyrenaica (Greek: Κυρηναϊκή Kūrēnaïkē, Arabic: برقه, Barqah) is the eastern coastal region of Libya and also an ex-province or state ("muhafazah" or "wilayah") of the country (alongside Tripolitania and Fezzan) in the pre-1963 administrative system. What used to be Cyrenaica in the old system is now divided up into several "shabiyat" (see administrative divisions in Libya). In addition to the coastal region, i.e. historical Cyrenaica, the former province, during the Kingdom and the Italian era extended to the south to include the entire eastern section of the country.

The ancient Greeks founded several colonies on its coast and developed several major cities. The most important foundation was that of Cyrene in 631 BCE by colonists from the island Thera, who had left the island because of a famine.[1] Their commander Aristoteles took the Libyan name Battos.[2] His dynasty, the Battaid, maintained itself in spite of heavy resistance by the Greeks in neighbouring cities.

The east of the province was called Marmarica (no major city), but the important part was in the west, comprising five cities, hence known as the Pentapolis: Cyrene (near the modern village of Shahat) with its port of Apollonia (Marsa Susa), Arsinoe or Teucheira (Tocra), Euesperides or Bernice (near modern Benghazi) , Balagrae (Al Bayda) and Barce (Al Marj) – of which the chief was the eponymous Cyrene.[1] The term "Pentapolis" continued to be used as a synonym for Cyrenaica. In the south the Pentapolis faded into the Saharan tribal areas, including the pharaonic oracle of Ammonium.

In 525 BCE, after taking Egypt, the Persians took the Pentapolis.[1] They were followed by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE, who received tribute from these cities after he took Egypt.[1] The Pentapolis was formally annexed by Ptolemy I Soter and it passed to the diadoch dynasty of the Lagids, better known as the Ptolemaic dynasty. It briefly gained independence under Magas of Cyrene, stepson of Ptolemy I, but was reabsorbed into the Ptolemaic empire after his death. It was separated from the main kingdom by Ptolemy VIII and given to his son Ptolemy Apion, who, dying without heirs in 96 BCE, bequeathed it to the Roman Republic, which gave it its current name, Cyrenaica.


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