A large and important city in Cyrenaica, the district of Upper Libya on the north coast of Africa, west of Egypt. Cyrene was one of the five large cities that gave to this region the name of "Pentapolis" (compare Josephus, "B. J." vii. 11, § 1; Targ. Yer. Gen. x. 13, 14; Targ. I Chron. i. 12). Many Jews went from Egypt to Cyrenaica, for even Ptolemy I. Lagus sent Jewish settlers to Cyrene and other cities of Libya (Josephus, "Contra Ap." ii. 4). According to Strabo (cited by Josephus, "Ant." xiv. 7, § 2), the inhabitants of Cyrene at the time of Sulla (c. 85
Several Jews of Cyrene are known to history, among them being Jason of Cyrene, whose work is the source of the Second Book of Maccabees (see II Macc. ii. 23), and Simon of Cyrene, who carried Jesus' cross (Matt. xxvii. 32; Mark xv. 21; Luke xxiii. 26). In the Acts of the Apostles several Cyrenians are mentioned as being present at the Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts ii. 10), where they had their own synagogue (ib. vi. 9). Some, including Lucius (ib. xiii. 1)—said to have been the first Bishop of Cyrene—went to Antioch (ib. xi. 20).
The Jews of Cyrene were in close touch with their brethren in Palestine, and were free to forward their offerings to Jerusalem ("Ant." xvi. 6, § 5). Agrippa sent a letter written in their favor to the Cyrenians ("B. J." ii. 16, § 4). Three sons of a certain Ishmael—who was beheaded in Cyrene—were present at the siege of Jerusalem (ib. vi. 2, § 2); and after the war had been ended in Syria, the Romans still met withopposition in Cyrene, where the Sicarian Jonathan incited the Jews to a riot. The disturbance was, however, quickly suppressed by the governor Catullus ("B. J." vii. 11, § 1; "Vita," § 76).
More serious was the insurrection of the Jews of Cyrene under Trajan (117
The Targum (Amos i. 5, ix. 7) identifies Cyrene with the Biblical Kir; but this is suggested only by a similarity of sound, and is not warranted (compare Targ. II Kings xvi. 9, and Payne Smith, "Thesaurus Syriacus," p. 3564). Cyrene fell into ruins in Mohammedan times. The spot is now (1902) marked by the village of Grenne or Kurin, in the province of Barka.
- Jahrb. Gesch. der Jud. ii. 296;
- Böttger, Lexicon zu den Schriften Flavius Josephus, p. 97;
- Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., iii. 25, 26, 359-361;
- Smith and Porcher, A History of the Recent Discoveries at Cyrene, London, 1865.