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EUESPERIDES later BERENICE (Benghazi) Libya.

The settlement lay on a low hill, now partly occupied by a cemetery, between salt marshes that were then lagoons linked with the sea by the present inner harbor of Benghazi. Probably settled from Cyrene early in the 6th c. B.C., it was replaced ca. 247 by a new city, on the coast a little to the SW, named Berenice in honor of the wife of Ptolemy III. The change of location is almost certainly due to the silting-up of the lagoons. Berenice ceased to exist by the 11th c. A.D., and Benghazi (named after a holy man, Ibn-Ghazi) did not arise until the 15th c. During the period 1835-1911, when Benghazi was expanding under Turkish rule, many stones from Euesperides were removed. In 1946 Hellenic potsherds were found beside the salt marshes, and in 1950-51 a collection of surface sherds was made. The ground plan of an ancient city, with streets, insulae, and houses, extending between the Muslim cemetery on the top of the hill and the salt marshes, was revealed by air photography, which also shows parts of the city walls, enclosing an area ca. 750 x 350 m. The quantities of Hellenic pottery excavated in 1969 confirmed the rediscovery of Euesperides. Stratified levels were found going back from the Early Hellenistic period to the 6th c. B.C. Most of the houses were of mudbrick on stone foundations.

Occasional finds of mosaic floors, etc., attested the position of Berenice under Benghazi and its cemeteries. Excavations (1971-74) in the old Turkish cemetery of Sidi Khrebiesh revealed remains of buildings and pottery from Hellenistic until Byzantine times and part of a late town wall. A stele of the 1st c. B.C. found in 1972-73 refers to civil disturbance and attacks by pirates. Inscriptions of the 1st c. A.D., found previously, mention the separate magistrates of the Jewish community and a synagogue.

Near Benghazi are several sites of legendary interest. The Hesperides with their golden apples were said to have occupied a luxuriant sunken garden for which several natural hollows in the plain about 10 km E of Benghazi provide a plausible setting. One of them has an underground pool, which possibly accounts for the location of the river Lethe there. Lake Tritonis is thought to be Ain es-Selmani, and it has been suggested that the hill of Euesperides itself between the lagoons might represent the island mentioned by Strabo (17.3.20).


Sethe, “Berenike,” RE III (1897); R. G. Goodchild, “Euesperides, a Devastated City Site,” Antiquity 26 (1952) 208-12; Benghazi, The Story of a City (1962); C. H. Kraeling, Ptolemais (1962) 43-44P; G.D.B. Jones & J. H. Little, “Coastal Settlement in Cyrenaica,” JRS 61 (1971) 65-67; J. H. Lloyd et al., SLS Ann. Rpts. 3-5 (1971-74); J. M. Reynolds, ibid., 5 (1973-74).


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