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TAUCHEIRA, later ARSINOE (Tawqrah or Tocra) Libya.

A city of the Libyan Pentapolis on the coast between Berenice and Ptolemais. The name (Hdt. 4.171) is probably Libyan. In the 3d c. B.C. the city was named Arsinoe after the consort of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. The country around was fertile and there were many wells, which may help to explain why, despite its poor anchorage, Tocra became the last Byzantine stronghold in Cyrenaica.

The archaic pottery from the excavations (1963-65) in a small area of the city by the shore, shows that there was a settlement here in the twenties of the 7th c. B.C. within a decade of the traditional foundation of Cyrene. The great mass of it came from votive deposits and indicates that there was already close at hand a much frequented shrine of Demeter and Kore. Among the early sherds are imports from Corinth, Rhodes, the Cyclades, Lakonia, and Crete. Few structural remains were found, but there were remains of early huts and stretches of a wall which may, it is suggested, have been part of a defensive wall protecting the early settlement. The votive offerings continue more sparsely into the 5th and 4th c. and the beginnings of the Hellenistic period.

The most prominent remains of ancient Tocra are its Byzantine walls. Many of the 30 great square or polygonal towers and an advance wall (proteichisma) on the W and S sides are clearly Byzantine, but the main circuit is built on the line of the Hellenistic walls. The walls, described and drawn by various early travelers, form a rough square with sides of about 650 m. On the landward sides they still stand in places several meters high, but they have almost entirely vanished on the seaward side.

The quarries, in which numerous tombs had been cut, have yielded fine vases. Many inscriptions, some of them Jewish, have been found among the tombs. Among inscriptions found within the city was part of an Edict of Anastasius.

Systematic excavation within the walls was begun in 1939. The general lines of the main streets had long been visible, showing a grid of insulae. Three churches, each with an apse at the E end, were known, one outside the W wall. A large, solid building near the center of the town is regarded as probably the Byzantine governor's palace. In 1966 and 1967 a detailed survey of the town buildings and of the walls was prepared, making use of recent air photographs. The existence was established of three main periods of construction of the city wall and the street system and 18 internal buildings were related to the new survey.


F. W. and H. W. Beechey, Proceedings of the Expedition to explore the northern coast of Africa 1821-22 (1828) 367P; Kees, “Taucheira,” RE IV 2 (1932); G. Oliverio, “F. Halbherr in Cirenaica,” Africa italiana 4 (1933)I; Documenti antichi dell' Africa italiana, Cirenaica I-II (1936)I; P. Romanelli, La Cirenaica romana (1943); G.R.H. Wright, “Excavations at Tocra,” PEQ (1963) 22; J. Boardman and J. Hayes, Excavations at Tocra, 1963-65 I: The Archaic Deposits (1968); II: The Archaic Deposits and Later Deposits (1973).


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