). A country of Africa, east of the Syrtis
Minor and west of Marmarica. It corresponds with the modern Barca. Cyrenaïca was
considered by the Greeks as a sort of terrestrial paradise. This was partly owing to the force
of contrast, as all the rest of the African coast along
Coins of Cyrené, bearing the sacred Silphium Plant.
the Mediterranean, from Carthage to the Nile, was a barren, sandy waste, and partly
to the actual fertility of Cyrenaïca itself. It was extremely well watered, and the
inhabitants, according to Herodotus (iv. 199), employed eight months in collecting the
productions of the land; the maritime places first yielded their fruits, then the second
region, which they called the hills, and lastly those of the highest part inland. One of the
chief natural productions of Cyrenaïca was an herb called silphium
, a kind of laserpitium or assafœtida. It was fattening for cattle,
rendering their flesh also tender, and was a useful aperient for man. From its juice, too,
when kneaded with clay, a powerful antiseptic was obtained. The silphium formed a great
article of trade, and at Rome the composition above mentioned sold for its weight in silver.
It is for this reason that the silphium appeared always on the medals of Cyrené.
Its culture was neglected, however, when the Romans became masters of the country, and
pasturage was more attended to. Cyrenaïca was called Pentapolis from its having five
cities of note in it—Cyrené, Arsinoë,
Apollonia, Ptolemaïs, Berenicé, and Teuchira. All of these exist at the
present day under the form of towns or villages. See Cyrené