in the seventh century B.C.E. and came to be considered one of their greatest colonies. By 96 B.C.E. Cyrene was under Roman political control, and in 27 B.C.E. the district of Cyrenaica and the island of Crete were united to form a single province governed by a proconsul. According to the geographer Strabo, about the start of the Common Era, Jews constituted one of the four recognized classes (along with citizens, husbandmen and strangers) of Cyrene. Certain historians believe the Jewish revolt against the Romans in 115-116 C.E. during the rule of Trajan radiated from Cyrene’s Jewish community.
Simon of Cyrene (perhaps a Hellenistic Jew), who was pressed into assisting in the carrying of Jesus’ torture stake, is called a “native” of that city. (Matt. 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26) It may be that, though born in Cyrene, Simon later settled in Palestine. On the basis of Acts 6:9 concerning the “Cyrenians” that disputed with Stephen, many authorities believe that there were sufficient numbers of Jews from Cyrene regularly residing in Palestine for them to have established their own synagogue in Jerusalem.
On the other hand, Simon, “a native of Cyrene,” may have been among the other foreigners who crowded into Jerusalem at Passover time, as is shown to have occurred in similar manner, fifty-one days later, when a large number of “reverent men, from every nation,” were in attendance at the Jewish festival of Pentecost, including some from “the parts of Libya, which is toward Cyrene.” (Acts 2:5, 10, 41) Some of these latter ones were likely among the “about three thousand souls” that were baptized after the outpouring of the holy spirit and Peter’s subsequent discourse, and may have thereafter carried the message of Christianity back to their homeland.
A few years later, after Cornelius’ acceptable Christian baptism, men from Cyrene assisted in spearheading the introduction of “the good news of the Lord Jesus” at Syrian Antioch among those referred to (by most Greek texts of Acts 11:20, 21) as Hel·le·ni·stasʹ. Since this same Greek word is translated “Greek-speaking Jews” (AT, NW) at Acts 6:1, some have concluded that those preached to in Syrian Antioch must also have been circumcised Jews or proselytes who spoke the Greek tongue. However, while the preaching to Greek-speaking Jews and proselytes had been going on since the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., the conversion of the large numbers at Antioch appears to have been something new and unusual, since Barnabas was dispatched to that city likely to investigate as well as encourage the work there. (Acts 11:22, 23) Also indicating that this was a change in discipling procedures is the fact that the work done by the Cyrenians and their co-workers (vs. 20) seems to be set off in contrast to the preaching among the “Jews only” (vs. 19) done by others who had traveled to Antioch. In view of this, and also the fact that a number of reliable ancient Greek manuscripts use the word Helʹle·nas (meaning “Greek,” as at Acts 16:3) instead of Hel·le·ni·stasʹ, most modern authorities refer to those converted with the assistance of the men from Cyrene as “Greeks” (AS, AT, Da, Fn, JB, Mo, RS), though others prefer “heathen” (CKW), “Gentiles” (TEV), or “pagans” (NEB), all terms indicating that the ones at Antioch were not adherents to the Jewish religion. However, some scholars acknowledge the possibility that these at Antioch may have been both Jews and Gentiles familiar with the Greek language, and so describe them with explanatory expressions as “Greek-speaking people” (NW) or “those who spoke Greek” (TC). “Lucius of Cyrene” was listed among the teachers and prophets in this Antioch congregation when Paul started on his first missionary tour in 47 C.E.—Acts 11:20; 13:1.
Of incidental Biblical interest is Herodotus’ account of Pharaoh Hophra’s (Apries’) disastrous expedition to Cyrene to help the Libyans against the Greeks in the sixth century B.C.E. Herodotus relates that Hophra’s troops revolted against him, resulting in his eventual death when he was given “into the hand of his enemies and into the hand of those seeking for his soul,” as Jeremiah had prophesied.—Jer. 44:30.
Ancient Cyrene is today a mass of uninhabited remains standing near the modern city of Cirene in Libya.
(Cyʹrus) [Heb., Kohʹresh; Gr., Kyʹros].
The founder of the Persian Empire and the conqueror of Babylon; called “Cyrus the Great,” thereby distinguishing him from Cyrus I, his grandfather.
Following his conquest of the Babylonian Empire, Cyrus is represented in the cuneiform document known as the Cyrus Cylinder as saying: “I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king, legitimate king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four rims (of the earth), son of Cambyses, great king, king of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus [I], . . . descendant of Teispes, . . . of a family (which) always (exercised) kingship.” (Ancient Near Eastern Texts by James B. Pritchard, 1955, p. 316) Cyrus is thus shown to be of the royal line of the kings of Anshan, a city or district of rather uncertain location, placed by some in the mountains to the N of Elam but generally considered as lying to the E of Elam. This line of kings is called the “Achaemenian” line after Achaemenes the father of Teispes.
The early history of Cyrus (II) is somewhat obscure, depending largely upon rather fanciful accounts by Herodotus (Greek historian of the fifth century B.C.E.) and Xenophon (another Greek writer of about a half century later). However, both present Cyrus as the son of Persian ruler Cambyses by his wife Mandane, the daughter of Astyages, king of the Medes. (Herodotus, Book I, sec. 107; Cyropaedia, i, 2, 1) This blood relationship of Cyrus with the Medes is denied by Ctesias, another Greek historian of the same period, who claims instead that Cyrus became Astyages’ son-in-law by marrying his daughter, Amytis.
Cyrus succeeded his father Cambyses I to the throne of Anshan, which was then under the suzerainty of the Median king Astyages. Africanus (third century C.E.) and Diodorus (first century B.C.E.) place the start of Cyrus’ reign in the first year of the 55th Olympiad, or 560/559 B.C.E. Herodotus relates that Cyrus thereafter revolted against the Median rulership and, due to the defection of Astyages’ troops, was able to gain an easy victory and capture the capital of the Medes, Ecbatana. This was in the sixth year of Nabonidus’ reign (550 B.C.E. in secular history) according to the Nabonidus Chronicle, which states that King Ishtumegu (Astyages) “called up his troops and marched against Cyrus, king of Anshan, in order to me[et him in battle]. The army of Ishtumegu [Astyages] revolted against him and in fetters they de[livered him] to Cyrus.” Cyrus was able to gain the loyalty of the Medes, and thus Medes and Persians thereafter unitedly fought under his leadership. In the following years Cyrus moved to establish his control over the western sector of the Median Empire, advancing all the way to the eastern border of the Lydian Empire at the Halys River in Asia Minor.
Wealthy King Croesus of Lydia, faced with the threat of this new Persian emperor, is said by Herodotus to have made a political alliance with King Nabonidus of Babylon and Pharaoh Amasis II of Egypt, as well as with the Spartans of Greece. Before these allies could render military aid, however, Cyrus defeated the Lydians under Croesus and captured Sardis. He then subdued the Ionian cities and placed all of Asia Minor within the realm of the Persian Empire. Thus, in a matter of a few years, Cyrus had