Crete and Cyrenaica

Crete and Cyrenaica (Latin: Creta et Cyrenaica, Koinē Greek: Κρήτη καὶ Κυρηναϊκή, romanized: Krḗtē kaì Kyrēnaïkḗ) was a senatorial province of the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire, established in 67 BC, which included the island of Crete and the region of Cyrenaica in modern-day Libya. These areas were settled by Greek colonists from the eighth to sixth centuries BC. After Alexander the Great's death, his short-lived empire was partitioned between his generals during the Wars of the Diadochi. Cyrenaica ended up under Egyptian rule, except for Crete, which remained independent.

Province of Crete and Cyrenaica
Provincia Creta et Cyrenae (Latin)
Ἐπαρχία Κρήτης καὶ Κυρήνης (Koinē Greek)
Province of the Roman Empire
67 BC–c. 297 AD
Roman Empire - Creta et Cyrenaica (125 AD).svg
Roman province of Creta et Cyrenae highlighted.
• Established
67 BC
• Disestablished
c. 297 AD
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Roman Cyrenaica
Byzantine Crete
Libya Superior
Today part ofGreece

Apion's will and Roman rule of CyrenaicaEdit

Ptolemy Apion, the last king of the Hellenistic Kingdom of Cyrenaica left his kingdom to the Roman Republic when he died childless in 96 BC.[1] Rome readily accepted this inheritance from Ptolemy Apion but preferred to leave the administration to local rulers, rather than enforcing direct control. However, by the 70s BC, civil uprisings by Jewish settlers began to destabilise the province and the Senate was forced to take action. In 74 BC, they sent a low level official, the quaestor Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus, to officially annex Cyrenaica as a Roman province and restore order. That the Senate sent such a low-ranking official indicates the political difficulty the Republic had in governing its growing empire, as well as indicating the ease with which Cyrenaica was willing to submit to Roman governance and the stability it brought.[2]

Roman conquest of CreteEdit

Marcus Antonius Creticus attacked Crete in 71 BC and was repelled. Then in 69 BC, Rome commissioned Quintus Caecilius Metellus and, following a ferocious three-year campaign, Crete was conquered for Rome in 66 BC, Metellus earning the agnomen "Creticus" as an honour for his conquest and subjugation of Crete.[3]


In 67 BC, Crete and Cyrenaica were combined into a single province with its capital at Gortyn in Crete.[4] In 117 AD, a Jewish revolt erupted in Cyrenaica, resulting in the death of two hundred and twenty thousand people.[5] In 298 AD, Diocletian, because of geographic inconvenience, separated the province of Crete from Cyrenaica, which in turn was divided between Libya Superior or Libya Pentapolis, with Cyrene as its capital, and Libya Inferior or Libya Sicca, with Paraetonium as its capital.[3][6]

List of Roman governorsEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Jane Francis and Anna Kouremenos (eds.) 2016. Roman Crete: New Perspectives. Oxford: Oxbow
  • Anna Kouremenos 2018. "In the Heart of the Wine-Dark Sea: Cretan Insularity and Identity in the Roman Period". In A. Kouremenos (ed.) Insularity and Identity in the Roman Mediterranean. Oxford: Oxbow.
  • Francis, Jane; Curtis, Michael J., eds. (2022). Change and transition on Crete interpreting the evidence from the Hellenistic through to the early Byzantine period. Oxford: Archaeopress Archaeology. ISBN 9781803270562.


  1. ^ "Ptolemy Apion". Chris Bennett. Retrieved 2016-11-24.
  2. ^ "Cyrenaica". Retrieved 2016-11-24.
  3. ^ a b "Crete". Retrieved 2016-11-24.
  4. ^ "Cyrenaica historical region, North Africa". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  5. ^ Smallwood, Edith M. (1981). The Jews Under Roman Rule: From Pompey to Diocletian: a Study in Political Relations. BRILL. p. 394. ISBN 978-90-04-06403-4.
  6. ^ "Cyernaica". Retrieved 2016-11-24.
  7. ^ Unless otherwise stated, the names of the proconsular governors from 30 BC to AD 67 are taken from Werner Eck, "Über die prätorischen Prokonsulate in der Kaiserzeit. Eine quellenkritische Überlegung", Zephyr 23/24 (1972/73), pp. 246f
  8. ^ Unless otherwise stated, the names of the proconsular governors from 71 to 135 are taken from Werner Eck, "Jahres- und Provinzialfasten der senatorischen Statthalter von 69/70 bis 138/139", Chiron, 12 (1982), pp. 281-362; 13 (1983), pp. 147-237
  9. ^ Unless otherwise stated, the names of the proconsular governors from 140 to 165 are taken from Géza Alföldy, Konsulat und Senatorenstand unter der Antoninen (Bonn: Rudolf Habelt Verlag, 1977), pp. 263f
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