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Antipyrgon (Tobruk)


Tobruk today. Photo Jona Lendering.
Tobruk. The Byzantine wall is visible to the left (look here)
Antipyrgon or Antipyrgos (᾽Αντίπυργον or ᾽Αντίπυργος, "fortress"): Byzantine fort in the Cyrenaica, modern Tobruk.

In the fifth century, new tribal federations threatened Roman Cyrenaica. Texts like Epistle 73 by Synesius of Cyrene, written in 409, describe the problems of the inhabitants, who felt abandoned by the central government. By the end of Synesius' life, the barbarians were close to seizing the province, as is indicated in the lamentation that is known as the Catastasis (413). What happened next, is not well-known, but the crisis was severe; Cyrene, the main city of the Cyrenaica, was abandoned.

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Antipyrgon, plotted on a satellite photo of modern Tobruk. Design Jona Lendering.
Antipyrgon, plotted on a satellite photo of modern Tobruk

According to Procopius (Buildings, 6.2), the Byzantine emperor Justinian (527-565) reorganized the Cyrenaica, a project that is known as Ananeosis. From now on, there was a permanent garrison in Antipyrgon (Tobruk), which protected a natural harbor, well sheltered against the prevailing northern winds. This port is still very important, as the events of the Second World War have shown.

Fort Antipyrgon, which measured 270 x 200 meter, was not a new town; it had already been mentioned by Ptolemy of Alexandria (Geography, 4.5). Archaeologists have on several places found parts of the massive wall that once surrounded the Byzantine fort. Along the waterfront, a substantial part is visible (look here).

A satellite photo can be seen here.
Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2009
Revision: 28 April 2009
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