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Taucheira/Arsinoe (Tocra)

Taucheira: Greek port in the Cyrenaica, also known as Arsinoe.

According to Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus, Taucheira (also known as Tauchira and Teuchira) was the youngest of the five Greek cities in the Cyrenaica (map). Excavations in the 1960's, however, have brought to light ceramics than are much older than expected (fourth quarter of the seventh century), and it is now obvious that the town was among the oldest. This little dish from Rhodes belongs to this discovery., the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine

The port was nominally independent, but probably belonged to Cyrene informally. There were trade contacts with the Peloponnese, Corinth, and Athens - this sherd is what remains of a cup produced in the second quarter of the sixth century in the last-mentioned city. The towns of the Cyrenaica submitted to Alexander the Great in the winter 332/331, and became part of the satrapy of Egypt. After Alexander's dead, one of his commanders, Thibron, started a state of his own in the Cyrenaica, but he was expelled by Ophellas, a vice-commander serving Ptolemy I Soter.

Ophellas founded a new port, Ptolemais, which must have been a very serious competitor for Taucheira. He was succeeded by a man named Magas, who became independent, but Ptolemy's grandson Ptolemy III Euergetes regained the Cyrenaica, and renamed Taucheira Arsinoe, after his stepmother Arsinoe II.

In the first century BCE, when Ptolemaic power was crumbling and the Romans had not yet established control of this era, native tribes attacked Taucheira. This inscription in the little museum of Taucheira commemorates a man named Aleximachus son of Sostratus, who had provided the money to improve the walls of the city, and to import food during a famine.

Arsinoe was to keep its name, although it was briefly to be called Cleopatris during the Roman civil wars, when Marc Antony wanted to honor his wife Cleopatra VII Philopator. During the Roman age, the city received the rank of colonia, but we know not much of its history.

Demeter and Kore, shown here on a small terracotta, were among the Greek gods venerated in Taucheira/Arsinoe. The cult of the Libyan deity Ammon is also attested, and we know that the Apollo, Dionysus, and the Phrygian goddess Cybele were venerated as well.

The main road, leading from the northwest to the southeast, seen here from the north. To the southwest was southwest Euesperides (modern Bengazi); to the east were Barca and Ptolemais, Cyrene and Apollonia, and -close to the northeastern gate- the stone quarries where the characteristic, reddish limestone of Taucheira/Arsinoe was found.

To the southwest of the main road (sometimes called "decumanus"), the ancient Gymnasium can be found, where the male inhabitants of Taucheira went if they wanted to exercise. However, the Gymnasium was more than just a gym in our sense of the word. Sport was recognized as a very Greek custom; visiting the Gymnasium was stressing one's Greekness.

On this wall, the victors in the Panhellenic games were commemorated. These men were not just great athletes, but had shown to the Greek world (as assembled in Olympia, Nemea, Delphi, and Corinth, and later other places as well) that the people of Taucheira, although living across the Mediterranean, were strong and truly Greek.

This is one of the few non-monumental buildings that has been excavated. In the great jars (dolia), clothes were painted.
The harbor, where Greek, Egyptian, Phoenician, Carthaginian, Ptolemaic, Roman, and Byzantine ships must have landed.

And finally, on this photo, one of the port facilities.

>> to part two >>

Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2006
Revision: 15 June 2006
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