Apollonius Argonautica

The great Syrtis

    "Dear Peter,

    Thank you for your response.

    I should point out that communications here in Marsa Brega are somewhat hit and miss so forgive any late replies. I have been looking at the ancient history of this area for about 2 weeks!! My primary interest is that of the WW2 movements of Rommel through this town in March/April 1941. Whilst surfing and perusing various maps I had not noticed or been interested in the Roman names of settlements. Anyway, one day I entered “Zocythium” and that’s where my curiosity began. Why? because I am approaching retirement and am squeezing a few more years here, if possible. After 25 years here (on and off) I have very little to tell my grandchildren! Surveying and cartography (my job) are pretty dull to tell tales about unless you are Herodotus or Apollonius!

    The subject of Syrtes came up a few times as I tried to originate the word Sirte as seen on modern maps and the name of the oil company I work for. Leading on from that the story of the Argo being stranded in one of the Syrtes captured my imagination so further didst I search….

    My interest is purely personal and private between myself and my niece Sarah, who is a teacher of classics whom I turned to on the chance she could point me in the right direction initially. It turned out she knew little except the basics but became involved as a diversion to being a Mum of two young children requiring most of her energy.

    I use Google Earth to “plot” my findings and am attaching an image constructed using the space shuttle terrain model which I crudely imposed over Libya to highlight (if you will) the low areas around the dreaded Sytres shoals and sandbanks.

    Geo-locating anything from history is problematical or as I see it challenging. I come at it from all angles as a surveyor/cartographer and to tie down some of these fabled (or real) place names would give me satisfaction. I don’t aim to publish findings, or argue with anyone else’s line of thought. It is simply a means to an end (of my stay in Libya). I have unearthed quite a lot of reading matter to get through and some of it is literally foreign as well as the translations to English hard to get to grips with on first reading.

    Hope to hear your thoughts and hopefully we can come up with something mutually beneficial.


    Andy Pearse

    Marsa Brega. (Porthcawl in UK)"


    The e-mail quoted (with his permission) above was sent to me by the named correspondent who is stationed more or less exactly on the spot where the Argonauts landed. 

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    Berenice's eyes

      Few names evoke more fascination than that of the famous Queen Cleopatra, the last independent ruler of the Hellenistic world. She was, however, a descendant of a long line of powerful queens in Ptolemaic Egypt, whose names have been all but forgotten. One of the Ptolemaic queens, Berenice II, ruled together with her husband Ptolemy III, when the kingdom was at the height of its power – dominating most of the eastern Mediterranean.

      Berenice (ca. 267–221 BC), the daughter of the Macedonian dynast Magas and his Seleucid wife Apame, was born in Cyrene, a Greek city in Libya. Ptolemy I had installed Magas, a son of his fourth wife Berenice I by a previous marriage, as governor of Cyrenaica (the northern coastal region of Libya). Magas eventually wrestled a measure of independence from Ptolemaic sovereignty, but still had to acknowledge their suzerainty – and betrothed his daughter to the son and heir of Ptolemy II as a diplomatic and dynastic assurance.

      His half-Persian wife Apame was the daughter of Antiochus I and Stratonice. After his death (ca. 252/251 BC), Magas’ widow married Berenice to the Macedonian prince Demetrius the Fair – who, however, offended the soldiers of the Cyrenean army and was assassinated in the bedroom of Apame. Whether this capture in flagrante delicto was a plot set up by Berenice in tandem with her mother or not remains a mystery. Cyrene briefly attempted to establish a republic (ca. 250/49-249/8 BC).


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