Crete and Cyrenaica

Crete and Cyrenaica (Latin: Provincia Creta et Cyrenaica) was a senatorial province of the Roman Empire, established in 67 BC. It comprised the island of Crete and the region of Cyrenaica in present-day Libya.

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 indicting the ease with which Cyrenaica was willing to submit to Roman governance and the stability it brought.[2]

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[4] with its capital at Gortyn in Crete. Because this arrangement was geographically inconvenient Diocletian divided the province in 298 AD.[3][5]

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.