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This article is about the antique North African city. For the modern city, see Marj, Libya. For the landscape and province called Barqah, see Cyrenaica. For the football team, see FC Barcelona. For other uses, see Barca (disambiguation).
"Barce" redirects here. For the village in Poland, see Barce, Poland. For true bug genus, see Barce (bug).

Barce (sometimes Barca) (Greek: Βάρκη, Arabic: برقة‎, Berber: Berqa) was an ancient Greek colony and later a Roman, and a Byzantine city in North Africa. It occupied the coastal area of what is modern day Libya. As a Greek city it was part of the Cyrenaican Pentapolis along with the city of Cyrene itself.

According to most archeologists, it was situated at Marj, but according to Alexander Graham at Tolmeitha (Ptolemais).[1]

The city's name, Arabized as Barqah, came to refer to the former state and province of Cyrenaica.[2]

Barca and Christianity[edit]

Early Christianity spread to the Pentapolis of North Africa from Egypt. Synesius of Cyrene (370–414 AD), Bishop of Ptolemais, received his instruction at Alexandria in both the Catechetical School and the Museion, and he retained a great deal of reverence and affection for Hypatia, the last pagan Neoplatonist, whose classes he had attended. Synesius was raised to the episcopate by Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, in 410.

In accordance with a ruling of the Council of Nicaea in 325, Cyrenaica is recognized as ecclesiastically dependent on the See of Alexandria. Pentapolis is therefore included in the titles used both by the The patriarch of the Coptic Church[3] and by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria.[4]

Although it was often destroyed and then restored during the Roman period, becoming a mere borough, Barca was, nevertheless, the seat of a bishopric. The bishops who participated in the First Council of Nicaea in 325 included the Arian Zopyros of Barca. Zenobius signed the acts of the Council of Ephesus in 431 and Theodorus took part in the Robber Council of Ephesus in 449, whose decisions were overthrown by the Council of Chalcedon in 451.[5][6][7][8]

The Metropolitan of Western Pentapolis held the most senior position in the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church after that of the Pope of Alexandria. Since the demise of that eparchy as a major Archiepiscopal Metropolis in the days of Pope John VI of Alexandria, the position is held as a titular see attached to another Diocese. Also for the Catholic Church, Barca, no longer a residential bishopric, is today listed as a titular see.[9]

Since the Arab conquest[edit]

Barce Railway Central Station.

Barce was part of the Exarchate of Africa until it was conquered by the Arabs in 643–644 during the Islamic conquest of North Africa. It originally served as the capital of the Barqah province of the Caliphate. When the Ottoman Turks conquered the region in 1521 they used the Turkish form "Barka" for the province, but did not retain the city's status as its capital.

During World War II, a battle for Barce of the North African campaign was won on 5 February 1941 by the 1st Field Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery. The regiment remembers this battle through the naming of its facilities at its base at Enoggera, Barce Lines.

The modern city on the same site, Marj, grew up around a 19th-century Turkish fort. It was developed by the Italians during their colonial dominance of Libya and today has a population of 120,000. The Italian settlement was severely damaged in a 1963 earthquake and is now largely abandoned. No remains of the ancient settlement are visible, but some of the finds made during the Italian period are on display in the museum at nearby Ptolemais.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Graham, Alexander (1902) Roman Africa: an outline of the history of the Roman occupation of North Africa, based chiefly upon inscriptions and monumental remains in that country Longmans, Green, and Co., London, p. 312, OCLC 2735641
  2. ^ "Barce" Encyclopædia Britannica (1964 edition) p. 153
  3. ^ Atiya, Aziz S. "The Copts and Christian Civilization", accessed 19 May 2009
  4. ^ The Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa
  5. ^ Michel Lequien, Oriens christianus in quatuor Patriarchatus digestus, Paris 1740, Vol. II, coll. 625-626
  6. ^ Pius Bonifacius Gams, Series episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae, Leipzig 1931, p. 462
  7. ^ Raymond Janin, v. Barca in Dictionnaire d'Histoire et de Géographie ecclésiastiques, vol. VI, 1932, coll. 669-670
  8. ^ Louis Petit, "Barca" in Catholic Encyclopedia (New York 1907)
  9. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 846

Sources and references[edit]

  • Wikisource-logo.svg "Barca". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  • Butler, The Arab Conquest of Egypt, p. 430
  • Heinrich Gelzer, Patrum Nicaenorum nomina, p. 231
  • Marquardt, Staatsverwaltung, I, p. 459
  • Westermann, Großer Atlas zur Weltgeschichte (in German)

Coordinates: 32°29′54″N 20°53′34″E / 32.49833°N 20.89278°E / 32.49833; 20.89278