History of Libya
History of Libya
"Libya" in the world as known to Classical Greece (reconstruction of the world map of Hecataeus of Miletus).
Archaeological evidence indicates that from as early as 8000 BC, the coastal plain of Ancient Libya was inhabited by a Neolithic people, the Berbers, who were skilled in the domestication of cattle and the cultivation of crops.
Later, the area known in modern times as Libya also was occupied by a series of other peoples, with the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Persian Empire, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Turks and Byzantines ruling all or part of the area.
Although the Greeks and Romans left ruins at Cyrene, Leptis Magna, and Sabratha, little other evidence remains of these ancient cultures. Some cultural and religious exchanges occurred with the Ancient Egyptians, especially in the northern portion containing the delta of the Nile, that is called Lower Egypt. The prehistoric evidence is fragmentary, but historical records later document continued influences.
Pockets of Berber population remain in modern Libya, but dispersal of Berbers
north as far as Ireland and Scandinavia is documented in genetic markers studied
by physical anthropologists and dispersal in Africa from the Atlantic coast
to the Siwa oasis in Egypt, seems to have followed climatic changes causing
increasing desertification. Now the greatest number of Berbers in Africa is
in Morocco (about 42% of the population) and in Algeria (about 27% of the population),
as well as Tunisia and Libya, but exact statistics are not available; see Berber
The Phoenicians were the first to establish trading posts in Libya, when the
merchants of Tyre (in present-day Lebanon) developed commercial relations with
the Berber tribes and made treaties with them to ensure their cooperation in
the exploitation of raw materials. By the fifth century BC the greatest of the
Phoenician colonies, Carthage, had extended its hegemony across much of North
Africa, where a distinctive civilization, known as Punic, came into being. Punic
settlements on the Libyan coast included Oea (Tripoli), Libdah (Leptis Magna)
and Sabratha. All these were in an area that later was called Tripolis, or "Three
Cities". Libya's current-day capital Tripoli takes its name from this.
Folklore also talks of the legendary leader Ossama Al-Fitory as a champion of
social justice and an astutute military tactician.
The Greeks conquered Eastern Libya when, according to tradition, emigrants
from the crowded island of Thera were commanded by the oracle at Delphi to seek
a new home in North Africa. In 630 BC, they founded the city of Cyrene. Within
200 years, four more important Greek cities were established in the area: Barce
(Al Marj); Euhesperides (later Berenice, present-day Benghazi); Teuchira (later
Arsinoe, present-day Tukrah); and Apollonia (Susah), the port of Cyrene. Together
with Cyrene, they were known as the Pentapolis (Five Cities).
Arch of Roman emperor Lucius Septimius Severus (AD 146–211) in Leptis Magna.
The Romans unified all three regions of Libya. Tripolitania and Cyrenaica became prosperous Roman provinces and remained so for more than six hundred years. Roman ruins, such as those of Leptis Magna, attest to the vitality of the region during the Roman occupation.
At the time, populous cities and even small towns enjoyed the amenities of
urban life consistent with those in Rome. Merchants and artisans from many parts
of the Roman world established themselves in North Africa, but the character
of the cities of Tripolitania remained decidedly Punic and, in Cyrenaica, Greek.
 Under Islam
Main article: History of Islamic Tripolitania and Cyrenaica
Wiki letter w.svg This section requires expansion.
History of Libya
Coat of Arms of Libya
This article is part of a series
Ancient Libya Herodotus world map-en.svg (before 642 AD)
Islamic Tripolitania and Cyrenaica Ottoman Provinces Of Present day Libyapng.png (642-1551)
Ottoman Libya Ottoman flag alternative 2.svg (1551-1912)
Italian colony Flag of Italy (1861-1946).svg (1912-1939)
Incorporated Italian Libya (1939-1942)
Allied occupation (1942-1951) Tehran Conference, 1943.jpg
Kingdom of Libya Flag of Libya (1951).svg (1951-1969)
Modern Libya Flag of Libya.svg (1969-Today)
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Libya was conquered by Uqba ibn Nafi in 644 and fully conquered in 655, forming
part of the Ummayad Caliphate. This was superseded by the Abbasids in 750, but
in practice Libya enjoyed considerable local autonomy under the Aghlabid dynasty.
Arab soldiers, spreading their new religion of Islam, entered Cyrenaica in 642
and occupied Tripoli in 643. A succession of Arab and Berber dynasties then
controlled what is now Libya. The culture of northwestern Libya developed along
with the political units just west of it, while development in the east was
strongly influenced by neighboring Egypt.
1890 portrayal of a Berber family crossing a ford – H. B. Scammel
16th century Women's dress in Tripoli, when Libya was part of the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman Turks conquered the country in the mid-16th century, and the three
States or "Wilayat" of Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan (which make
up Libya) remained part of their empire with the exception of the virtual autonomy
of the Karamanlis. The Karamanlis ruled from 1711 until 1835 mainly in Tripolitania,
but had influence in Cyrenaica and Fezzan as well by the mid 18th century. This
constituted a first glimpse in recent history of the united and independent
Libya that was to re-emerge two centuries later. Reunification came about through
the unlikely route of an invasion (Italo-Turkish War, 1911–1912) and occupation
starting from 1911 when Italy simultaneously turned the three regions into colonies.
Main article: Italian Libya
From 1912 to 1927, the territory of Libya was known as Italian North Africa.
From 1927 to 1934, the territory was split into two colonies, Italian Cyrenaica
and Italian Tripolitania, run by Italian governors. During the Italian colonial
period, between 20% and 50% of the Libyan population died in the struggle for
independence, and mainly in prison camps. Some 150,000 Italians
settled in Libya, constituting roughly one-fifth of the total population.
Australian infantry at Tobruk. Beginning on 10 April 1941, the Siege of Tobruk lasted for 240 days.
In 1934, Italy adopted the name "Libya" (used by the Greeks for all
of North Africa, except Egypt) as the official name of the colony (made up of
the three provinces of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan). King Idris I, Emir
of Cyrenaica, led Libyan resistance to Italian occupation between the two world
wars. Between 1928 and 1932 the Italian military "killed half the Bedouin
population (directly or through starvation in camps)." From 1943 to 1951,
Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were under British administration, while the French
controlled Fezzan. In 1944, Idris returned from exile in Cairo but declined
to resume permanent residence in Cyrenaica until the removal of some aspects
of foreign control in 1947. Under the terms of the 1947 peace treaty with the
Allies, Italy relinquished all claims to Libya.
Omar Mukhtar (1858–1931) was the leader of the Libyan uprising against Italian occupation.
United Kingdom of Libya
On November 21, 1949, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution stating that Libya should become independent before January 1, 1952. Idris represented Libya in the subsequent UN negotiations. On December 24, 1951, Libya declared its independence as the United Kingdom of Libya, a constitutional and hereditary monarchy under King Idris.
The discovery of significant oil reserves in 1959 and the subsequent income
from petroleum sales enabled one of the world's poorest nations to establish
an extremely wealthy state. Although oil drastically improved the Libyan government's
finances, popular resentment began to build over the increased concentration
of the nation's wealth in the hands of King Idris and the national elite. This
discontent continued to mount with the rise of Nasserism and Arab nationalism
throughout North Africa and the Middle East.
On September 1, 1969, a small group of military officers led by then 27-year-old army officer Muammar al-Gaddafi staged a coup d’état against King Idris, launching the Libyan Revolution. At the time, Idris was in Turkey for medical treatment. His nephew, Crown Prince Sayyid Hasan ar-Rida al-Mahdi as-Sanussi, became King. It was clear that the revolutionary officers who had announced the deposition of Sultan Idris did not want to appoint him over the instruments of state as King. Gaddafi was at the time only a captain and his co-conspirators were all junior officers. Nevertheless the small group seized Libyan military headquarters (due to the sympathies of the stationed men) and the radio broadcasting station with 48 rounds of revolver ammunition. Before the end of September 1, Sayyid Hasan ar-Rida had been formally deposed by the revolutionary army officers and put under house arrest. Meanwhile, revolutionary officers abolished the monarchy, and proclaimed the new Libyan Arab Republic. Gaddafi was, and is to this day, referred to as the "Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution" in government statements and the official press.