Formerly a settlement of peoples as diverse as the Phoenicians, the Romans and the Turks, Libya was named after the Greek colonists in the second century before the Christian era. Phoenicians and Greeks arrived in the country in the 7th century BC and established colonies and cities. The Phoenicians settled in Tripolitania and the Greeks in Cyrenaica. The Carthaginians, heirs of the Phoenician colonies, founded a province in Tripolitania, and in the 1st century BC the Roman Empire prevailed throughout the region.
According to PETSINCLUDE, the Byzantine empire, a continuator of the Roman, gained ground with the decline of Rome. In the seventh century of the Christian era, however, the conquering impulse of the Arabs transformed the place into a solid bulwark for Islam. For just over three centuries, the Berber almonds maintained dominion over the Tripolitan region, while Cyrenaica was under Egyptian control. In the 16th century, the Ottomans unified the territory and established central power in Tripoli.
Two centuries later, the reign of the Karamanli dynasty, which dominated Tripoli for 120 years, helped to establish more solidly the regions of Fezã, Cirenaica and Tripolitânia, and gained greater autonomy. In 1835, the Ottoman empire reestablished control over Libya, although the Muslim brotherhood of the Sanusis managed, in the middle of the century, to dominate the territories of Cyrenaica and Fezã.
In 1911, under the pretext of defending its settlers based in Tripolitania, Italy declared war on Turkey and invaded Libya. The resistance of the Sanusis made it difficult for the Italian army to penetrate the countryside, but in 1914 the entire country was occupied. During the first world war, the Libyans regained control of almost all of the territory, with the exception of a few ports. After the war, the Italians undertook the reconquest of the country. In 1939, Libya was incorporated into the kingdom of Italy. Colonization did not change the country’s economic structure, but it did contribute to improving infrastructure, such as the road network and water supply to cities.
During the second world war, Libyan territory was the scene of decisive fighting. After hostilities ended, the United Kingdom took over the government of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, and France began to administer Fezã. In 1951 Libya’s independence was proclaimed. King Idris I, of the Sanusi dynasty, occupied the head of the state.
After its admission to the Arab League, in 1953, Libya signed agreements for the implantation of foreign bases in its territory. The economic influence of the United States and the United Kingdom, authorized to maintain troops in the country, has become increasingly powerful. The discovery of oil deposits in 1959 was, however, a decisive factor for the Libyan government to demand the withdrawal of foreign forces, which provoked serious political conflicts with those two powers and with Egypt.
In 1969, a coup led by Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi deposed the king and established a militarized Muslim republic with a socialist organization. Colonel Gaddafi, head of state from 1970, expelled foreign military personnel, nationalized oil and sought to unleash a cultural, social and economic revolution that caused serious political tensions with the United States, the United Kingdom and moderate Arab countries (Egypt, Sudan). Supported by the single party, the Arab Socialist Union, Gaddafi intervened in the politics of other countries, such as Sudan and Chad. In 1972, Libya and Egypt joined in a Confederation of Arab Republics that dissolved in 1979. In 1984, Libya and Morocco attempted a formal union, which was extinguished in 1986.
Libya’s rejection of Israel, anti-American demonstrations and Libya’s rapprochement with the Soviet Union sparked serious conflict in the 1980s. In April 1986, accusations that the Libyan government sponsored or encouraged international terrorism , an American aviation attack on several military targets, in which 130 people perished. Gaddafi, who lost an adopted daughter when his home was hit, remained a political chief, but his international image quickly deteriorated.
To lift the country out of diplomatic isolation, in the early 1990s the Libyan chief was willing to improve relations with Western powers and with neighboring nations. However, despite its neutrality in the Persian Gulf war, Libya remained under increasing international isolation until the middle of the decade. The United States, the United Kingdom and France, with the approval of the United Nations, imposed heavy embargoes on Libyan trade and air traffic, because the government refused to extradite the two Libyans suspected of placing a bomb on an airplane that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, and killed 270 people.
Political institutions. Libya governs the country’s only legal party, the Arab Socialist Union. The General People’s Congress elects the head of state, the “revolutionary leader”, and his cabinet, the General People’s Committee. The country is divided into 25 municipalities, which in turn are subdivided into zones.