Brief History & Prehistory of Libya


 

 

scene from libyan sahara

The Lost Empire Without Borders

The ancient history of Libya, the undiscovered country, is mainly known to us through a few scattered ancient Egyptian references and loose Greek and Roman descriptions, such as those of Herodotus, Diodorus and Sallust; the last of whom wrote in his "Jugurthine War" that: "Africa was in the beginning peopled by the Gaetulians and Libyans, rude and uncivilized tribes, who subsisted on the flesh of wild animals, or on the herbage of the soil like cattle"; before he goes on to expause, "They were controlled by neither customs, laws, nor the authority of any ruler; they roamed about . . . and slept in those shelters to which night drove them." 

The more recent hypo-theses pertaining the history and the origin of the Libyans, the Berbers, are no better than Sallust's hallucinations. Some say the ancient Libyans came from Asia; supremacists say they escaped Europe's Ice Age; Aryans purport they were Greek invaders; eccentric Gaddafi says from Yemen; some Eurocentricists connect them with blond sea pirates; while exotic writers derive them from Libyan Poseidon's Atlantis - somewhere between the lines of Plato's Atlas Mountain in 'Libya'. Landing from Orion, Sirius or Draco, however, derails the whole "pro-ject" off the record, by denying the Berbers any association with the 'earth'.

The truth is simple: Libya and the whole North African littoral was originally inhabited by an indigenous group of Berber tribes whose linguistic unity proves an ethnic sub-stratum of autochthons single race had existed in North Africa from the Mediterranean to the Sudan and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea; occupying nearly half of Africa and comprising massive Libya and Algeria, as well as the Sahara herself, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and the conquered Canary Islands themselves.

This linguistic unity of such diverse world is part of  much larger phylum which includes Ancient Egyptian, Chadic, Ethiopian, Omotic and most recently Semitic, in what is originally known as Hamito-Semitic but now renamed Afro-Asiatic or Afrasiatic. They have built countless civilisations including the first ones; and ever since shall remain the proud Berbers of an empire without borders - the borders imposed by outsiders together with brutal history.

The Berbers are often excluded from Libya's history, except perhaps when they come in contact with conflict and the various conquests their countries came to consume. Even the late Ancient Egyptians made a habit of mentioning Libyans or Berbers more to do with wars than anything else, such as the invasions of King Shishenq --- just as the upsurge in Berber "politics" today is there because of the February War - albeit the debate is buried in Facebook.

Libya’s rich archaeological heritage was first noticed by the outside world during the Italian occupation wars, where preliminary excavations produced some outstanding results. But although the Second War quickly brought an end to this period of excavation, steps were taken afterwards by the Libyan government in association with the British administration to build the "Antiquities Department". However, Libya's archaeological heritage was left neglected and even vandalised, and many of its treasures and remains remained scattered across the Sahara, in millions; looted  by visitors, diplomats, tomb raiders and antiquity traders, and reburied by sand for future humans to rediscover.

Full scientific and archaeological survey of Libya will take decades if not centuries to complete; and therefore proper history of Libya was never written, remains to be written, and must include the recent genetic evidence regarding the origin of the ancient Libyans; proving the continuous existence of the Berbers (or their ancestors) in North Africa for the last 50,000 years. McBurney's archaeological discoveries have previously extended this continuous existence of Libyans to 100,000 years - one line of living entities in one single cave - Haua Fteah Cave - one of the largest caves in the visible world. Finally, scientists have finally confirmed that all modern humans descended from primal Africa, and in particular from one single mother they named "African Eve", who lived in Africa 100,000 years ago.

 

 

Sahara view from the sky

 

Hundreds of millions of years ago the Sahara desert was covered by great seas. As the seas drifted away, land slowly gave way to a great desert, much larger than the one we have now - around five times bigger than it is today (when Africa and Asia were still joined together). Since then, the Sahara comes and goes, just as ice ages do nearby. One of these most recent cycles brought heavy rainfalls to the area, and slowly turned the Sahara to wet green land, covered with lakes and rivers, most suitable for water-thirsty animals like hippopotami, rhinoceroses, crocodiles, elephants, and primates.

During Europe's merciless Ice Ages, the Sahara was a warm shelter for many European refugees, who fled their homes for the luxurious and exotic paradise of North Africa. This lost paradise was the home of several extinct civilisations, traces of which still are preserved across the Sahara’s cave galleries. The cultures were so advanced of anything known elsewhere, and had advanced, "dramatic anthropomorphic symbolism"! Such civilisations now are the focus of many scientific disciplines from around the world, in search of human’s primeval past.

 

55,000,000 To 5,000,000 Years Ago:

The 55 million years old fossil of a primate found in Morocco, and the 35 million years old Aegyptopithecus found in Fayyum, in Egypt, are considered the oldest primate remains ever found in Africa. The earliest known hominoid (man-like) fossil, dubbed Oligopitchecus Savagei and which was also found in Fayyum, is 33 million years old. About seven million years ago, proto-humans diverged into a separate evolutionary tree, and soon afterwards, about five million years ago, Africa itself began to crack along its eastern ridge, leading to the formation of the Red Sea and the emergence of the great Rift Valleys: one running from Abyssinia to Lake Victoria, and the other from Victoria to the Zambesi. It was suggested that the subsidence is continuously creating new lakes, which by trapping more sediments preserve more fossils and hence the abundance of fossil records in East Africa.

 

4,000,000 To 2,000,000 Years Ago:

About 3.7 million years ago, the Australopithecus have evolved to become the first ancestor who marked the beginning of human culture, symbolised by tool making, the use of fire, and organised settlements into perhaps what we now know as "society". The discoveries at Ain Hanech in North Africa, when most archaeologists believed no human artifacts older than the Pleistocene can be found, confirmed that tool-making (early) humans had lived in North Africa in the Pliocene. They made hand-axes, and polygonal nodules and cores of limestone with many flakes removed. Stone tools connected with the east African Olduvai Gorge, from Tanzania, were said to be the same as those found in Ain Hanech; suggesting a link with East Africa.

 

2,000,000 To 1,000,000 Years Ago:

Until now, Africa was considered the only continent our early ancestors inhabited. Around 2 million years ago, they were advanced enough to initiate the greatest journey of all times: the exploration of planet earth. The Homo Erectus stood up and left Africa to colonise Asia and Europe. Their bones were found in North Africa, as far west as Casablanca, Rabat and Ternifine, and in Asia, as far as China. Since their earliest remains in Europe and Asia date back to about 700,000 years ago, anthropologists have concluded that their journey must took them more than half a million years. Those ancestors who remained in Africa evolved into our own species, the Homo Sapiens, who also went on to colonise Asia and Europe.

 

1,000,000 To 100,000 Years Ago:

Around 800,000 years ago, the Sahara was hot, tropical, very damp and covered with swamps, lakes and rivers. There were herds of elephants and antelopes, hippopotami in the lakes, crocodiles in the rivers, and vegetation everywhere. This period of heavy rain lasted for hundreds of thousands of years. Then around 450,000 years ago, the earliest type of pebble-tool in Tokra (Cyrenaica) and Bir Dufan (Tripolitania) was replaced by the hand-axe. About 200,000 years ago, the Neanderthals evolved, and were still in existence when modern humans emerged about 50,000 years ago. It was initially said that the two species did not co-exist and thus the Neanderthals went extinct about 29,000 years ago. But, as always is the case with premature research, scientists now say they never went extinct, but mingled and intermarried with the new comers, just as humans still do. About 125,000 years ago the hand-axe was replaced by the Levallois or Prepared-Core technique. Evidence from this period indicates humans were well familiar with fishing techniques, and painted their faces with red ochre.

 

100,000 Years Ago:

The most important Neanderthal site from Libya is the Cave of Haua Fteah', near Marsa Sousa, in eastern Libya; other North African sites include Jebel Irhoud, Temara and Tangier. The Neanderthals were fairly short and had long skulls, protruding at the back, and heavier brows and jaws. They were the first humans to design clothes out of animal skin and the first in line to bury their dead. The Haua Fteah' in eastern Libya is one of the largest prehistoric cave-sites in the world and certainly the largest in the Mediterranean basin. A super-massive structure, providing continuous archaeological record from 100,000 years ago to the present. According to C.B.M McBurney (Libya in History, p. 7), "During the Last Interglacial  period some 90,000 years ago Cyrenaica was occupied by an exceptionally inventive and advanced group of Paleolithic hunters, among the most technologically progressive communities so far known to have existed at the time.”  These ancient Libyan hunters lived on wild cattle, gazelle, snails and marine molluscs, and made tools far in advance of anything known at the time, including a bone flute. This hardly known discovery, which McBurney brought to the attention of the international community way back in the 1950s, remains one of the best evidences that humans have existed continuously in one site in Libya for 100,000 years.

 

50,000 BC to 30,000 BC:

About 37,000 years ago, Libya, and much of North Africa, was occupied by tall, large-brained, and powerfully built humans, known as the Cro-Magnon. The remains of this type were found to be older than other Cro-Magnon samples from other sites (Europe and Middle East), and it was widely believed that they were the direct ancestors of the Berbers and the Iberians. Cultural evidence from Fezzan, the home of the classical Garamantes Kingdom, then the most advanced people in the Sahara, goes back to more than 30,000 years. Stone implements dated to the late Acheulean and the Aterian (named after Bir el-Ater) cultures (100,000 - 30,000 BC) were found in numerous sites from the Fezzan area, and, according to most sources, many more await discovery.  Rüdiger and Gabriele Lutz (1955) recall the cultures of Fezzan to have evolved over the past hundreds of thousands of years and vanished under adverse conditions. “Stone tools of bygone eras are lying about in millions, from the relics of early and late Acheulian (up to 500.000 years), Levalloisian (100.000 years) and Mousterian (50.000 years) to Aterian (40.000-20.000 years).” Many of the ancient Egyptian and Berber mythical gods and goddesses are still represented on the rock art of the Sahara, in what is known as the largest collection of prehistoric art in the world: well over one hundred thousand sites. The dating of Fezzan's rock drawings to 12,000 BC is widely disputed, and many scholars now call for pushing this date farther back in time on the light of the recent discoveries, and also strongly criticised the old techniques originally used to date the work some 40 or 50 years ago.


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20,000 BC to 5,000 BC:

Around 20,000 years ago humans began migrating out of the area and, according to the latest genetic evidence, headed for Iberia, Egypt, and the Middle East, where they spread the new culture all around the Mediterranean sea. Recent archaeological research has confirmed that the so called Ibero-maurusian culture (22,000 BC), was in fact purely Berber culture, and that the name Ibero- was added by Aryanists for political reasons. The skeletal remains of a population anthropologists named "Mouillans" were said to date between 15,000 and 10,000 BC. These settlements were typically small, of about 100 individuals, mostly of women and children! They posed the largest cranial capacity of any population the world has ever seen; indicating, perhaps, their relation to the earlier, large-brained Cro-Magnons. Dr Carleton Coon has pointed out that the Mouillan features have never before evolved in such combinations in any race at that time in human's history.

 

The Berber Garamantian Period:

("Some years ago Diole wrote: "The name of the Garamantes . . . does little more, really, than designate our ignorance." C. Daniels.)

The breathtaking treasures of the Sahara's prehistoric drawings and engravings are perhaps the best measure of the level of civilisation attained by these peoples. Sadly, this world heritage material is largely neglected and still remains to this day scattered across the Sahara desert as if it were historical garbage, and even intentionally desecrated and looted. Today, mainly the Tuareg confederacies remain the keepers of the great Sahara Desert. Wars and famines in Africa still play their role in population flow; if not natures way to fuel the engine of evolution. This ancient civilisation did not suddenly appear from nowhere, but a continuation of earlier continuations. The archaeological artifacts and stone tools discovered in various sites from Fezzan were dated to the late Acheulean and the Aterian cultures (circa 100,000 - 30,000 BC.). This area was also the home of the Berber Garamantes Kingdom, considered to be Libya's first indigenous empire. They initially run their kingdom from the nearby capital Zinchecra (on the hills of Messak Settafet), then from Germa or Garama (today's Jerma) in the first century AD, so named after their eponymous ancestor Garamas ("the first of men"), who was, according to mythology, the son of the glorious Sun, who offered Mother Earth a sacrifice of the sweet acorn. The Garamantes were placed by Pliny twelve days journey from the Augilae, and ten days by Herodotus, in the interior of Libya. They occupied the most habitable region of the Sahara: the Wadis el-Agial and Sciati and the oases from Murzuk to Zuila. Herodotus informs us that the Garamantes spread soil over salt to sow their seeds, and hunt in four-horse chariots; while archaeological discoveries indicate the Garamentian cities were thriving urban centres, with markets and public entertainment forums. From the archaeological remains of Germa, the city appears to have had towers and a square market, used as a transit point for caravans and for the horses the Garamentes then exported to Rome. Some of Germa's archaeological finds can be found in Germa Museum.


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The Libyan Goddess Tannit

 

There is no doubt that the Athena of Herodotus, whom the Amazon worshipped around Lake Tritonis, was none other than the Libyan Goddess Tannit. Poets and scholars of all ages knew Her as the Goddess Neith, whom the ancient Egyptians adopted as Nit, long before the Phoenicians returned to venerate as Tanit.

 

The Libyan Goddess Tannit at Tripoli Museum

The Libyan Goddess Tannit (Neith)
at Assaraya Alhamra Museum, Tripoli, Libya.

The following Arabic text, also displayed under the stone, describes the above symbol of Tannit .


Description of the Goddess Tannit in Arabic

Temehu.com's translation of the Arabic text at the Museum: "The Goddess Tannit. Tannit is regarded as one of the most famous and important Punic goddesses in Tripolitania. She is the wife of the Punic god Bal Hamon. She was the goddess of sowing, harvest and fertility, and a sky goddess essentially associated with the moon. Her symbol, known as the symbol of Tannit, is a triangle representing the human body, surmounted by a circle representing the head, and separated by a horizontal line which represents the hands. The worship of the goddess Tannit emerged after the 5th century BC. She appears to be of Libyan origin. This piece is from the 2nd century BC. " [End of translation.]


 

The Berber Libyan Amazons:

According to several historical records, the Libyan birthplace of the Goddess Neith, whom the Greeks adopted as Athena, as has been pointed out by  Plutarch, Diodorus and Herodotus, was also the  traditional homeland of the warrior women known as the Libyan Amazons, in the western parts of Libya - particularly around the legendary Lake Tritonis. The world of the Amazons was ruled by warrior women, in which they followed a manner of life unlike that which prevailed among other races of the time. There were a number of fake tales about removing one of their breasts in order to be able to shoot better (using  arrow & bow), without presenting any evidence; leading to careful mythographers to suggest that these were no more than mere patriarchal allegations to discredit matriarchy; and hence the whole existence of the Amazons itself was dismissed as "myth". According to Robert Graves, Diodorus Siculus' legend regarding the Libyan Atlantians, from whom Libyan Amazons seized their city Cerne, cannot be archeologically dated, but he makes it precede a Libyan invasion of the Aegean Islands and Thrace. See Libyan Mythology for more.


 

The Berbers of The Ancient Egyptian Period: 3300 BC to 750 BC:

Egyptian records inform us that many parts of Libya and Egypt itself were inhabited by various Libyan tribes, the most prominent of which were the Temehu, the Tehenu, the  Ribu, and the Meshwesh. From the extent of the Temehu's territories, it is evident that they comprised a number of tribes, occupying much of the Sudan and possibly all the way to Fezzan. Several historians have pointed out that the Temehu and the Tehenu were the ancestors of the present day Tuareg. When Greek and Roman historians arrived in Libya and Egypt, the name Ribu became Libu, whence present day “Libya”, and the name Meshwesh became Masuch (Herodotus), Maschouacha (Chabas), Maksiz (Ptolemy) and Mazic (Latin inscriptions), whence present day Tamazight, and thus Imazighen -- the generic name used to describe the indigenous inhabitants of North Africa as a whole. The ancient Egyptians and the Berbers are strongly related tribes and share one common origin. Both languages: Ancient Egyptian (not to be confused with current Arabic Egyptian) and Berber ('Tamazight') are sister languages belonging to the same linguistic branch of the Afro-Asiatic linguistic family. The cultural traits of the ancient Egyptians and the Libyan Berbers and their mythologies and religions are also closely related, if not the same. Inscriptions from the Old Kingdom are perhaps the earliest recorded information we have about the Berbers of Libya (excluding the recorded pre-history of rock art). Before King Menes forcibly unified Egypt and invaded Lower Egypt, the Delta was primarily inhabited by Libyan Berbers who worshipped the Goddess Tannit, the Cat-goddess Bast and the Sun-god Amon. The Palermo stone further illustrates the antiquity of Libyans in Lower Egypt by listing a succession of Libyan pre-Dynastic kings and queens from Lower Egypt. The Libyans however regained control over Egypt about (ca. 945 BC), by establishing the Libyan Dynasties on the hands of the Libyan King Shishenq or Shishonk.

 

 

The Arrival of the Phoenicians: 1000 BC To 200 BC:

The Phoenicians originally descended from North Africa as attested by linguistic evidence, where Proto-Semitic itself diverged from Proto-Berbero-Libyan (Diakonoff, 1975, 1981) about 7000 years ago. According to the legend of Dido, which some sources say was a Roman invention to discredit Carthage: its main rival, the Berber king Iarbas granted Dido as much land as could be covered by an ox-hide; on which they settled among the native Berbers and quickly adopted Berber gods and traditions, like the Libyan Goddess Tannit whom they loved as Tanit, and the Libyan Amon whom they worshipped as Bal-Amon, in the same way the Greeks, later on, made him Zeus-Amon. Unlike the later arrivals, the Phoenicians were said to have signed treaties of cooperation with the native Berbers. When the Persians invaded Egypt and sent their ambassadors to Libya asking the Berbers to help the Persians take over Carthage, the Libyans replied saying that they will not take up arms against their brothers, and thus succeeded in saving Libya from yet another catastrophic war. The Phoenicians settled in a number of cities including Leptis Magna, Oea (Tripoli), Sabratha, and Carthage (Qert Hadasht 'The New Village'), which was founded in 814 BC. By 517 BC, this Berber-Phoenician empire was gaining influence all around the Mediterranean; eventually bringing terror and fear to the Romans' hearts. Seeing danger besieging Rome for nearly 12 years, the Romans diverted the war to Carthage, where the Carthaginian government recalled Hannibal from Rome to defend the capital, only to loose control of the whole campaign. .

 

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The Arrival of the Greeks:

The Greeks established 5 colonies in Cyrenaica, around the seventh century BC, which became known as the Pentapolis: the Five Cities of Cyrene, Apollonia, Ptolemais, Taucheira and Berenice (Benghazi). Evidence indicates that some of these settlements had indeed existed before the Greeks' arrival. The Pentapolis enjoyed a significant degree of autonomy, and Greek influence was limited to the coastal regions. The Berber areas, further south, remained free from Greek rule. Apparently, the city of Cyrene was founded (invaded) upon the oracular advise of Apollo at Delphi, by the Greeks of Thera (modern Santorini), and thus their arrival was portrayed as a divine mission, rather than a military conquest. The fertile Green Mountain (Jebel al-Akhdar) supplied Greece with livestock, grain, wine and the unique Cyrenaican plant silphium. The level of civilisation attained by Cyrene was so high that it quickly became one of the most cultural, philosophical and academic cities in North Africa and produced some of the finest scholars of the time. The popular philosophy of Cyrene was that of moral cheerfulness and happiness. Shortly after the death of Alexander the Great   in 323 BC, only eight years after his armies arrived in Cyrenaica, his empire was divided among his Macedonian generals and thus Cyrene and Egypt went to Ptolemy. Just over two hundred years later, the Greek influence began to dwindle and the last Greek ruler, Ptolemy Apion, finally surrendered Cyrenaica to Rome.


Hannibal

Hannibal

The Arrival of the Romans:

When the Roman arrived in North-West Africa, there were a number of Berber Kingdoms in existence, the most influential of which was Numidia or Numidae. According to Herodotus, the Libyans comprised two major groups: the agricultural population of the coastal regions, and the shepherds or the Nomads, of which Numidae is the Latin form. The Numidae of the Second Punic War were essentially the Berber tribes of the Masaesyli and the Massyli,  the subjects of the Berber kings Syphax and Masinissa respectively. The Numidian kingdom of Masinissa eventually included all of Tripolitania. When Hannibal invaded Italy, in his adventure across the Alps (shattering big rocks in the way by heating them with fire and pouring wine along the cracks), he reached Rome and laid siege to the capital city for nearly 12 years.

During  these years the Roman emperor with his generals and slaves were held prisoners in their own capital. Here, most historians agree that Hannibal had committed his greatest mistake: not attacking Rome whilst he laid siege. Apparently historians also say that Hannibal's morality had prevented him from attacking Roman women and children in their own homes, and instead he hopped the men will come out and give him a decent fight.

Instead of seemingly fighting to death and loosing Rome, their treachery inspired them to plot behind the besieged city walls, to divert the war to North Africa and take the fight back to Carthage. When Carthage was attacked by the Romans, the Carthaginian government fell in the trap, just others still do today; and immediately recalled Hannibal from Rome. Hearing the order to return to Carthage, Hannibal knew exactly what the Romans had in mind, but he had to fulfil his "national duty" - against the advice of his most closest generals - and returned to defend his homeland. 

Hannibal (247-183 BC):

219 : Siege of Saguntum
218 : Capture of Saguntum ,Declaration of War.
218 : Hannibal sets out from New Carthage.
218 : Hannibal crosses the Alps,  Battle of R. Ticinus.
218 : Battle of R. Trebia.
218 : Hannibal crosses the Apennines, Roman successes.
217 : Elections in Rome,Hannibal crosses R. Arno.
217 : Battle of Lake Trasimene.
217 : Hannibal's escape from Campania, Hannibal at Gereonium.
217:  Minucius's successes  against  Hannibal.
216 : Elections in Rome, Hannibal at Capua.
216 : Carthage receives news of Canna.
216 : Hannibal repulsed at Nola, Siege of Casilinum.
216  :Roman army destroyed by Boii.
216 : Hasdrubal stopped from leaving Spain.
215 : Elections in Rome, Alliance between Carthage and Macedon.
215 : Capture of Carthaginian generals in Sardinia.
214 : Conspiracy in Syracuse,  Marcellus in Sicily.
214 : Massacre at Henna.
213 : Roman overtures to king Syphax
212 : Hannibal enters Tarentum, Carthaginians take Thurii.
212 : Tiberius Gracchus eliminated.
212 : Plague at Syracuse, death of Archimedes.
212 : Death of the Scipios.
212 : Lucius Marcius rallies Roman remnant in Spain.
212 : Marcellus victorious at Agrigentum.
211 : Hannibal marches to relieve Capua, Battle of R. Volturnus.
211 : Hannibal's march on Rome,  Battle of R. Anio.
211 : Hasdrubal's escape from Nero in Spain.
210 : Alliance between Rome, Aetolian League, and Pergamum.
210 : Fire in Rome, Hannibal destroys Herdonea.
210 : Envoys from Syphax in Rome, raid on African coast.
208 : Raid on African coast,  Plilip V intervenes in Greece.
207 : Hasdrubal crosses the Alps,  Hasdrubal besieges Placentia.
207 : Hannibal routed at Grurnentum.
207 : Hasdrubal's letter to his brother  Hannibal intercepted.
207 : Death of  Hasdrubal (Hannibal's brother).
207 : Successful raid on Utica.
206 : Livy's tribute to Hannibal, Masinissa  joins the Romans.
206 : Scipio and Hasdrubal meet Syphax, Slaughter at Astapa .
206 : Meeting between Scipio and Masinissa, surrender of Gades.
205 : Elections in Rome, Fabius's attack on Scipio in Senate.
205 : Laelius raids African coast .
204 : General peace in Greece.
204 : Pact between Carthage and Syphax.
204 : Scipio crosses to Africa, Masinissa comes to join Scipio.
204 : Hannibal defeated near Croton.
203 : Burning of Carthaginian camp at Utica.
203 : Syphax defeated at Great Plains.
203 : Naval battle off Carthage, final defeat and capture of Syphax.
203 : Masinissa enters Cirta and meets Sophonisba.
203 : Sophonisba's death.
203 : Carthaginian envoys ask for peace, Rome rejoices over African victories.
203 : Mago and Hannibal recalled from Italy.
203 : Hannibal leaves Italy, Hannibal lands at Leptis.
202 : Hannibal marches to Zama,  meeting with Scipio.
202 : Battle of Zama : Rome wins.
195 : Hannibal's  reforms in Carthage, Hannibal's  flight to Antiochus
193 : Hannibal's agent Aristo in Carthage.
191 : Hannibal's advice to Antiochus.
189 : Battle of Magnesia, senate ratifies peace with Antiochus .
187 : Prosecution of Scipio Africanus and his death.
183 : Death of Hannibal: betrayed by king Prusias, Hannibal took poison, rather than surrender.

 

After the Punic Wars with Rome, Carthage was finally reduced to rubble and razed to the ground in 146 BC. Hannibal was unharmed and left for Syria. From Syria he went to Bithynia, in Asia, where its king Prusias eventually betrayed him to the Romans. Hearing the news of the Roman army in their way to arrest him, he, like Cleopatra, took poison in 183.

With Hannibal and Carthage out of the way, Rome was ready to spread terror around the Mediterranean world and across Europe and the Middle East. The result was total cultural devastation across Europe where linguists had concluded that 90% of Europe's indigenous languages had gone extinct as a direct result of the Roman invasions - and hence subsequently the spread of Latin across Europe. Many of the other languages around the Mediterranean and the Middle East, including Ancient Egyptian, had also disappeared except Africa's Berber and Europe's Basque's Euskara - both of which are among the oldest languages in the world, both of which are related, and both of which appear destined to live to the end of the world.

Shortly after the Carthaginian-Roman battle at Zama, the Berber kingdoms began to suffer the impact of the Roman invasions, and by 46 BC, Julius Caesar deposed the final Numidian king, Juba I; and thereafter Tripolitania was incorporated into the province of Africa Proconsularis, to begin the export of goods, animals and slaves to Rome.

Once the coastal regions were under Roman control, the Roman generals wanted to do what no invader of Libya had done before: to conquer the Sahara. After their initial expeditions into the Garamantian empire, in 20–19 BC, and later on in 69–70 AD, the Romans signed a trade and military treaty with the Garamantian chiefs, and the two became trading partners, as evidenced by the pottery shreds and other artifacts unearthed in Fezzan. By the end of the first century AD Rome had completed the pacification of Sirtica (the region now know as the Gulf of Sert), and Cyrenaica was handed over to them by the Greeks. Had Carthage survived, and left alone since, the Berbers would have probably landed on Jupiter long before Galileo saw its moons.


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The Arrival of the Arabs:

In 642 AD, U'mr ibn al-A's, under the command of the Caliph U'mr I, arrived in Cyrenaica, where he established his base at Barqa, and then a few years later he moved on towards Tripolitania, where he removed the remaining Byzantine garrisons and took control of Tripoli.

After U'mr, the Caliph sent Uqba bin Nafi, who moved towards Fezzan in 663 and took Germa, and then the Roman province of Africa in 670 AD, where he established another military base at Kairouan (al Qayrawan) in preparation to attack Byzantine Carthage, which they finally took in 693 AD.

It was reported that the orders were given to raze Carthage to the ground, once more, after having been already ransacked by the Romans not long ago. Similar orders were also given in relation to Sabratha, the capital of the Berber Nafusa tribes of Nafusa Mountain. Shortly afterwards, the Muslims arrived in Morocco, before they crossed to Spain, under the command of the Berber general Tariq Bin Zayyad.

By the seventh century, a power struggle ensued between the supporters of rival claimants to the caliphate, thereby creating two sects: the Sunni and the Shia. About 200 years later, Shia missionaries of the Ismaili sect succeeded in converting the Kutama of Kabylia and set them against the Sunni Aghlabids, where they took Kairouan in the following year.

Soon afterwards the wars broke out, once again, between the Fatimid of North Africa and Baghdad; eventually leading the Fatimid caliph to invite Bani Hilal and Bani Salim bedouin tribes from the Arabian peninsula. It is these two tribes that signaled the arrival of  Arab tribes in North Africa.

 

Timeline of  Historical Events In Libya & North Africa

640 - 641 AD

The  arrival of Islam in Libya: in 640 AD the Arab general Amr ibn al-Ās took Egypt, followed by Barqah in 641 AD.

642 - 647 AD

Amr ibn al-Ās moved on towards Tripolitania, where he removed the remaining Byzantine garrisons and took control of Tripoli in 647 AD. Sends Uqba ibn Nafi (O'qba ibn Nafea')  toward Zwilah.

663 AD Uqba ibn Nafi moves towards Fezzan and takes Germa.

670 AD


Foundation of Kairouan (Qairawan). Uqba ibn Nafi (Oqba Ben Nafea')  claims the Roman province of Africa in 670 AD and establishes his military base at Qayrawan; where he built the Great Mosque of Kairouan, the oldest mosque in Africa, widely regarded as the fourth holiest place, after Mecca, Medina and Alqudus (Jerusalem).

683 AD

Berber king Kusila kills Uqba ibn Nafi  and rules the country from Kairouan as a Christian.

690 - 698 AD

Kahina Dihya fought her final wars: in 693 she defeated Hassan Ben Nua'man, who then retreated to Tripoli, waited for reinforcements, and a few years later re-grouped. As she had predicted she dies fighting in 698.

700-705 AD

Creation of the Province of Afriqya; the Maghreb (North Africa) was incorporated into the Islamic empire.

706-710 AD

Islamic influence spreads to various parts of North Africa, as far as the Sanhaja Berbers south of Mauritania; forcing the Sanhaja to start their trans-Saharan journeys from Wadi Draa to reach Senegal by means of camels, and thus were considered to be the first to make full use of the "ship of the desert".

711 AD

The Berber general Tariq Ben Zeyyad (Tariq Ibn Ziyad) conquers the Kingdom of Spain with a Berber army and advisors. Tariq's commander, Musa ibn Nusair, followed with substantial reinforcements.

732 AD

The Arabs' defeat at Poitiers.

739 AD

Berber rebellions followed by Arab rebellions in Morocco.

750 AD

Islamic Umayyads at Damascus overthrown by Abbasids.

755 AD

Arrival of Umayyad A'bd al-Rahman in Spain; Umayyad dynasty founded in Andalus. A'bbasids regain control of Afriqya.

788 - 796 AD

Fes founded by ldris; ldrisid dynasty established in Morocco. Death of  A'bd al-Rahman I; successor son Hisham 1 (Andalus). Death d Hisham I; successor son Hakam I. Series of rebellions in cities (Andalus).

800 AD

Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab founds Aghlabid dynasty in Afriqya. Besides the Sanhaja's trans-Saharan trade routes, two more routes emerged around this time: one from  Algeria to middle Niger, and the other from Tripolitania to Lake Chad.

800-900 AD

The Berbers of the Sahara and Sanhaja and the Nilo-Saharans founded the Kingdom of Kanim (east of Lake Chad ), the Kingdom of Songhay (central Niger), and the Kingdom of Mali.

813-20, 822 AD

Emigration of fighters from Spanish Cordova to Fes in Morocco, Afriqiya and Egypt. A series of rebellions in cities in Afriqya. Death of  Hakam I; successor son A'bd al- Rahman II (Andalus). People emigrate from Kairouan to Fes.

827 AD

Invasion of Sicily from Afriqya;  continues for 100 years.

852 AD

Death of  A'bd al-Rahman II; succeeded by his son Muhammad I. 

868 - 888 AD

Tulunid Period, (Ibn Tulun ) in Egypt. Death of Muhammad I; successor son al-Mundhir (Andalus). Death of  al-Mundhir.

900 AD

The Muslims now have independent hereditary rulers: Aghlabids in Tunisia, and Tulunids in Egypt.  The Idrisids of Morocco and the Umayyads of Spain did not recognise the authority of Baghdad Caliphs.

900 - 912 AD

In 902 AD a Shia revolt broke out in eastern Algeria. In 909 al-Mahdi founds Fatimid dynasty of caliphs (Afriqya). By 912 the Mahdi (the head of the Fatimid line) founded the city of  Mahdiya  from which he ruled Tunisia and Algeria.

912 AD

Umayyads gradually recover power (Andalus).

927 AD War in northern Morocco between Umayyads and Fatimid and their Berber allies (the war continued for more than 70 years).
928 AD Abd ar-Rahman III  takes title of caliph (Andalus).
961 AD Death of  Abd al-Rahman III; successor son  Hakam II (Andalus).

969 AD

The Fatimid invaded Egypt and ruled Palestine and parts of Arabia. They left Tripolitania, Tunisia and Algeria to the Zirids (a Sanhaja Berber family who assisted the Fatimid). The Fatimid organised the arrival of Benu Hilal and Benu Salim Arab tribes from Arabia into Egypt and Libya.

972 AD

The Fatimid caliph moves to Cairo, leaving Zirids in charge of  Afriqya.

976 AD

Death of  Hakani II; successor infant son Hisham II.

980 AD

Morocco broke away from the Fatimid's rule.

1002  AD

Ibn Abi A'mir AI-Mansur (Almanzor) becomes regent for the Umayyads war on Christians of northern Spain. Al-Manzor died in 1002.

1009 AD

Overthrow of Al-Manzor's son (Andalus).

1013 AD

Sack of Cordova.

1014 AD

The Zirids of Algeria broke away from the Fatimid rule.

1017-18 AD

The Zanata Berbers took Tripoli; Arabs seized Barqa; the massacre of Ismaili officials.

1031 AD

End of Umayyad dynasty. Period of Little Kings, rulers of city states led by Seville (Andalus).

1040 AD

lbn Yasin forms Almoravids (al-Murabit'un - the men of the monastery) in the Sahara, and begins  his holy war (Morocco).

1048 AD

Zirid Mu'izz repudiates Fatimid (Afriqya).

1049 AD

Tripolitania and Tunisia broke away from the Fatimid.

1050 AD

By now Almoravids had conquered the western Sahara (Sanhaja Berbers), and seized Sijilmasa in 1054, and Awdaghust in 1055.

1052 AD

Mu'izz defeated by the tribes of Banu Hilal.

1057 AD

Death of  Ibn Yasin; successor Abu Bakr (Morocco); Mu'izz abandons Kairouan for Mahdia (Afriqya).

1056 -1082 AD

Almoravid armies conquered Morocco and western Algeria

1069 AD

Abu Bakr founds Marrakesh, installs Yusuf ibn Tashfin (Morocco); Almoravids under Yusuf  ibn Tashfin conquer Morocco.

1070 AD

Afriqya divided into city states and tribal territories (Afriqya).

1076 - 1083 AD

Almoravid conquered Songhay and Ghana.

1085 AD

Capture of Toledo by Castile; Muslims  appeal to Almoravid Yusuf ibn Tashfin.

1086 - 1090 AD

Yusuf ibn Tashfin conquers Andalus and exiles Little Kings to Morocco.

1094 - 1099 AD

El Cid takes Valencia (Andalus); El Cid besieged in Valencia; Yusuf ibn Tashfin takes the title (Commander of the Muslims); and  Andalus and Morocco became united.

1100 AD

Bani Hilal take control of eastern Algeria and Tunisia, the Zirid princes still holding out in Bougie and Mahdiya. On the other side, Banu Salim are taking control of  Libya (only Cyrenaica  and Tripoli).

1106 AD

Death of Yusuf ibn Tashfin, successor son Ali (Morocco).

1118 - 1120 AD

Ibn Tumart forms Almohads in High Atlas (Morocco); Almohads is a political  and religious movement of the Zenata Berbers of the Atlas; Death of  Ibn Tumart in 1130, succeeded by his caliph Abd al-Mu'min.

1135 - 1143 AD

Djerba  invaded and taken by Normans of Sicily (Afriqya); Abd al-Mu'min begins his campaign against Almoravids; Death of  A'li ibn Yusuf ibn Tashfin, successor son Tashfin.

1145 - 1147 AD

Almohads defeated Almoravids and took Morocco and Spain;  death of Tashfin ibn Ali ibn Yusuf ibn Tashfin; Norman conquest of Tripoli; Almohads capture Seville; flight of Almoravid lbn Ghaniya to Majorca; Andalus  substantially independent.

1147 - 1163 AD

Moroccan Marrakesh captured by Almohads; Almohad Abd al-Mu'min annexes Central Maghreb; Almohads conquer Afriqya, drive Normans from coastal cities in Afriqya; Death of  Abd al-Mu'min, successor son Abu Ya'qub (Morocco).

1171 AD

Kurdish Saladin (Salah'-Addin ) transformed Egypt into a military power and used it to wage his wars against the Crusaders to recapture Palastine after he took over from the last Fatimid ruler and founded the Ayyubid Dynasty in Egypt.

1172 AD

Murcia taken by Almohad Abu Ya'qub; Andalus, Morocco and Afriqiya united in Almohad Empire - capitals Seville and Marrakesh.

1184 AD

Death of  Almohad Abu Ya'qub, successor son Abu Yusuf; Beginning of doctrinal war between Almohad caliph and Almohad Shaykhs.

1195 - 1199 AD

Almohads defeat Castile at Alarcos; Invasion of  Afriqya by Almoravids from  Majorca; Death of  Almohad Abu Yusuf, successor son al-Nasir.

1203 - 1207 AD

Almohads (Berbers of Zenata) conquer Majorca from Almoravids; Defeat of Almoravids by Almohad al-Nasir; Abu Muharnmad al-Hafsi made viceroy at Tunis.

1212 - 1213 AD

Defeat of Almohads by the Christians at Las Navas de Tolosa; Death of  Almohad al-Nasir, successor son al-Mustansir.

1127 AD

Murder of caliph al-Adil; his brother al-Ma'mun repudiates Almohad doctrin; Al-Ma'mun invades Morocco, massacres Almohad Shaykhs, and takes power at Marrakesh; Break-up of Almohad empire: Andalus, Morocco and Afriqya gave up their unity.

1230s AD

lbn Hud takes power in Andalus; Yaghmurasin takes power at Tlemcen; Abu Zakariya al-Hafsi assumes leadership of Almohads, and founds Hafsid dynasty at Tunis in 1236 AD. In Mali the prince Sundiata  re-established Mali's  independence, and took Songhay, Tadmekka, Walata and Ghana.

1239 AD

The foundation of  Ziyanid Dynasty in Algeria; the Berber Marinids replaced the Almohads in Morocco.

1248 AD

Ferdinand takes Seville.

1250-1517 AD

Marinid dynasty established at Fes. 

1269 AD

Almohad were replaced by another Berber tribe from the Zenata of Atlas - Ind Marin, who formed the Marinids Dynasty in Morocco.

1270 AD

Turkish Mamluk in Egypt.

1275 AD

St Louis, King of France, attacks Tunis.

1276 AD

Marinid Abu Yusuf  (Zeneta Berber) invades Spain. 

1299 AD

New Fes begun in Morocco.

1299 - 1307 AD

Siege of  Tlemcen by Marinid ruler Abu Ya'qub (Morocco).

1304 AD

The greatest medieval, Berber traveller Ibn Battuta was born in Tangier in Morocco. In 1325 he set out on his journey across North Africa to Mecca. From there he visited most of  the countries of the Near East (although some say never went that far). In 1331 he travelled down the east coast of Africa to Mogadishu and Mombassa. Then he returned to Morocco in 1349. He travelled to Spain in 1350, and then went back south to the Western Sahara and Mali. Some of the things he said were doubted by historians. One of the observations he made was that slaves commanded higher prices than gold; when he went home, he was part of a caravan carrying 600 female slaves from Takedda in Mali. He returned to Morocco in 1353, and began writing his stories.

1316 - 30 AD

The Christian Kingdom of Abyssinia was revived by a new line of kings, the Solomonids, who claimed descent from  King Solomon. They halted the Muslims' advance into the highlands and conquered the pagans' territories south of the Blue Nile.

1331 - 1351 AD

Accession of Marinid Abu Al-Hasan (Morocco); Marinids take Tlemcen; Christians defeat Marinids in Spain (Andalus); Fall of Algeciras, expulsion of Marinids; Marinid Abu I-Hasan conquers Afriqya; Rebellion of Abu I-Hasan's son Abu'nan (Morocco); Death of  Abu I-Hasan, succeeded by Abu Inan.

1352 - 1358 AD

Marinid Abu Inan reconquers Afriqya; Death of  Abu lnan; Marinid power weakened; Ziyanids recover Tlemcen (Morocco).

1362 - 91 AD

Reign of Nasrid Muhammad al-Ghani at Granada (Andalus); Hafsids recover Afriqya (Afriqya).

1400  AD

Mali  lost control of Songhay Kingdom.

1402 - 1405 AD

The Portuguese Prince Henry conquered the Canary Islands.

1402 - 1797 AD

Spaniards' genocide of the Berber Guanche people of the Canary Islands: extinction.

1415 - 1431 AD

Portuguese seize Ceuta (Morocco), Portugal's first venture; A Chinese fleet visited East Africa (first large ships started to appear in China and Portugal); The Portuguese discover Madeira Island and the Azores in 1431, and by 1460 they reached Sierra Leone.

1455 - 1458 AD

Wars of the Roses begin (UK); Portuguese take Alcazarquivir [Al-Qaser-Quivir], Tangier, Larache and Azemmour.

1464 AD

The King Ali ascended the throne of Songhay, conquered Timbuctoo (an important point in the lucrative gold and slave trafficking) in 1469, and Jenne in 1473.

1471 AD

In Morocco the Marinids were replaced by the Wattasids. 

1478 - 1492 AD

The Spanish conquered Gran Canaria; Christian monarchs conquer Granada (Andalus).

1492 AD

Christopher Columbus made Gomera (Canary Islands) his last place of call when he sailed to re-discover the Americas.

1496 AD

The Spanish conquered Tenerife.

1535 AD

The French and the Ottomans signed a treaty: the French became the ranking foreign community in Tunis.

1516 - 1551 AD

Ottoman Pashas appointed by Turkish Sultan; The Mamluks replaced by the Ottomans; The Ottomans occupied Tripolitania, Algeria in 1555, and Tunisia in 1574; In 1551 the Muslims took Tripoli again.

1571 - 1573 AD

The Spanish invaded Tunis in 1573. 

1578 AD


Almansur: the Portuguese sent the biggest army they had ever sent overseas to land in Morocco - around 30,000 men. The King of Portugal himself was in command of the army and met the local king in the battle of the three kings. Three kings died: King of Portugal, his Sultan, and the Moroccan king, who was ill and died in the 'process'. It is also known as the battle of the Big Castle (Al-Qaser Al-Kabir). Most of the Portuguese army was finished or captured and, later, Portugal fell to Spain.  The Moroccan prince succeeded to the throne and took the title Almansur (the Victorious). In 1590, The prince Almansur took the Kingdom of Songhay into his empire, and gold flowed in.

1603 AD

In 1603, Ahmad Almansur, the king of Morocco, made a  proposal to his English ally Queen Elizabeth I. Had Elizabeth accepted, the plan would have completely changed the history of the modern world. The Moors needed the help of the English to colonise America by attacking the Spanish colonies, and keep it under joint dominion (ref: Turks, Moors & Englishmen In The Age of Discovery,  by Nabil  Matar, Columbia).

1655  AD

Algerian pirates apprehended (stopped) by the British.

1655 - 1657 AD

Seizure of Gibraltar contemplated by the English; Main Spanish fleet destroyed at Tenerife (Canary Islands) by the English.

1700s AD

The authorities in Tripoli, Tunis and Algiers enjoyed a state of near independence.

1711 AD Ahmed Karamanli captures Tripoli.

1714 AD

Tripolitania establishes complete independence from the Ottomans.

1780s AD

The slave trade reaching its peak: 100,000 Africans are kidnapped and sold a year. By 1800 AD about five million Africans were sold to the West. The population of  black Africa increased sharply to about 60 million as opposed to 10 million living north of the Sahara. 

1789 - 1815 AD

The French Revolution; starts by Napoleon's invasion of Egypt (1798); the battle of the Pyramids with the Mamluks; Defeated Napoleon returned home a year later.

1801 AD

Turkish Period, Mohammed  Ali (1801-1848); In 1811 he invited the Mumluk leadership to a banquet in Cairo and massacred the lot; In 1818 he controlled Arabia, and in 1820 took Nubia.

1807 AD

The British outlawed  the slave trade; The British established military presence in few cities along the east coast of Africa (for returned or confiscated slaves and  refugees),  which later became modern day Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia. This is the day when organised politics began to take over and shape the future of Africa and the world at large.

The prices of slaves in Tripoli (given by Graberg, Swedish consul in 1822): 

  • a black eunuch: 650 Spanish piastres

  • adult male; 100 Spanish piastres
  • youth; 70 to 80 Spanish piastres
  • boy under ten: 50 Spanish piastres
  • woman: 120 to 150 Spanish piastres
  • girl: 100 Spanish piastres
  • girl under ten: 50 to 60 Spanish piastres
  • a male African slave in Cairo was worth on average 2000 nisf-s  in 1700 AD, 16000 in 1800 AD, and 40000 in 1850 AD.
  • "Among the more expensive were Abyssinian girls and, most expensive of all, were the eunuchs who were  used by wealthier families to guard female abodes.(Magali Morsy, p. 63)."

1811 AD

Tripoli took Fezzan and gained control over the Tripoli-Bornu route. 

1832 AD

The Ottomans re-establish control over Tripoli.

1863 - 1879 AD

 

The  Libyan population, in contrast to the explosion taking place in Egypt, was decreasing, down  from 757,000 people in 1840s to 523,176 people in 1911; perhaps excluding the Berber Tuareg of the Sahara. The population of Egypt was nearly 5 million people by 1860,  which is the same as that of Morocco at the time. But by 1920, the Egyptians grew to 14 million while the Moroccans only increased by one and a half  million (from 4 to 5.487 million). Tunisia also remained around 2 million right from 1800 to 1940, but it grew to 5 million by 1971. In Algeria the population was around 4 million in 1800 AD, and remained so until 1936 when it increased to 6.2 million. In 1966 the population of Egypt more than doubled (30,075,858 ), while the Libyans were still less than 2 millions in 1968.

 

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The Arrival of The Spaniards & The Turks:

After a short lull in Libya's history, it was the turn of the Spaniards and the Turks to share the spoils of the Great White Sea. During the 14th and 15th centuries the Spaniards were wreaking havoc across the waters of the Mediterranean. The genocide of the natives of the Canary Islands was completed in around one century, and the survivors were sold as first-class slaves in Europe. And soon afterwards, they destroyed Tripoli in 1510 AD and built a fortified naval base from the rubble.

Throughout the 16th century, Spain and the Ottoman Turks were fighting over the control of the Mediterranean, just as the Phoenicians and the Romans did before. Chaos was the king and piracy became an established business on both side of the Great White Sea. By 1551 AD the knights were driven out of Tripoli by Turkish pirates, and by 1580 AD the chiefs of Fezzan finally allied with the Turks.

By the early 18th century, the Karamanli dynasty rose to fame, mainly in trafficking slaves and piracy, activities which eventually invited European powers to take control of Africa. Some European governments began sending a series of expeditions to all parts of Africa, collecting maps and information about the hidden continent and "its tribes". The British were the first to campaign for ending slavery; and instead built a global empire.

The spread of the Ottoman Empire saw Libya come under a state of disarray and chaos, where corruption and cruelty were the main characteristics of the period. In September 1911 Italy accused Turkey of arming tribesmen in Libya and soon afterwards declared war and captured Tripoli in October the 3rd, before it occupied Cyrenaica's Tobruk and Benghazi.

 

Nesmenser Zuwarah Libya © 2008; updated: 2011, 2012, 2013.

 




 
 
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