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abstract composition of Libya



hieroglyphic name Rebu

The Berber name Rebu in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.


The Origin of The Name Libya:

There are several theories attempting to explain the origin of the name, but it is almost certain that it comes from the ancient Berber tribe known to the ancient Egyptians as Rebu or Ribu; from which the Greeks derived "Libya", and which the Arabs of today's Egypt know as Lubia, whence Lubians, in line with their relatives and neighbours the Nubians. The name "Libia", as found in the archaeological site of "Qaser Libia", in Cyrenaica, is widely thought to have been derived from the ancient village of Olbia. Some sources also derive the names "Libya" and "Lubda" (Leptis Magna) from Lewwa, one of the Berber ancestors given by Ibn Khaldun. However, the Greek form Leptis itself was derived from the Berber and Punic Libqi, which Bates linked to the Berber Ribu.

According to the Berber Leo Africanus (1600, p.13), it was called "Libya" by the Greeks, "Because it was in old time conquered by Libs the king of Mauritania. In the holie scriptures it is called Chamesis, by the Arabians and Ethiopians Alkebulam, and by the Indians Besecath.” In the Bible the Libyans appeared as the Lubim, or Lebahim, the son of Mizraim; which Oric Bates was the first to identify with the modern variant Ta-Mazigh-t -- an appellation widely applied to the proud Berbers of North Africa.

The proposed etymology of 'Libya' being moisture has no support other than the "Libyan wind" which brought rain to Greek mainland; and as it is obvious that Greek Libu is the same as Egyptian Ribu one does not need to propose a Greek etymology for a name that is not Greek. The proper etymology must be sought in the mother language of the given word - the ancient Libyan language: Tamazight, others know as 'Berber'. Egyptian and Berber languages are both members of the Hamitic branch of the Hamito-Samitic linguistic family, and many of the ancient Egyptian and Berber mythical gods and goddesses are still represented on the rock art of the great Mother Sahara, in what is known as the largest collection of prehistoric art in the world: well over one hundred thousand sites.



ancient Libyans in Egyptian drawings

Ancient Libyans, as pictured by the ancient Egyptians.



The Mythology of The Name Libya:

Libya was also the name of the Goddess known to the Greeks as the Goddess Libya, and also of the whole continent before the Romans named it Africa after the Berber Goddess Afri. In mythology, the "Goddess Libya" had three sons by the Libyan Sea-God Poseidon: Belus, Agenor and Lelex. King Belus ruled  at Chemmis or Chamesis of Leo Africanus,  Agenor migrated to Cana'an (the Middle East), and Lelex became king of Megara. The wife of Belus Anchinoe, daughter of the Nile-god Nilus, bore him three sons: Aegyptus, Danaus and Cepheus, and  one daughter:  Lamia, the Libyan Snake-goddess. The myth relates an interesting "deception tale" in which Danaus was sent to rule Libya where he had fifty daughters, and Aegyptus, who had fifty sons, ruled over Egypt.


The Political Name of Libya:

This map shows how the country looked like during the colonial periods. A look at the map of Egypt (bordered red) shows traces of the ancient Libya, as in the "Libyan Desert", the site of the Libyan Desert Glass, and the "Libyan Plateau".  No much was left of Libya then; just an Italian-occupied  regency called TRIPOLI. In 1918 the Tripolitanian Republic was created to become the first ever republic in North Africa & the Middle East; only to be destroyed by the Italians a few years later.


Map of Libya
Map of Libya & North Africa Prior to WW2, Showing The Country Tripoli (in green).


The actual name as a modern country came into effect for the first time around 1934 when the provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were united as Libya during the Italian occupation; initially Fezzan was not included, but after the independence the three provinces were united as one country, when on the 24th of December 1951 Libya was declared as the United Kingdom of Libya.

Shortly after the installation of Colonel Mua’mmar al-Qaddafi (Gaddafi) in 1969, Libya became known as the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, where the last word became synonymous with Libya. Many Libyans feel the introduction of the term "Arab" by the government into the name of Libya does not democratically represent all the true populations of Libya, originally inhabited by the Berbers ('Imazighen'), and still is inhabited by the Berbers in various parts of the country, including most of Nafousa Mountain, Zuwarah, Ghadames, Jalo, Awjlah, and most of the Sahara, the home of the Berber Tuareg confederacies.

However, "Libya" is back as the official name of the country after the installation of the National Transitional Council (NTC) in 2011; only to be changed once more on the 8th of January 2013 by the GNC to: "The Country Libya" (دولة ليبيا), until the final name is decided by the forthcoming, final constitution. No one knows why the word "country" was added to the official name - maybe to distinguish it from "The Goddess Libya"!



map of ancient Libya during the Egyptian empire

Map of Ancient Libya, showing the locations of the native Berber tribes of Ancient Egypt.


The above ancient map, which is over 2000 years older than the colonial map, shows there was no Egypt, just a huge expanse of land known to classical geographers and historians as Libya, to the extent that the name Libya also came to designate the whole continent of Africa. When the Romans arrived through the western gates (Tripolitania and Tunisia), they adopted the name Aprica or Africa, originally from the Berber name of the local tribes who inhabited the region, as in Yefren today, and thereafter Libya became known as Africa. This means that the names "Libya" and "Africa" are both Berber in origin.


The Flags of Libya



Tripolitanian Republic flag

(1): Flag of  the Tripolitanian Republic (1918 - 1923).
Source: Wikipedia.





the flag of cyrenaica

(2): Flag of Cyrenaica (1949 - 1951).

The name Sanusi (or Senusi) refers to a political-religious order, said to have been founded in 1837 by the grandfather of King Idris, the Grand Sanusi (Sayyid Muhammad Ibn Ali as-Senussi). The black flag with the white star and the crescent was adopted by Idris after he proclaimed the eastern region of Libya as "The Emirate of Cyrenaica" on the 1st of March 1949, and appointed himself the Emir of Cyrenaica. Even though the UK did aknowledge the Emirate, the UN failed to recognise the new country. Two years later (in 1951) he was installed the King of Libya.



the flag of the kingdom of Libya

(3): The Flag of "The Libyan Kingdom" (1951 - 1969).

On the 24th of December 1951 the country was declared an independent state, under the name of The Libyan Kingdom, also known as The United Kingdom of Libya - uniting Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan. After the Emir of Cyrenaica was installed the King of Libya, Cyrenaica's flag was modified by the addition of red and green, supposedly to represent Tripolitania and Fezzan.




flag of libya from 1969 to 1972

(4): Flag of the "Libyan Arab Republic" (1969 - 1972).



flag of libya from 1972 to 1977

(5): Flag of the "Federation of Arab Republics".
The federation is a short-lived union between Libya, Syria and Egypt. (1972 - 1977).
Source: wikipedia



the green flag of Gaddafi's libya

(6): Flag of "The Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" (1977-2011).




the current flag of Libya 2011

(7): The current official flag of "Libya" (2011).

It is not clear how exactly the flag came to be adopted, nor why a flag of a "corrupt" monarchy should be used to represent what meant to be a "revolutionary" Libya. But like before, the decision was made somewhere, without consulting the Libyan people.

There were a number of Libyan opposition groups that used the monarchy flag in exile during their campaign to depose the ousted despot, and it is possible that one of these groups had re-introduced the flag early on during the uprising. In a matter of weeks it was effectively used all over the country by peaceful protesters, armed rebels, web masters, the NTC, and the international media; followed by a range of flag-decorated products quickly appearing in the market, ranging from hand-held flags, scarves, hats, cups, badges and key-rings among other novelty items.

The flag is now once more the official flag of Libya since the 23rd of October 2011 (The Liberation Day) -- the day Libya was prematurely declared liberated by the NTC from the 42-year rule of Gaddafi. The flag was defined by the NTC in its interim Constitutional Declaration (Article 3). The flag was defined by the NTC in its interim Constitutional Declaration's Article 3, in which the white star was referred to as 'planet': كوكب .





the Berbers' cultural flag

(0): The unofficial, cultural flag of the Berbers (2011).

This flag was used by the Berbers during the uprising as an expression of freedom and  revolt against oppression. It was carried, together with the independence flag, during the February wars by the Berber natives in Zuwarah, Nafousa Mountain, and the oases of the Sahara, as well as by their Libyan Arab brothers from Mesratha and Benghazi. The flag does not represent any political inclinations and has nothing to do with dividing the country, as some Libyans were quick to respond. It is a mere gesture of one's identity and culture, previously oppressed by all the regimes of Libya. Nearly all the Berbers are almost united in Libya staying united, and have no separate tendencies.

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