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Libya (/ˈlɪbiə/ (About this sound listen); Arabic: ليبيا‎), officially the State of Libya (Arabic: دولة ليبياDawlat Lībyā),[dubious ] is a sovereign state in North Africa, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south and Algeria and Tunisia to the west. The country is made of three historical regions: Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica. With an area of almost 1.8 million square kilometres (700,000 sq mi), Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa, and is the 16th largest country in the world. Libya has the 10th-largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world. The largest city and capital, Tripoli, is located in western Libya and contains over one million of Libya's six million people. The second-largest city is Benghazi, which is located in eastern Libya.

Libya has been inhabited by Berbers since the late Bronze Age. The Phoenicians established trading posts in western Libya, and ancient Greek colonists established city-states in eastern Libya. Libya was variously ruled by Carthaginians, Persians, Egyptians and Greeks before becoming a part of the Roman Empire. Libya was an early centre of Christianity. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the area of Libya was mostly occupied by the Vandals until the 7th century, when invasions brought Islam to the region. In the 16th century, the Spanish Empire and the Knights of St John occupied Tripoli, until Ottoman rule began in 1551. Libya was involved in the Barbary Wars of the 18th and 19th centuries. Ottoman rule continued until the Italian occupation of Libya resulted in the temporary Italian Libya colony from 1911 to 1943. During the Second World War, Libya was an important area of warfare in the North African Campaign. The Italian population then went into decline.

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Italo Balbo.jpg

Italian settlers in Libya (even called Italian Libyans) typically refers to Italians, and their descendants, who resided or were born in Libya.

Italian heritage in Libya can be dated back to Ancient Rome, when the Romans controlled and colonized Libya for a period of five centuries prior to the fall of the Roman Empire and its takeover by Arab and Turkish civilizations. But predominantly Italian heritage in Libya refers to modern-day Italians. In 1911, the Kingdom of Italy waged war on the Ottoman Empire and captured Libya as a colony. Italian settlers were encouraged to come to Libya and did so from 1911 to the outbreak of World War II.

In Libya, the Italians in less than thirty years (1911-1940) built significant amount of public works (roads, railways, buildings, ports, etc.) and the Libyan economy flourished. Italian farmers cultivated lands that were lost to the desert for centuries and improved Italian Libya's agriculture to international standards. Libya was considered the new "America" for the Italian emigrants in the thirties, substituting the United States.

The governor Italo Balbo is attributed with the creation of modern Libya in 1934, when he convinced Mussolini to unite the Italian colonies of Tripolitania, Cirenaica and the Italian Libyan Sahara in one single country named "Libia" in Italian.

The Italians in Libya numbered 108,419 (12.37% of the total population) at the time of the 1939 census. They were concentrated in the coast around the city of Tripoli (they constituted 37% of the city's population) and Bengasi (31%). (Read more...)

Selected picture

Leptis Magna market place April 2004.jpg
Credit: Robert Bamler
The ancient marketplace of Leptis Magna, Libya.

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Did you know

... that the US first attacked Libya in 1815, then again in 1981, 1986, 1989 and now in 2011?

... that in 1963 the women of Libya were given the right to vote?

... that Libya became a member of the League of Arab States in 1953?

... that Tripoli is Libya's largest city?

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