Libya / Geography /
Other spelling: Cirenaica
Region in northeastern Libya with a distinct identity and history, with about 2.2 million inhabitants (2005 estimate).
Benghazi is the largest city of Cyrenaica.
Landscape near Derna.
The forest of Wadi al-Kuf.
The ancient Greek ruins of Cyrene.
The historical demarcation of the region lies along the Gulf of Sidra in the West, and near the present border between Libya and Egypt in the East. The demarcation is defined by the surrounding desert, historically preventing easy access to the region from other regions. Cyrenaica, however, rests mainly on or beneath a plateau, and the inhabitable areas are mainly oases. Summers in Cyrenaica are not as hot as many other North African regions.
In the 1st millennium, Cyrenaica was the home of one of the most popular products in antiquity, the medical plant of Silphium.
The population of Cyrenaica is comprised of arabized Berbers, speaking Arabic. The population is reported to be nearly 100% Sunni Muslims, but the Sanusi Sufi order (tariqa) represents a strong subgroup.
The largest city of Cyrenaica is Benghazi with 950,000 inhabitants. Other cities include Derna (180,000), Al-Bayda (160,000), Tobruk (150,000), Ajdabiyya (150,000) and Al-Marj (120,000). All are 2005 estimates.
Around 630 BCE: Comes under Greek control, the city of Cyrene is founded and a kingdom is established.
The Greeks establish 4 more cities, Teucheira, later ArsinoŽ; Barce; Hesperides, later Berenice, which corresponds to modern Benghazi; and Apollonia.
450: The kingdom falls, and Cyrenaica becomes a republic.
331: Conquered by Alexander the Great.
321: Falls to Ptolemy 1 Soter 1 of Egypt. It becomes an Egyptian province known as Pentapolis, "Five Cities".
116: Ptolemy 8 Euergetes 2 divides Egypt between his son, Ptolemy Apion, and his wife, in which agreement Ptolemy Apion gets Pentapolis as his own kingdom.
96: Ptolemy Apion dies without heirs, and bequeaths Pentapolis to Rome. It gets its old name back.
67: Cyrenaica becomes a province together with Crete.
4th century CE: Cyrenaica is gradually lost to local chiefs.
641: Conquered by Muslim Arabs.
15th century: Comes under nominal suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire.
18th century: Falls officially to the Ottoman Empire.
1843: The Sanusi order establishes in Cyranaica, quickly establishing governance in an area beyond the control of the Ottomans. The Sanusi are exempted from paying tax to the empire, and control all tax collected from its supporters.
1911 September: Cyrenaica is occupied by Italy, during the war between Italy and the Ottoman Empire.
1912 October: With the end of the war, the control of Cyrenaica is officially transferred to Italy. Over the next 30 years, almost 50,000 Italians establish in the area, creating a modern agriculture.
1934: Cyrenaica is defined as part of the colony of Libya.
1939: As part of Libya, Cyranaica becomes part of Italy.
1942: The British take control of Libya, and the Italians are evacuated.
1951: The kingdom of Libya is formed, with Cyranaica is one of 3 provinces.
1963: The central authorities of Libya abolish the provinces of the country.