Tripolitania (trĭpˌəlĭtāˈnēə) [key], historic region, W Libya, bordering on the Mediterranean Sea. Tripoli is the chief city. The original inhabitants of the region were probably Berbers. In the 7th cent. B.C. the Phoenicians established colonies on the coast at Leptis, Oea (later Tripoli), and Sabratha. The coastal zone was later held by Carthage and was taken by Numidia in 146 B.C. Rome captured Tripolitania in 46 B.C., and in the following centuries, as Roman rule was extended far into the south, the region prospered as a trade and agricultural center. In A.D. 435, Tripolitania fell to the Vandals, and it was captured by the Byzantines a century later. In the 7th cent. the Arabs gained control of Tripolitania, and from the 9th to the 11th cent. numerous Arabs settled there. The Normans briefly held the region in the mid-12th cent., and from the mid-13th to the mid-15th cent. Tripolitania was ruled from Tunisia. The Ottoman Turks captured the region in 1553 and it became a stronghold of Barbary pirates. For later history, see Libya.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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