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Tripoli, Libya (7th Century BCE- )

Tripoli has been the capital of Libya since its independence in 1951. Tripoli is the largest city in the country and in 2002 it had an estimated population of 1,223,300 people. The city is also the chief seaport, commercial, transport, communication, and industrial center of Libya. Tripoli is located on the Mediterranean Sea and the surrounding countryside is in one of the most fertile agricultural areas in North Africa.

The city of Tripoli was originally named Oea by the Phoenicians who had founded it in the 7th century BCE.  It was later developed by the Romans who controlled it from the 2nd century BCE to the 4th century AD. The Arabs conquered Tripoli in the 7th century AD and used it as northern terminus for some of the major Trans-Saharan trade routes south to the empires of Mali and Songhai.  

The city was captured by Ottoman Turks in 1551 but they found it difficult to maintain control and by the late 17th Century it became a haven for pirates.  In fact the first U.S. involvement with Tripoli came in June 1801 when President Thomas Jefferson sent the U.S. Navy into the Mediterranean Sea to protect American merchant ships from pirates from the Barbary Coast (now Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya). Although the U.S. had been paying tribute since 1796, when Tripoli’s leaders demanded a huge increase, the President refused and instead sent the Navy against the pirates.  In August 1804 the U.S. Navy returned to the region and engaged in a major naval battle with pirates in Tripoli’s harbor.  The final conflict between the U.S. and Tripoli over tribute and ransom demands ended in 1815.

In 1911, Italy seized Tripoli from its Ottoman rulers and made it the capital of its colony of Libya. Under the Italians Tripoli received its first hospital, airport, and railroad.  They also introduced the Tripoli International Fair in 1927, considered the oldest trade fair in Africa.

During World War II Tripoli was an important base for German and Italian forces operating in North Africa.  As such the city was a bombing

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