The largest city and capital, Tripoli, is located in western Libya and contains over one million of Libya's six million people. The other large 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 Persians, Egyptians and Greeks before becoming a part of the Roman Empire. Libya was an early center 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 and Arab colonization. In the sixteenth 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. Libya became an independent kingdom in 1951.
In Greek mythology, Libya, like Ethiopia or Scythia was one of the mythic outlands that encircled the familiar Greek world of the Hellenes and their "foreign" neighbors.
Personified as an individual, Libya was the daughter of Epaphus — King of Egypt and the son of Zeus and Io— and Memphis. Libya was ravished by the god Poseidon to whom she bore twin sons, Belus and Agenor. Some sources name a third son, named Lelex.
In Roman mythology, Libya was the daughter of Epaphus, King of Egypt, and his wife Cassiopeia. She married Neptune, a foreigner of much power whose real name is unknown. Libya and Neptune had a son called Busiris, who became a brutal tyrant of Upper Egypt.
The territory that she ruled, Ancient Libya, and the country of modern day Libya are named after her.
The Latin name Libya (from Greek Λιβύη, Libyē) referred to the region west of the Nile Valley, generally corresponding to modern Northwest Africa. Its people were ancestors of the modern Berber people. Berbers occupied the area for thousands of years before the beginning of human records in Ancient Egypt. Climate changes affected the locations of the settlements.
More narrowly, Libya could also refer to the country immediately west of Egypt, viz. Marmarica (Libya Inferior) and Cyrenaica (Libya Superior). The Libyan Sea or Mare Libycum was the part of the Mediterranean south of Crete, between Cyrene and Alexandria.