Cyrenaica, the Greek region of Libya – Neos Kosmos

Arabic charm, Berber tribesmen, Islamic traditions, Mediterranean coast, pariah in the West. These are some of the tags we can ascribe to Libya when we think about that country.

Mention the name Ghaddafi and one automatically associates it with Libya.

Mention the name Belisarius and you will draw a blank. Forgotten it appears, yet 1500 years ago this was a name associated with Libya, a name that the ancient Greeks coined. In fact before the coming of Islam in the seventh century AD, northern Libya was a Greek-speaking Byzantine territory. It had been Greek speaking for almost a millennia in certain parts.

I will not bore you with details about the great Byzantine general Belisarius and how he restored Greek-speaking rule over North Africa in 533 AD, instead I will give you an overview of the Greek history of Libya; well before the flamboyant uniforms of their former leader Ghaddafi and his famous female bodyguards.

People in the ancient world would have been mystified to arrive in a place like Alexandria or Cyrene in northern Africa to be greeted by non-Hellenes. For in those days, these were authentic Greek territories! Whilst I have been known to indulge in mythology and drink the odd Mythos beer or Lesvos ouzo, I’m not making this up. The northern tip of Libya was dominated by numerous Greek colonies, with Cyrene being the most prominent.

In 630BC, which is well before my birth, due to population pressures, the island of Thira (Santorini) sent out colonists under Battus to