Ancient Libya

The Latin name Libya (from Greek Λιβύη, Libyē) referred to the region west of the Nile generally corresponding to the Atlantic Mountains according to Diodorus . Its people were ancestors of the modern Libyan. They 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 Sea south of Crete, between Cyrene and Alexandria.

In the Hellenistic period, the Berbers were known as Libyans,[1] a Greek term for the inhabitants of the Maghreb. Their lands were called "Libya" and extended from modern Morocco to the western borders of ancient Egypt. Modern Egypt contains the Siwa Oasis, which was part of ancient Libya. The Siwi language, a Berber language, is still spoken in the area.

Herodotus world map-en
Map of the world according to Herodotus


The Greek name is based on the ethnonym Libu (Ancient Greek: Λίβυες Líbyes, Latin: Libyes). The name Libya (in use since 1934 for the modern country formerly known as Tripolitania and Barca) was the Latin designation for the region of the Maghreb, from the Ancient Greek (Attic Greek: Λιβύη Libúē, Doric Greek: Λιβύᾱ Libúā). In Classical Greece, the term had a broader meaning, encompassing the continent that later (second century BC) became known as Africa, which, in antiquity, was assumed to constitute one third of the world's land mass, compared to Europe and Asia combined.

The Libu are attested since the Late Bronze Age as inhabiting the region (Egyptian R'bw, Punic: 𐤋𐤁𐤉 lby). The oldest known references to the Libu date to Ramesses II and his successor Merneptah, pharaohs of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt, during the 13th century BC. LBW appears as an ethnic name on the Merneptah Stele.[2]

Menelaus had travelled there on his way home from Troy; it was a land of wonderful richness, where the lambs have horns as soon as they are born, where ewes lamb three times a year and no shepherd ever goes short of milk, meat or cheese.

Homer names Libya, in Odyssey (IX.95; XXIII.311). Homer used the name in a geographic sense, while he called its inhabitants "Lotus-eaters". After Homer, Aeschylus, Pindar, and other ancient Greek writers use the name. Herodotus (1.46) used Λιβύη Libúē to indicate the African continent; the Líbues proper were the light-skinned North Africans, while those south of Egypt (and Elephantine on the Nile) were known to him as "Aethiopians";[3] this was also the understanding of later Greek geographers such Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, etc.

When the Greeks actually settled in the real Libya in the 630s, the old name taken from the Egyptians was applied by the Greeks of Cyrenaica, who may have coexisted with the Libu.[4] Later, the name appeared in the Hebrew language, written in the Bible as Lehabim and Lubim, indicating the ethnic population and the geographic territory as well. In the neo-Punic inscriptions, it was written as Lby for the masculine noun, and Lbt for the feminine noun of Libyan.

Latin absorbed the name from Greek and the Punic languages. The Romans would have known them before their colonization of North Africa because of the Libyan role in the Punic Wars against the Romans. The Romans used the name Líbues, but only when referring to Barca and the Libyan Desert of Egypt. The other Libyan territories were called "Africa".

Classical Arabic literature called Libya Lubya, indicating a speculative territory west of Egypt. Modern Arabic uses Libya. The Lwatae, the tribe of Ibn Battuta,[5] as the Arabs called it, was a Berber tribe that mainly was situated in Cyrenaica. This tribe may have ranged from the Atlantic Ocean to modern Libya, however, and was referred to by Corippius as Laguatan; he linked them with the Maures. Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddimah states Luwa was an ancestor of this tribe. He writes that the Berbers add an "a" and "t" to the name for the plural forms. Subsequently, it became Lwat.

Conversely, the Arabs adopted the name as a singular form, adding an "h" for the plural form in Arabic. Ibn Khaldun disagrees with Ibn Hazam, who claimed, mostly on the basis of Berber sources, that the Lwatah, in addition to the Sadrata and the Mzata, were from the Qibts (Egyptians). According to Ibn Khaldun, this claim is incorrect because Ibn Hazam had not read the books of the Berber scholars.[6]

Oric Bates, a historian, considers that the name Libu or LBW would be derived from the name Luwatah[7] whilst the name Liwata is a derivation of the name Libu.


Archaeological Site of Sabratha-108976
Archaeological Site of Sabratha, Libya

Compared with the history of Egypt, historians know little about the history of Libya, as there are few surviving written records. Information on ancient Libya comes from archaeological evidence and historic sources written by Egyptians neighbors, the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines, and from Arabs of Medieval times.

Since Neolithic times, the climate of North Africa has become drier. A reminder of the desertification of the area is provided by megalithic remains, which occur in great variety of form and in vast numbers in presently arid and uninhabitable wastelands: dolmens and circles like Stonehenge, cairns, underground cells excavated in rock, barrows topped with huge slabs, and step-pyramid-like mounds. Most remarkable are the trilithons, some still standing, some fallen, which occur isolated or in rows, and consist of two squared uprights standing on a common pedestal that supports a huge transverse beam. In the Terrgurt valley, Cowper says, "There had been originally no less than eighteen or twenty megalithic trilithons, in a line, each with its massive altar placed before it."

In ancient times, the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, the Persian Achaemenid Empire (see Libya (satrapy)), the armies of Alexander the Great and his Ptolemaic successors from Egypt, then Romans, Vandals, and local representatives of the Byzantine Empire ruled all or parts of Libya. The territory of modern Libya had separate histories until Roman times, as Tripoli and Cyrenaica.

Cyrenaica, by contrast, was Greek before it was Roman. It was also known as Pentapolis, the "five cities" being Cyrene (near the village of Shahat) with its port of Apollonia (Marsa Susa), Arsinoe (Tocra), Berenice (Bengazi) and Barca (Merj). From the oldest and most famous of the Greek colonies the fertile coastal plain took the name of Cyrenaica.

These five cities were also known as the Western Pentapolis; not to be confused with the Pentapolis of the Roman era on the current west Italian coast.


The exact boundaries of Ancient Libya are unknown. It lay west of Ancient Egypt and was known as "Tjehenu" to the Ancient Egyptians.[8] Libya was an unknown territory to the Egyptians: it was the land of the spirits.[9]

To the Ancient Greeks, Libya was one of the three known continents along with Asia and Europe. In this sense, Libya was the whole known African continent to the west of the Nile Valley and extended south of Egypt. Herodotus described the inhabitants of Libya as two peoples: The Libyans in northern Africa and the Ethiopians in the south. According to Herodotus, Libya began where Ancient Egypt ended, and extended to Cape Spartel, south of Tangier on the Atlantic coast.

Modern geographers suspect that Ancient Libyans may have experienced loss of forests, reliable fresh water sources, and game availability as the area became more desert-like..

Later sources

After the Egyptians, the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines mentioned various other tribes in Libya. Later tribal names differ from the Egyptian ones but, probably, some tribes were named in the Egyptian sources and the later ones, as well. The Meshwesh-tribe represents this assumption. Scholars believe it would be the same tribe called Mazyes by Hektaios and Maxyes by Herodotus, while it was called "Mazaces" and "Mazax" in Latin sources. All those names are similar to the name used by the Berbers for themselves, Imazighen.[10]

Late period sources give more detailed descriptions of Libya and its inhabitants. The ancient historian Herodotus describes Libya and the Libyans in his fourth book, known as The Libyan Book. Pliny the Elder, Diodorus Siculus, and Procopius also contributed to what is now primary source material on ancient Libya and the Libyans.

Ibn Khaldun, who dedicated the main part of his book Kitab el'ibar, which is known as "The history of the Berbers", did not use the names Libya and Libyans, but instead used Arabic names: The Old Maghreb, (El-Maghrib el-Qadim), and the Berbers (El-Barbar or El-Barabera(h)).

Ancient Libyan (Berber) tribes

There were many Berber tribes in ancient Libya, including the now extinct Psylli, with the Libu being the most prominent. The ancient Libyans were mainly pastoral nomads, living off their goats, sheep and other livestock. Milk, meat, hides and wool were gathered from their livestock for food, tents and clothing. Ancient Egyptian sources describe Libyan men with long hair, braided and beaded, neatly parted from different sides and decorated with feathers attached to leather bands around the crown of the head while wearing thin robes of antelope hide, dyed and printed, crossing the shoulder and coming down until mid calf length to make a robe. Older men kept long braided beards. Women wore the same robes as men, plaited, decorated hair and both genders wore heavy jewelry. Depictions of Libyans in Egyptian reliefs show prominent and numerous tattoos, very similar to traditional Berber tattoos still seen today. Weapons included bows and arrows, hatchets, spears and daggers.

The Libyan script that was used in Libya was mostly a funerary script.[11] It is difficult to understand, and there are a number of variations.[12]

Ibn Khaldun divided the Berbers into the Batr and the Baranis.[13]

Herodotus divided them into Eastern Libyans and Western Libyans. Eastern Libyans were nomadic shepherds east of Lake Tritonis. Western Libyans were sedentary farmers who lived west of Lake Tritonis.[14] At one point, a catastrophic change reduced the vast body of fresh water to a seasonal lake or marsh.

Ibn Khaldun and Herodotus distinguish the Libyans on the basis of their lifestyles rather than ethnic background. Modern historians tend to follow Herodotus's distinction. Examples include Oric Bates in his book The Eastern Libyans. Some other historians have used the modern name of the Berbers in their works, such as the French historian Gabriel Camps.[15]

The Libyan tribes mentioned in these sources were: "Adyrmachidae", "Giligamae", "Asbystae", "Marmaridae", "Auschisae", "Nasamones", "Macae", "Lotus-eaters (or Lotophagi)", "Garamantes", "Gaetulians", "Mauri", and "Luwatae", as well as many others.

See also

References and notes

  1. ^ Oliver, Roland & Fagan, Brian M. (1975) Africa in the Iron Age: c. 500 B.C. to A.D. 1400. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; p. 47
  2. ^ Gardiner, Alan Henderson (1964) Egypt of the Pharaohs: an introduction Oxford University Press, London, p. 273, ISBN 0-19-500267-9
  3. ^ The Cambridge History of North Africa and the people between them as the Egyptians, p. 141.
  4. ^ Fage, J. D. (ed.) (1978) "The Libyans" The Cambridge History of Africa: From c. 500 BC to AD 1050 volume II, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, p. 141, ISBN 0-521-21592-7
  5. ^ The full name of Ibn Battuta was Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah al-Lawati at-Tanji ibn Battuta
  6. ^ The History of Ibn Khaldun, third chapter p. 184-258(in Arabic)
  7. ^ Bates, Oric (1914) The Eastern Libyans. London: Macmillan & Co. p. 57
  8. ^ A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian, Raymond O Faulkner, Page 306
  9. ^ Bates, Oric
  10. ^ Mohammed Chafik, Highlights of thirty-three centuries of Imazighen p. 9 .
  11. ^ Chaker, Salem. "L'écriture libyco-berbère (The Libyco-Berber script)" (in French). Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
  12. ^ Chaker Script
  13. ^ Ibn Khaldun, The History of Ibn Khaldun: The thirth chapter p. 181-152.
  14. ^ [1]Herodotus, On Libya, from The Histories, c. 430 BC
  15. ^ "Gabriel Camps is considered as the father of the North African prehistory, by founding d'Etude Berbère at the University of Aix-en-Provence and the Encyclopédie berbère." (From the introduction of the English book The Berbers by Elizabeth Fentres and Michael Brett, p. 7).

External links


Ancient Aethiopia, (Greek: Αἰθιοπία Aithiopia) also known as Ethiopia first appears as a geographical term in classical documents in reference to the upper Nile region, as well as certain areas south of the Sahara desert. Its earliest mention is in the works of Homer: twice in the Iliad, and three times in the Odyssey. The Greek historian Herodotus specifically uses the appellation to refer to such parts of Africa as were then known within the inhabitable world.In classical antiquity, Africa (or Ancient Libya) referred to what is now known as the Maghreb and south of the Libyan Desert and Western Sahara, including all the desert land west of the southern Nile river. Geographical knowledge of the continent gradually grew, with the first century AD Greek travelogue the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea describing areas along the Red Sea (Erythraean Sea). The Greek name Αἰθιοπία (from Αἰθίοψ, Aithiops, 'an Ethiopian') is a compound word, derived from the two Greek words, from αἴθω + ὤψ (aitho "I burn" + ops "face"). According to the Perseus Digital Library, the designation properly translates as Burnt-face in noun form and red-brown in adjectival form. It was used as a vague term for dark-skinned populations since the time of Homer. It was applied to such dark-skinned populations as came within the range of observation of the ancient geographers i.e. primarily in what was then Nubia, and with the expansion of geographical knowledge, successively extended to certain other areas below the Sahara.

Corinthian helmet

The Corinthian helmet originated in ancient Greece and took its name from the city-state of Corinth. It was a helmet made of bronze which in its later styles covered the entire head and neck, with slits for the eyes and mouth. A large curved projection protected the nape of the neck.

Out of combat, a Greek hoplite would wear the helmet tipped upward for comfort. This practice gave rise to a series of variant forms in Italy, where the slits were almost closed, since the helmet was no longer pulled over the face but worn cap-like. Although the classical Corinthian helmet fell out of use among the Greeks in favour of more open types, the Italo-Corinthian types remained in use until the 1st century AD, being used, among others, by the Roman army.


The Garamantes are a tribe mentioned by Herodotus.

They are thought to correspond to Iron Age Berber tribes in the southwest of ancient Libya.

These tribes constituted a local power between roughly 500 BC and 700 AD. They used qanat irrigation systems, and founded a number of kingdoms or city-states in the Fezzan area of Libya, in the Sahara desert.

There is little textual information about them, their epigraphy being "...a still nearly indecipherable proto-Tifaniq, the script of modern-day Tuaregs."

Another important source of information is the abundant rock art of the region, which often depicts life prior to the rise of the tribal chiefdoms.


A Gasr (plural Gsur) is a fortified building found predominantly in Libya.There is much conjecture about their relation to centenarium built by invading Ancient Roman forces.


The Libu (Ancient Egyptian: rbw; also transcribed Rebu, Lebu) were an Ancient Libyan tribe of Berber origin, from which the name Libya derives.

Libya (disambiguation)

Libya or Libyan may refer to:

Libya, a country in north Africa

Ancient Libya, Libya during ancient times

Italian Libya, the name of Libyan state under Italian rule

Kingdom of Libya, the name of a Libyan state which existed between 1951-1969

History of Libya under Muammar Gaddafi, the state which existed between 1969-2011

Libyan Arabic, a dialect of Arabic

Libya (mythology), the name given to a daughter of Egyptian King Epaphus in mythology

Libya Montes, a highland terrain on Mars

MV Libya, a Greek coaster originating as List of Empire ships (Si–Sy)#Empire Spinney

Libya (mythology)

Libya (Ancient Greek: Λιβύη) is the daughter of Epaphus, King of Egypt, in both Greek and Roman mythology. She personified the land of Ancient Libya in North Africa, from which the name of modern-day Libya originated.

Libya in the Roman era

The area of North Africa which has been known as Libya since 1911 was under Roman domination between 146 BC and 672 AD. The Latin name Libya at the time referred to the continent of Africa in general. What is now coastal Libya was known as Tripolitania and Pentapolis, divided between the Africa province in the west, and Creta et Cyrenaica in the east. In 296 AD, the Emperor Diocletian separated the administration of Crete from Cyrenaica and in the latter formed the new provinces of "Upper Libya" and "Lower Libya", using the term Libya as a political state for the first time in history.

Libyan Desert

The Libyan Desert forms the northern and eastern part of the Sahara Desert. It describes that part of the Sahara that lies within the present-day state of Libya; it also historically describes the desert to the south of Ancient Libya, a territory which lay to the east of the present-day state.

The Libyan Desert is one of the driest, harshest and most remote parts of the Sahara, the world's largest hot desert. This extended desert country is barren, dry and rainless.

Libyan Sea

The Libyan Sea (Greek Λιβυκό πέλαγος, Latin Libycum Mare, Arabic البحر الليبي) is the portion of the Mediterranean Sea north of the African coast of ancient Libya, i.e. Cyrenaica, and Marmarica

(the coast of what is now eastern Libya and western Egypt, between Tobruk and Alexandria). This designation was used by ancient geographers describing the southern Mediterranean, but the term is also used by modern travel writers and cartographers. The southern coastline of Crete which borders the Libyan Sea includes the Asterousia Mountains and Mesara Plain; this area is the locus of considerable ancient Bronze Age settlement including the sites of Kommos, Hagia Triada and Phaistos.Not counting Crete, other islands in Libyan sea are Gavdos, Gavdopoula, Koufonisi and Chrysi.

To the east is the Levantine Sea, to the north the Ionian Sea, and to the west the Strait of Sicily.


The Machlyes were an ancient Libyan tribe. According to Herodotus, their young women held a ritual battle with sticks and stones annually with neighboring Auseans.

Pliny the Elder claimed they were hermaphrodites, with a male half and a female half, possibly inspired by the martial practices of the females.In the book Sweet Shadows by Tera Lynn Childs, the machlyes Achilla saves Gretchen from the merdaemon in the abysses.


Marmarica (Greek Μαρμαρική) in ancient geography was a littoral area in Ancient Libya, located between Cyrenaica and Aegyptus. It corresponds to what is now the Libya and Egypt frontier, including the towns of Bomba (ancient Phthia), Timimi (ancient Paliurus), Tobruk (ancient Antipyrgus), Acroma (ancient Gonia), Bardiya, As-Salum, and Sidi Barrani (ancient Zygra). The territory stretched to the far south, encompassing the Siwa Oasis, which at the time was known for its sanctuary to the deity Amun. The eastern part of Marmarica, by some geographers considered a separate district between Marmarica and Aegyptus, was known as Libycus Nomus. In late antiquity, Marmarica was also known as Libya Inferior, while Cyrenaica was known as Libya Superior.

Libya was considered as the part of Africa west of the Nile, more precisely west of the mouth of the Nile at Canopus. The periplus of Scylax of Caryanda names the Adyrmachidae as the first people of Libya (Africa).

Marmarica proper was delimited towards the east by the escarpment of Catabathmus Magnus, now known as Akabah el-Kebir, at Salum. The geographers of the Hellenistic period included Egypt in the continent of Asia, and drew the boundary between Asia and Africa (Libya) at this point.

Under the Roman Empire, Marmarica included the Libycus Nomus, located between the Catabathmus and the Bay of Plinthine (Sinus Plinthinetes). This area had formerly been considered part of Egypt. The city of Paraetonium (also Ammonia, modern Mersa Matruh) was the westernmost town of Egypt, for which reason it together with Pelusium was known as the "horns of Egypt". About 10 stadia west of Paraetonium was Apis, marking the border to the Libyan Nomos. Menelaus Portus (near modern Zawiyat Umm Rukbah), according to tradition founded by Menelaus, was known as the site of the death of Agesilaus II.

The inhabitants of Marmarica were known generically as Marmaridae, but they are given the special names of

Adyrmachidae and Giligammae in the coastal districts, and of Nasamones and Augilae in the interior.

The Adyrmachidae are said to have differed considerably from the nomadic tribes of the country, strongly resembling the Egyptians.

The territory south of the Libyan Nomos was inhabited by the Ammonii, centered on the celebrated and fertile oasis of Ammon (Siwa)

Both Cyrenaica and Marmarica were included in the diocese of Egypt in the 4th century, within the larger Praetorian prefecture of the East (while Tripolitania was in the Praetorian prefecture of Italy).


The Meshwesh (often abbreviated in ancient Egyptian as Ma) were an ancient Libyan tribe of Berber origin from beyond Cyrenaica. According to Egyptian hieroglyphs, this area is where the Libu and Tehenu inhabited.

Early records of the Meshwesh date back to the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt from the reign of Amenhotep III. During the 19th and 20th dynasties (c. 1295 – 1075 BC), the Meshwesh were in almost constant conflict with the Egyptian state. During the late 21st Dynasty, increasing numbers of Meswesh Libyans began to settle in the Western Delta region of Egypt. They would ultimately take control of the country during the late 21st Dynasty first under Osorkon the Elder. After an interregnum of 38 years, during which the native Egyptian kings Siamun and Psusennes II assumed the throne, the Meshwesh ruled Egypt throughout the 22nd and 23rd Dynasties under such powerful pharaohs as Shoshenq I, Osorkon I, Osorkon II, Shoshenq III and Osorkon III.

North Africa during Antiquity

The History of North Africa during the period of Classical Antiquity (c. 8th century BCE – 5th century CE) can be divided roughly into the history of Egypt in the east, the history of Ancient Libya in the middle and the history of Numidia and Mauretania in the West. The Roman Republic established the province of Africa in 146 BCE after the defeat of Carthage. The Roman Empire eventually controlled the entire Mediterranean coast of Africa, adding Egypt in 30 BCE, Creta et Cyrenaica in 20 BCE, and Mauretania in CE 44.

Initially, in the east, Egypt was under Persian rule during the early phase of classical antiquity, passing to the Ptolemaic dynasty in the Hellenistic era. Libya was inhabited by Berber tribes, while along the coast Phoenician and Greek colonies were set up.

Rome lost parts of Africa to the Vandals in the 5th century. The Byzantine Empire finally lost all control of Africa as the region fell to the Umayyad conquest of North Africa by the close of the 7th century.


The Psylli (Seli) were a native Libyan tribe inhabiting Ancient Libya.

Put (biblical figure)

Phut or Put (Hebrew: פוט pûṭ; Septuagint Greek Φουδ Phoud) is the third son of Ham (one of the sons of Noah), in the biblical Table of Nations (Genesis 10:6; cf. 1 Chronicles 1:8). The name Put (or Phut) is also used in the Bible for the people or nation said to be descended from him, usually placed in Ancient Libya, but connections are sometimes proposed with the Land of Punt known from Ancient Egyptian annals.


Tamazgha (Berber: Tamazɣa ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵖⴰ) is a Berber language toponym denoting the lands traditionally inhabited by Berbers (Mazice/Amazigh) people. The region encompasses the geographical area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Niger River, a large swathe of territory spanning Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Egypt, Western Sahara, and the Canary Islands.Although the Berber linguistic root MZƔ or ZƔ is ancient, Tamazɣa as a toponym is derived from the Berber language, coined in the context of Berber nationalism. It appeared for the first time in Algeria and Morocco in the 1970s. It is not clear at all who coined it. Some say it was Mouloud Mammeri (1917–1989). According to others, it was Kateb Yacine (1929–1989).

The most inhabited areas of the Tamazgha are the coastal fertile regions of northern Libya, northern and eastern Tunisia, northern Algeria, northern Morocco, and the Atlantic coast of Morocco. "Tamazgha" corresponds roughly to Herodotus' Ancient Libya and to the medieval Barbary Coast.

The term is used by the Berbers because there was not originally a common word that refers to all the geographical territory inhabited by the Mazices, since the Mazice people live in several Mazice countries, and they are not united politically, with many scattered around the World by the Mazice Diaspora. So, the name has been created to define an Mazice Nation, and unify the people of the Tamazgha with their original culture. Many philologists sort this term like neologism, built from traditional Berber (Tamazight) terms.

The term has been translated into Spanish as Mazigia, abbreviated as MZG and used as an alternative international license plate code for some people [1].

Twenty-second Dynasty of Egypt

The Twenty-second Dynasty of Egypt is also known as the Bubastite Dynasty, since the pharaohs originally ruled from the city of Bubastis. It was founded by Shoshenq I.

The Twenty-First, Twenty-Second, Twenty-Third, Twenty-Fourth, and Twenty-Fifth Dynasties of ancient Egypt are often combined under the group designation of the Third Intermediate Period.

Vandal Kingdom

The Vandal Kingdom (Latin: Regnum Vandalum) or Kingdom of the Vandals and Alans (Latin: Regnum Vandalorum et Alanorum) was established by the Germanic Vandal people under Genseric, and ruled in North Africa and the Mediterranean from 435 AD to 534 AD.

In 429, the Vandals, estimated to number 80,000 people, had crossed by boat from Spain to North Africa. They advanced eastward conquering the coastal regions of 21st century Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. In 435, the Roman Empire, then ruling in North Africa, allowed the Vandals to settle in the provinces of Numidia and Mauretania when it became clear that the Vandal army could not be defeated by Roman military forces. In 439 the Vandals renewed their advance eastward and captured Carthage, the most important city of North Africa. The fledgling kingdom then conquered the Roman-ruled islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea. In the 460s the Romans launched two unsuccessful military expeditions by sea in an attempt to overthrow the Vandals and reclaim North Africa. The conquest of North Africa by the Vandals was a blow to the beleaguered Western Roman Empire as North Africa was a major source of revenue and a supplier of grain (mostly wheat) to the city of Rome.

Although primarily remembered for the sack of Rome in 455 and their persecution of Nicene Christians in favor of Arian Christianity, the Vandals were also patrons of learning. Grand building projects continued, schools flourished and North Africa fostered many of the most innovative writers and natural scientists of the late Latin Western Roman Empire.The Vandal Kingdom ended in 534 when it was conquered by Belisarius in the Vandalic War and incorporated into the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire.


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