Ottoman Tripolitania

Ottoman Tripolitania
ولايت طرابلس غرب
Vilâyet-i Trâblus Gârp
Eyalet, Vilayet of Ottoman Empire


Flag of Kingdom of Tripoli

Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1453-1844)[1]

Location of Kingdom of Tripoli
Tripolitania Vilayet in 1900
Capital Tripoli
 - Established 1551
 - Italo-Turkish War 18 October 1911
Today part of Libya
History of Libya
Leptis Magna Theatre, Libya
This article is part of a series
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Roman era (146 BC – 640 AD)
Arab rule (640–1551)
Ottoman rule (1551–1911)
Italian colonization (1911–1934)
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The coastal region of what is today Libya was ruled by the Ottoman Empire from 1551 to 1911, from 1864 as the Vilayet of Tripolitania (Ottoman Turkish: ولايت طرابلس غرب Vilâyet-i Trâblus Gârp). It was also known as the Kingdom of Tripoli, even though it was not technically a kingdom, but an Ottoman province ruled by pashas (governors), as the Karamanli dynasty from 1711 to 1835 ruled the province as de facto hereditary monarchs.

Besides the core territory of Tripolitania, Barca was also considered part of the kingdom of Tripoli because it was de facto ruled by the pasha of Tripoli.[2]



Ottoman conquest

By the beginning of the 16th century the Libyan coast had minimal central authority and its harbours were havens for unchecked bands of pirates. Spain occupied Tripoli in 1510, but the Spaniards were more concerned with controlling the port than with the inconveniences of administering a colony. In 1530 the city, along with Malta and Gozo, were ceded by Charles I of Spain to the Knights of St John as compensation for their recent expulsion from Rhodes at the hands of the Turks. Christian rule lasted then until 1551, when Tripoli was besieged and conquered by famed Ottoman admirals Sinan Pasha and Turgut Reis. Declared Bey and later Pasha of Tripoli, Turgut Reis submitted the tribes of the interior and several cities like Misrata, Zuwara, Gharyan and Gafsa in the next decade. These efforts contributed to cement the foundations of a statal structure in what is today Libya, but control from Constantinople remained loose at best, much like in the rest of the Barbary Coast.

Under the Ottomans, the Maghreb was divided into three provinces, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli. After 1565, administrative authority in Tripoli was vested in a pasha directly appointed by the Sultan in Constantinople. The sultan provided the pasha with a corps of janissaries, which was in turn divided into a number of companies under the command of a junior officer or bey. The janissaries quickly became the dominant force in Ottoman Libya. As a self-governing military guild answerable only to their own laws and protected by a divan (a council of senior officers who advised the pasha), the janissaries soon reduced the pasha to a largely ceremonial role.

Karamanli dynasty and the Barbary Wars

The "Kingdom of Tripoli" (Royaume de Tripoly) is shown as including much of modern-day Libya, with the exception of Berdoa, on a map by Guillaume Delisle (1707).

In 1711, Ahmed Karamanli, an Ottoman cavalry officer and son of a Turkish officer and Libyan woman, seized power and founded the Karamanli dynasty, which would last 124 years. The Libyan Civil War of 1791–1795 occurred in those years. In May 1801 Pasha Yusuf Karamanli demanded from the United States an increase in the tribute ($83,000) which that government had paid since 1796 for the protection of their commerce from piracy. The demand was refused, an American naval force blockaded Tripoli, and a desultory war dragged on until 3 June 1805.

The Second Barbary War (1815, also known as the Algerine or Algerian War) was the second of two wars fought between the United States of America and the Ottoman Empire's North African regencies of Algiers, Tripoli, and Tunis, known collectively as the Barbary States.

Reassertion of Ottoman authority

In 1835, the government of Sultan Mahmud II took advantage of local disturbances to reassert their direct authority and held it until the final collapse of the Ottoman Empire. As decentralized Ottoman power had resulted in the virtual independence of Egypt as well as Tripoli, the coast and desert lying between them relapsed to anarchy, even after direct Ottoman control was resumed in Tripoli. The indigenous Senussi Movement, led by Islamic cleric Sayyid Mohammed Ali as-Senussi, called on the countryside to resist Ottoman rule. The Grand Senussi established his headquarters in the oasis town of Jaghbub while his ikhwan (brothers) set up zawiyas (religious colleges or monasteries) across North Africa and brought some stability to regions not known for their submission to central authority. In line with the expressed instruction of the Grand Sanusi, these gains were made largely without any coercion.

The highpoint of the Sanusi influence came in the 1880s under the Grand Senussi's son, Muhammad al-Mahdi as-Senussi, who was a skilled administrator and a charismatic orator. With 146 lodges spanning the entire Sahara, he moved the Senussi capital to Kufra. Harsh Ottoman rule only fuelled the appeal of the Senussi Movement's call to repel foreign occupation. Remarkably, Mohammed al-Mahdi succeeded where so many had failed before him, securing the enduring loyalty of the Amazigh tribes of Cyrenaica. Over a 75 year period the Ottoman Turks provided 33 governors and Libya remained part of the empire—although at times virtually autonomous—until Italy invaded in 1911, as the Ottoman Empire was collapsing.

Italo-Turkish War

1912 Italian-American chromolithograph showing a fanciful depiction of the Italian-Turkish Peace treaty. Titled, 'LA PACE ITALO-TURCA'.

The Italo-Turkish' or Turco-Italian War (also known in Italy as the Guerra di Libia, "Libyan war", and in Turkey as the Trablusgarp Savaşı, "Tripolitan war") was fought between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Italy from September 29, 1911 to October 18, 1912.

As a result of this conflict, Italy was awarded the Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania, Fezzan, and Cyrenaica. These provinces together formed what became known as Libya. During the conflict, Italian forces also occupied the Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean Sea. Italy had agreed to return the Dodecanese Islands to the Ottoman Empire according to the Treaty of Ouchy[3] in 1912 (also known as the First Treaty of Lausanne (1912), as it was signed at the Ouchy Castle in Lausanne, Switzerland).

However the vagueness of the text allowed a provisional Italian administration of the islands, and Turkey eventually renounced all claims on these islands in the Article 15 of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.[4] Turkey had to withdraw all its military forces and administrative agents from Libya according to Article 2 of the Treaty of Ouchy in 1912 (per Article 22 of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923).[4]

Although minor, the war was a significant precursor of the First World War as it sparked nationalism in the Balkan states. Seeing how easily the Italians had defeated the disorganized Ottomans, the members of the Balkan League attacked the Empire before the war with Italy had ended.

The Italo-Turkish War saw numerous technological advances used in warfare, notably the aeroplane. On October 23, 1911, an Italian pilot flew over Turkish lines on a reconnaissance mission, and on November 1, the first ever aerial bomb was dropped by Sottotenente Giulio Gavotti, on Turkish troops in Libya, from an early model of Etrich Taube aircraft.[5]

Administrative divisions

Sanjaks of the Eyalet in the mid-19th century:[6]
  1. Sanjak of Benghasi
  2. Sanjak of Tarablusi Garb
  3. Sanjak of Khams
  4. Sanjak of Djebel
  5. Sanjak of Gharbi
  6. Sanjak of Fezzan
Sanjaks of the Vilayet:[7]
  1. Sanjak of Trablus Garb
  2. Sanjak of Humus
  3. Sanjak of Celebi-i-Garbi
  4. Sanjak of Fizan
  5. Sanjak of Bingazi

See also


  1. ^ "The Karamanli-era flags have always an uneven number of horizontal stripes, alternatively red and yellow. The flags of the Tripoli Regency were hoisted on forts and armed vessels in Tripoli, Benghazi and Derna. Civil ensigns were plain red, similar to the Ottoman Empire civil ensign." (Historical Flags of Tripoli, Ivan Sache, 8 October 1999, Flags of the World, citing L. Philippe in Franciae Vexilla (ISSN 1270-0096) #15/61, September 1999, who in turn refers to "A letter dated 20 December 1818 from France consul in Tripoli de Barabrie [of Barbaria], with a companion colour plate, now kept in file 3JJ434 in naval section of the French National Archives."). Other flags were in use. "In the Turkish period Libya used various flags: red with three yellow or white crescents in different positions, and a horizontal red, green, white, red, white, green, red flag." (Historical Flags of Tripoli, Jaume Ollé, 29 September 1996, Flags of the World). A green flag with three crescents is shown by Johnson's new chart of national emblems (ca. 1868).
  2. ^ Thomas Salmon, Modern history or the present state of all nations, vol. 3, 1746, p. 84. Archibald Bower et al., An universal history: from the earliest accounts to the present time, 1760, vol. 18, p. 479.
  3. ^ Treaty of Ouchy (1912), also known as the First Treaty of Lausanne
  4. ^ a b Full text of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923)
  5. ^ U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission: Aviation at the Start of the First World War
  6. ^ The three eras of Ottoman history, a political essay on the late reforms of ... at Google Books By James Henry Skene
  7. ^ Trablus-Garb Vilayeti | Tarih ve Medeniyet

External links

 Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Tripoli, North Africa (Vilayet)". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.,_North_Africa_%28Vilayet%29. 

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