Benghazi (anc. Hesperis, aftenvard Berenice), a town of Barca, Africa (the Cyrenaica of the Greeks), the seat of a bey, on the E. shore of the Greater Syrtis or gulf of Sidra, in lat. 32° 7' N., lon. 20° 3' E.; pop., including neighboring localities, about 7,000, many of whom are Jews and negro slaves. It stands on the verge of a large plain, sandy and barren for nearly half a mile from the shore, but beyond having a fertile but rocky soil to the foot of the Cyrenaic mountains, 14 m. S. E., where cattle abound. The port, formerly capacious, is now accessible only to small craft, being filled up with sand washed into it by the annual rains, from January till March. At the entrance is a large but dilapidated castle. The principal building is the new Franciscan convent with a Roman Catholic church. The miserable houses are built of very small stones cemented with mud, and are generally washed away during the rainy season, when the streets are converted into rivers, and thousands of sheep and goats perish. Drinking water has to be brought from a neighboring village, annoying insects abound, and severe diseases prevail.
Ancient reservoirs may be traced, with stone conduits; and besides vestiges of deep quarries, there are remarkable charms with luxuriant vegetation, so beautifully situated that many of the ancient writers placed here the gardens of the Hespe-rides. Some of these chasms have become deep lakes, and there are several caves, one of which is said to contain a large body of fresh water at a depth of 80 feet. The latter is identified by some writers with the Lath on river of antiquity, and the large salt-water lake S. of the town with the Tritonis of Strabo. Owing to the condition of the harbor, commerce has declined, and the inhabitants support themselves mainly by agriculture and cattle raising. Large quantities of dates are produced. Nomadic Arab tribes wander over the territories S. and E. of Benghazi. Interesting antiquities are found upon excavation. (See Berenice).