A Country Of N. Africa, forming one of the Barbary states, and a dependency of the Turkish empire, bounded N. by the Mediterranean, E. by Barca, S. by Fezzan and the desert of Sahara, and W. by the Sahara and Tunis, between lat. 28° and 33° 15' N, and lon. 10° and 20° E.; extreme length about 650 m., breadth from 130 to nearly 300 m.; area estimated at 125,000 sq. m.; pop. estimated at from 500,-000 to 750,000. Including Barca and Fezzan, which are dependent states, the area of Tripoli is more than double that above given, and the population probably twice as large. Though the sea coast extends upward of 600 m., there is only one good harbor, that of Tripoli, in its entire length. In its E. part, between Cape Mesurata and the town of Benghazi in Barca, there is a vast indentation called by the ancients Syrtis Major, now the gulf of Sidra. (See Syrtis.) A marshy tract 100 m. in length and varying in breadth from 2 to 40 m. extends parallel to the S. W. shore of the gulf. The western portion of the Tripolitan coast is low and sandy; but in the east it becomes higher, and has many rocky points that afford shelter to small craft, with good anchorage in some places. The soil is exceedingly porous, and most of the streams flow only during the rainy season.
The interior of the country is imperfectly known. The N. E. part contains extensive tracts of barren sand, and partakes of the nature of the desert; but the S. part is traversed by the Black mountains, descending in terraces which enclose fertile tracts. In the west two ranges of mountains, offsets of the Atlas, run nearly parallel with the sea, the N. range about 20 m. from the coast, and the S. 30 m. further inland. The former has a general height of about 2,000 ft., and is visible from the sea. These mountains are of volcanic origin, and many of the summits terminate in conical peaks. The space between the ranges contains many tracts of elevated table land, with a fertile soil produced by the decomposition of lava and basalt. Salt and sulphur are the only minerals obtained. Some of this land is carefully cultivated and irrigated. Abundant crops of grain are raised, and on the sides of the hills vines, olives, figs, almonds, and other fruits grow luxuriantly. There are extensive natural pastures upon which cattle are reared in great numbers. But the most fertile part of Tripoli is the country which surrounds the capital. This tract, about 5 m. broad, extends about 15 m. along the shore, and produces heavy crops of wheat, barley, millet, and maize.
Dates and olives are grown, together with all the fruits of a temperate climate. The country S. of the plateaus contains very little productive land, and consists mainly of sand and gravel plains. The water, which is found only by 'digging from 100 to 200 ft., is bitter and brackish. In the few spots where grain can be raised there are villages, the inhabitants of which live in constant dread of the desert tribes. Rain falls abundantly in the N. part of the country from November to March, but during the rest of the year months often pass without a single shower, although there are copious dews in the summer, and the heat becomes very great, especially when the sirocco blows. In winter the weather is exceedingly variable, and frosts occur at night, while the temperature during the day often exceeds 70°. The horses of Tripoli are of a superior breed, and cattle are numerous on the table lands. Camels are extensively used as beasts of burden, and sheep and poultry are exported. Of wild animals the most common are wolves, foxes, hyaenas, jackals, gazelles, antelopes, rabbits, hares, hedgehogs, and jerboas. Ostriches frequent the borders of the deserts, and most of the common birds of southern Europe are found.
Bees are kept in large numbers, and the locusts which frequently visit the country in enormous swarms are utilized for food. - Tripoli contains numerous remains of antiquity, including ruins of Roman temples, theatres, and aqueducts. Many of these ruins have been buried deeply in the sand, but they can still be traced in the city of. Tripoli and at other places. Coins, gems, and intaglios have been found in considerable numbers. - The population comprises Arabs, Moors, Turks, Mamelukes, Jews, and negro slaves. The Arabs form the greater part of the population in the country districts. The towns, of which Tripoli, Lebda, and Mesurata or Misratah are situated on the coast, are peopled mostly by Moors, Jews, and negro slaves. Some of the Arabs have fixed homes and reside in villages, but many of them are nomadic. - There are some manufactures of woollen goods, and cloth for tents is made of goats' hair. The trade of Tripoli is considerable. The exports by sea consist chiefly of wool, cattle, hides, gold dust, ostrich feathers, ivory, gum, dried fruits, saffron, senna, drugs, barilla, and sheep's fat; and the chief imports are clothes, spices, sugar, coffee, spirits, arms, cutlery, and hardware.
In 1874 the exports to Great Britain were valued at £125,211, and the imports from that country at £238,257. Caravans arrive from the interior of Africa twice a year, and bring slaves, gold dust, and tropical commodities, which are exchanged for European goods. - The government of Tripoli is a pure despotism. The country in the wider sense is denominated a vilayet or province of Turkey, and its ruler is known as the bey. He is a pasha generally selected by the sultan from among the Turkish officers resident at the capital. In former times the revenue was chiefly derived from the prizes taken by corsairs, and the sale of captured Europeans into slavery; but since these sources were cut off, a system of monopolies has been adopted. The bey of Fezzan and the sheikhs of Barca and some neighboring tribes pay tribute, and taxes are imposed on land, on Jews and merchants, and on exports and imports. A considerable number of Jews and Christians* reside in Tripoli, but the dominant religion is Mohammedan. The temperance enjoined by the prophet is not practised. Wine shops are kept openly, and receive the sanction of the government by paying a heavy license fee.
Education is neglected, and the people are ignorant and bigoted. - Tripoli was conquered by the Romans from the Carthaginians, and became a part of the Roman province of Africa under the name of Regio Syrtica. Its present appellation appears to have originated in a federation of three cities, Sabrata or Abro-tonum, Oea, and Leptis Magna (the present Lebda), whence the region was called Tripoli-tana. It was conquered by the Vandals in the 5th century, and by the Mohammedans shortly after the death of Mohammed. After the division of the eastern caliphate Tripoli became an independent state. The capital was taken by Roger II. of Sicily in 1146, and retaken by Yakub and the fortifications destroyed in 1184. It was afterward subject to Tunis till about 1510, when it was conquered by the Spaniards; and it was ceded by the emperor Charles V. to the knights of St. John of Jerusalem in 1530. In 1551 the knights were expelled by Sultan Solyman II., and the tract of country which at present constitutes the vilayet was annexed to the city of Tripoli. The celebrated pirate Dragut, who had assisted at its capture, was made the first governor, and he initiated a system of piratical plunder which was continued for centuries.
The Christian nations and their commerce were the objects of attack, and all prisoners taken were sold into slavery. The capital was bombarded by a French fleet in 1683, when the pasha professed submission to Louis XIV. A controversy with the United States grew out of the practice of piracy, and after several conflicts in 1801-5, in which Commodores Preble and Decatur chiefly distinguished themselves (see Preble, and Decatur), the latter in 1815 enforced reparation for injuries inflicted by the Tripolitans upon American commerce. In 1816 a similar mission was undertaken by a British force, which compelled the bey to renounce piracy and agree to treat all future prisoners according to the usages of civilized nations. Though Tripoli is a dependency of the Ottoman empire, the bey enters into treaties with foreign powers without consulting any superior. In early times beys were appointed from Constantinople and supported by a Turkish garrison, but a Moorish chief, Hamed Karamauli, rebelled successfully in 1713 and established himself as bey. His descendants continued to rule the country till 1832, when the last bey of the line was compulsorily removed on account of his excessive oppressions, and the Porte has since resumed its authority.
The chiefs of the interior acknowledge but slight allegiance, and maintain amicable relations with the bey chiefly because the commerce carried on through the capital is advantageous to them; and the Arabs sometimes resort to open hostilities.
A City (Anc. Ea), the capital, situated upon a rocky promontory on the Mediterranean, about 600 m. S. E. of Algiers, and 300 m. S. of the Sicilian coast, in lat, 32° 54' N, lon. 13° 11' E.; pop. about 24,000. The land defences are a castle and wall flanked by bastions, and seaward there are strong batteries. The harbor nowhere exceeds five or six fathoms in depth, but the roadstead affords deep anchorage. The streets are narrow and uneven, and the houses low and irregular. They are nearly all one story high, without exterior windows, built of stones and mud, and whitewashed. Tripoli contains six handsome mosques and many others. The roof of the great mosque is formed by small cupolas, supported by 16 marble columns. There are Christian places of worship, a Franciscan convent, and several synagogues; and all religions are tolerated within the limits of the city. The pasha's residence is an immense building of very irregular appearance, constructed at different times. There are numerous caravansaries, two bazaars, and. many fine public baths. Woollen goods (particularly carpets), leather, and potash are manufactured.
A great part of the trade of the state, as well as that of the interior of Africa, centres at Tripoli. The merchants are principally Jews, who trade under monopolies granted by the government. There is frequent steam communication with the ports of Europe. The foreign commerce is chiefly with Malta, Marseilles, Leghorn, Trieste, and the Levant; and the land trade is carried on by means of caravans with all the surrounding countries and as far as Morocco, Timbuctoo, and Mecca. The city contains several remains of antiquity, the most remarkable of which is a triumphal arch of marble, erected in A. D. 164 to the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and his colleague Lucius Verus; the inscription is perfect, although the sculptures are greatly defaced.
Port of Tripoli.