colonized by the Greeks from the 7th century BC. The oldest and most important
foundation was that of Cyrene, established in 631 BC by colonists from the
island Thera, who had left the island because of a famineTheir commander
Aristoteles took the Libyan name Battos. His dynasty, the Battaid, maintained
itself in spite of heavy resistance by the Greeks in neighbouring cities.
The east of the
province was called Marmarica but the important part was in the west,
comprising five cities, hence known as the Pentapolis: Cyrene (near the
modern village of Shahat) with its port of Apollonia (Marsa Susa), Arsinoe or
Taucheira (Tocra), Euesperides or Berenice (near modern Benghazi), Balagrae
(Bayda) and Barce (Marj) – of which the chief was the eponymous Cyrene.
The term “Pentapolis" continued to be used as a synonym for Cyrenaica.
In the south the Pentapolis faded into the Saharan tribal areas, including
the pharaonic oracle of Ammonium.
produced, amongst other things, silphium, an
herb that grew only in Cyrenaica and was regarded as a medicinal cure and
In 525 BC,
after taking Egypt, the Persians took the Pentapolis.
In this era
coins were minted showing the head of
the ruler on the obverse and a plant of silphium on the reverse.
from Cyrene, 4th century
the head of the ruler, sometimes bearing the horns of Ammon, and the silphium
on the reverse
from Cyrene, 430 ca-390 BC
of Zeus-Ammon and plant of Silphium perfoliatum
Museum, London. Dept. Coins & Medals)
The Persians were
followed by Alexander the Great in 332 BC, who received tribute from these
cities after he took Egypt.
from Cyrene, 308-290 BC
a rider on horseback and the Macedonian sun-emblem. On the reverse the silphium.
(British Museum, London. Dept. Coins &
was formally annexed by Ptolemy I Soter (323-282 BC) and it passed to the diadoch
dynasty of the Lagids, better known as the Ptolemaic dynasty. It briefly
gained independence under Magas of Cyrene
(276-250 BC), stepson of Ptolemy I, but was reabsorbed into the Ptolemaic
empire after his death. It was separated from the main kingdom by Ptolemy
VIII and given to his son Ptolemy Apion, who, dying without heirs in 96 BC,
bequeathed it to the Roman Republic.
In this time
the eagle as a royal symbol was introduced in Egypt as well as in Cyrene.
Also, the silphium as a symbol of Cyrene itself was maintained. This
is illustrated by coins from the end of the fourth and the beginning of the
third century BC.
After the annexation
one side of the coins always shows the portrait of the king (like before) and
on the other side different images, for example the ptolemaic eagle, but also
On a certain didrachme
from this time, the silphium is even between two eagles, resulting in
a real achievement.
occupation of the province took place more than twenty years after the death
of the king in 74 BC because of internal strife. The first roman governors
bore the title of legatus pro praetore and quaestor pro praetore.
Apparently Antonius gave it to Cleopatra Selene, the daughter of Cleopatra
VII in 36 BC. After the battle of Azio (31 BC) Octavianus united it with
Creta which had been annexated in 67 BC as a result of the victory of Pompeus
over its corsairs, and alotted to the Senate. The governors resided in Gortyna
and Cyrenae/Shahhat; the two parts having several lower
administrators and their own koinòn (communities). Diocletianus
separated Creta from Cyrenaica which was divided in Libya superior or Pentapolis
in the west, and Libya inferior or sicca. Their governors
resided in Ptolemais/Tolmeitha and Paretonios, near Marsa
to the Diocese of Egypt, within the praetorian prefecture of Oriens. After
the earthquake of 365, the capital was moved to Ptolemais. After the Empire's
division, Cyrenaica became part of the East Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire),
bordering Tripolitania. It was briefly part of the Vandal
Kingdom to the west, until its reconquest by Belisarius in 533. Probably the
province was governed by a dux like the adjoining provinces but no
information about its administrators is available. In the Notitia Dignitatum
Libya Superior is represented by the
bust of a lady. 
Cyrenaica was conquered
by Muslim Arabs during the tenure of the second caliph, Omer Bin Khattab, in
643/44, and became known as Barqah after its provincial capital, the ancient
city of Barce.
After the breakdown of the Ummayad caliphate, it was essentially annexed to
Egypt, although still under the same name, first under the Fatimid caliphs
and later under the Ayyubid and Mamluk sultanates.
In this era the
Egyptian flag flew over Libya showing a white crescent on a yellow
background. In Tolmeitha the governor bore a white flag with a yellow pennon
or sash, as can be seen on the portolan of Angelino Dulcerta (1339) and as announced
in the Book of Knowledge:
and sash as in the Book of Knowledge
“Thence I came to Mon de Barcas and Bona Andrea which is
in Berberia, and thence to Tolometa on the sea shore. The King has for a
device a white flag with a yellow sash on a lance.”
of Gabriel de Vallseca (1439) detail
the sash of Tolmeitha and the Egyptian flag at Barqa
sash was repeated on later 14th and 15th century portolans until the end of
Egyptian rule. On the portolan of Pietro Russo from 1508, there are
triangular red flags, probably the ensign of the sultan of Tripoli. This portolan dates from two years before
the Spanish conquest of Tripoli.
Portolan of Pietro Russo showing
the eastern Mediterranean coast 1508 (detail).
Triangular flags, at
Tripoli a rectangular flag
(Museo Maritim de
Ultimately, it was
annexed by the Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1517. From 1551 it was a part of the
Eyâlet of Tripoli and later the of the Kingdom of Tripoli (1711-1835), from 1864
Tripolitania Vilayet. Its main cities became
Benghazi and Derna.
flags seen in Cyrenaica were red with a yellow crescent. In the 17th century
red flags with a white crescent were depicted in the region.
occupied Cyrenaica during the Italo-Turkish War in 1911 and declared it an Italian
protectorate on 15 October 1912. Three days later, the Ottoman Empire
officially ceded the province to the Kingdom of Italy. On 17 May 1919,
Cyrenaica was established as an Italian colony, and, on 25 October 1920, the
Italian government recognized Sheikh Sidi Idriss as the leader of the
Senussi, who was granted the rank of Emir until in 1929. In that year, Italy “derecognized”
him and the Senussi. On 1 January 1934, Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan
were united as the Italian colony of Libya (comprising all of the former
Kingdom of Tripoli) .
(as well as for Tripolitania) the Italians adopted a coat of arms on 3 April
1919, apparently inspired by the silphium on the ancient Cyrene coins.
Arms: Azure, a silphium plant
Or, in chief a five-pointed star Argent.
Crown: an ancient crown.
the arms the silphium is of course the emblem of Cyrenaica. The star is the
emblem of the Italian Army which had occupied Cyrenaica.
Italian the arms were blasoned as follows:
Cirenaica (Colonia della) D'azzurro al
silfio d'oro reciso e sormontato da una stella d'argento. Lo scudo timbrato
da corona antica romana (D.L. 3 aprile 1919 - RR.LL.PP. 8 Guigno 1919) 
was heavy fighting in Cyrenaica during World War II between the Allied
British Eight Army and the Afrikakorps of the German Wehrmacht.
emblem of the Afikakorps consisted of the palmtree from the arms of the Italian colony of Tripolitania,
charged with a swastika.
Afrikakorps Feldpost Stamp
Showing the emblem of the Afrikakorps
Emblem of the Afrikakorps
From: Panzerarmee Afrika. Kalender 1943 
The British Eighth Army
The British Eighth
Army was formed from the Western Desert Force in September 1941. It
got its number from the fact that the French had fielded seven armies
previously in the same war, whilst the British had fielded the British
At its creation
Eighth Army comprised two Corps:
The BEA also included the Tobruk garrison (the British 70th Infantry Division), and the Polish Carpathian Brigade. In reserve the BEA had the South African 2nd Infantry Division making a total of 7 divisions.
emblem of the Operation Crusader of the British 8th Army consisted of a white
shield with a yellow latin cross.
commander of the Bitish Eighth Army, Field-Marshal Montgomery, flew this
insignia on his car when they won the battle of El Alamein.
1942 the British occupied Cyrenaica and administered it until 1951
Muhammad Idrīs as-Senussi
In July 1944 Cyrenaica
was declared independent but this could not be effectuated. Idris as-Senussi on 01.03.1949 with British
backing unilaterally proclaimed Cyrenaica an independent emirate again. This emirate of Cyrenaica was the nucleus of the
Kingdom of Libya, which was declared on 24 December 1951 when Idris
as-Senussi was proclaimed King Idris I.
A flag had been adopted in 1947. It was black, charged with a white crescent-and-star.The black refers to Caliph Abbas (750-754), the founder of the Abbassid dynasty. Crescent-and-star represent Islam, the state-religion of the Emirate, and the star symbolizes the 53rd Sura of the Q’uran.
The white crescent-and-star was also in the
emblem of the emirate. This was :
Arms: Sable, a crescent increscent Argent.
Crown: A royal crown
Garland: Branches of olive
Motto: ةقر ﻉﻒﺭةﯚﭬ
The emblem of state is only known from the
cap badge and buttons of the Cyrenaica Defence Force:
Cyrenaica Defense Force
The crown is a five-pointed crown, each point charged with a five-pointed star, with five hoops set with three five-pointed stars each and crested by a crescent-and-star.
© Hubert de Vries 2011-10-06
 Fol 189v: Praefectus Augustalis
 Book of the Knowledge of all the kingdoms,
lands, and lordships that are in the world. (ca 1350) Works issued by the
Hakluyt Society. 2nd series N° XXIX. 1912. P. 23, plate 12.
 Rivista Araldica, 1933 pp. 318 & 336.
 Frontispiece. Überreicht vom Reichsminister
für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda