The history of Libya is a history of conflict with foreign invaders, from the ancient Greeks and conquering Islamic Ottomans, to the first generation of American sailors and Naval warfighters who battled the Barbary pirates. Libya also rests on a geographical plane where both trans-Saharan trade routes and various maritime endeavors intersect with each other, making the country a center of commerce and cross-cultural exchange throughout the centuries.

There was a time in Libya, perhaps encountered by the Greeks upon their arrival, before desertification when the country was largely green and flush with a complex system of irrigation canals. Giraffes and other exotic animals thrived in a Libya very different from the one we know today. As the Sahara desert began to dry out and expand, it acted as something of a filter for trade between North and Sub-Saharan Africa. In these early years of trans-Saharan commerce, caravans of camels traveling across the desert were known to number in the tens of thousands.

The Garamantes were the indigenous peoples who occupied present day Libya as far back as 1,000BCE. As an agrarian society, the Garamantes also worked as merchants and engaged in the salt trade with the ancient West African empires. Later, the Phoenicians had extended their commercial trade network across North Africa, absorbing the three cities region called Tripolis on the Libyan coast which the modern capital, Tripoli draws its name. The ancient Greeks later created a colony in Libya, welcoming Alexander the Great in 331 BCE.

As the Roman empire was coming into the picture, multiple trade routes were emerging which crisscrossed the desert. Libya was thus linked to Sudan and Algeria linked to the Niger River bend via a Mauritanian corridor suitable for grazing in the months of October through May. A third major route came into existence which connected Sudan with Egypt. A complex series of oasis acted as way points through the desert as the caravans could go as long as eight to ten days without water. By 74 BCE, Libya voluntarily became a Roman province.