A chronology of key events:
7th century BC - Phoenicians settle in Tripolitania in western Libya.
Sabratha: Ancient city prospered under the Romans
One of the three cities of ancient Tripolis
Founded by Carthaginians
2005: Libya's tourist treasures
2006: Libya fears for its stolen heritage
6th century BC - Carthage conquers Tripolitania.
4th century BC - Greeks colonise Cyrenaica in the east of the country, which they call Libya.
74 BC - Romans conquer Libya.
643 - Arabs under Amr Ibn al-As conquer Libya and spread Islam.
16th century - Libya becomes part of the Ottoman Empire, which joins the three provinces of Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan into one regency in Tripoli.
1911-12 - Italy conquers Libya.
1920s - Libyan resistance to Italian rule begins under the leadership of the Sanusi dynasty and Umar al-Mukhtar.
Tripoli grew rapidly in the 1970s
Founded by the Phoenecians
645 AD: Conquered by Arab warriors
Population: 1.7 million (estimate)
1942 - Allies oust Italians from Libya, which is then divided between the French, who administer Fezzan, and the British, who control Cyrenaica and Tripolitania.
1951 - Libya becomes independent under King Idris al-Sanusi.
1956 - Libya grants two American oil companies a concession of some 14 million acres.
1961 - King Idris opens a 104-mile pipeline, which links important oil fields in the interior to the Mediterranean Sea and makes it possible to export Libyan oil for the first time.
The Gaddafi era
1969 - King Idris deposed in military coup led by Col Muammar Gaddafi, who pursues a pan-Arab agenda by attempting to form mergers with several Arab countries, and introduces state socialism by nationalising most economic activity, including the oil industry.
1970 - Libya orders the closure of a British airbase in Tobruk and the giant US Wheelus air force base in Tripoli; property belonging to Italian settlers nationalised.
1971 - National referendum approves proposed Federation of Arab Republics (FAR) comprising Libya, Egypt and Syria. However, the FAR never takes off.
Colonel Gaddafi deposed the king in 1969
On This Day 1969: Bloodless coup in Libya
2003: Colonel Gaddafi's Libya
2003: In pictures - Gaddafi anniversary
1999: 30th anniversary of coup
1972 - Libya and Egypt agree on a merger, but this fails to materialise.
1973 - Col Gaddafi declares a "cultural revolution", which includes the formation of "people's committees" in schools, hospitals, universities, workplaces and administrative districts; Libyan forces occupy Aozou Strip in northern Chad.
1974 - Libya and Tunisia agree on a union state - the "Islamic Arab Republic" - but this proves to be stillborn.
1977 - Col Gaddafi declares a "people's revolution", changing the country's official name from the Libyan Arab Republic to the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriyah and setting up "revolutionary committees" - heralding the start of institutionalised chaos, economic decline and general arbitrariness.
1980 - Libya and Syria agree on a merger, but this too fails to materialise; Libyan troops start intervening on a large scale in civil war in northern Chad.
Confrontation with the US
1981 - US shoots down two Libyan aircraft which challenged its warplanes over the Gulf of Sirte, claimed by Libya as its territorial water.
Sculpture marks US air attacks, launched after terror allegation
On This Day 1986: US launches air strikes on Libya
1984 - UK breaks off diplomatic relations with Libya after a British policewoman is shot dead outside the Libyan People's Bureau, or embassy, in London, while anti-Gaddafi protests were taking place.
1986 - US bombs Libyan military facilities, residential areas of Tripoli and Benghazi, killing 101 people, and Gaddafi's house, killing his adopted daughter. USsays raids were in response to alleged Libyan involvement in bombing of Berlin disco frequented by US military personnel.
1988 - Gaddafi orders the release of some political prisoners and embarks on limited economic liberalisation.
1989 - Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia form the Arab Maghreb Union.
Lockerbie plane bombing
1992 - UN imposes sanctions on Libya in an effort to force it to hand over for trial two of its citizens suspected of involvement in the blowing up of a PanAm airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988.
US accused Libya over 1988 Lockerbie bombing
In depth: The Lockerbie appeal
On This Day 1988: Jumbo jet crashes onto Lockerbie
1994 - Libya returns the Aozou Strip to Chad.
1995 - Gaddafi expels some 30,000 Palestinians in protest at the Oslo accords between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Israel.
1999 - Lockerbie suspects handed over for trial in the Netherlands under Scottish law; UN sanctions suspended; diplomatic relations with UK restored.
2000 September - Dozens of African immigrants are killed by Libyan mobs in the west of Libya who were said to be angry at the large number of African labourers coming into the country.
2001 31 January - Special Scottish court in the Netherlands finds one of the two Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi, guilty and sentences him to life imprisonment. Megrahi's co-accused, Al-Amin Khalifa Fahimah, is found not guilty and freed.
2001 May - Libyan troops help to quell a coup attempt against President Ange-Felix Patasse of the Central African Republic.
2002 January - Libya and the US say they have held talks to mend relations after years of hostility over what the Americans termed Libya's sponsorship of terrorism.
2002 14 March - The Libyan man found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, loses his appeal against the conviction and begins a life sentence of at least 20 years.
2003 January - Libya is elected chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission despite opposition from the US and human rights groups.
Libya's pledge to halt WMD programmes was well-received
Libyan WMD: Tripoli's statement in full
2004: Libyan leader embraces West
2003 August - Libya signs a deal worth $2.7bn to compensate families of the Lockerbie bombing victims. Libya takes responsibility for the bombing in a letter to the UN Security Council.
2003 September - UN Security Council votes to lift sanctions.
2003 December - Libya says will abandon programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction.
2004 January - Libya agrees to compensate families of victims of 1989 bombing of French passenger aircraft over Sahara.
2004 March - British Prime Minister Tony Blair visits, the first such visit since 1943.
2004 May - Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor are sentenced to death having been accused of deliberately infecting some 400 children with HIV. Their case goes to appeal.
2004 August - Libya agrees to pay $35m to compensate victims of the bombing of a Berlin nightclub in 1986.
2005 January - Libya's first auction of oil and gas exploration licences heralds the return of US energy companies for the first time in more than 20 years.
2005 December - Supreme Court overturns death penalties imposed on five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor convicted of infecting Libyan children with HIV. A retrial is ordered.
2006 February - At least 10 people are killed in clashes with police in Benghazi, part of a wave of international protests by Muslims who are angered by a Danish newspaper's cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
2006 May - The US says it is restoring full diplomatic ties with Libya.
2006 September - Human Rights Watch accuses Libya of abusing the human rights of African migrants trying to enter the EU by forcibly repatriating them. Some of the migrants face possible persecution or torture at home, according to the report.
Colonel Gaddafi marks the 37th anniversary of his military coup with a speech urging supporters to kill enemies trying to reverse the gains of his revolution.
2006 December - At the end of a retrial, a court finds five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor guilty of deliberately infecting Libyan children with HIV. All six are sentenced to death.
2007 January - Prime minister announces plan to make redundant 400,000 government workers - more than a third of the total workforce - to stimulate the private sector and ease public spending.
2007 July - The death sentences of the six foreign medical workers in the HIV case are commuted to life in prison. Shortly after they are freed under a deal with the European Union.
Two of the foreign medical workers accused of deliberately infecting some 400 children with HIV
2008 January - Libya takes over one-month rotating presidency of the UN Security Council in a step back to respectability after decades as a pariah of the West.
2008 August - Libya and US sign agreement committing each side to compensate all victims of bombing attacks on the other's citizens.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi apologises to Libya for damage inflicted by Italy during the colonial era and signs a five billion dollar investment deal by way of compensation.
2008 September - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice makes historic visit - the highest-level US visit to Libya since 1953. Ms Rice says relations between the US and Libya have entered a "new phase".
2008 November - US Lockerbie victims' group says Libya has paid them full compensation. Possibility of restoration of diplomatic relations with United States.
2009 February - Gaddafi elected chairman of the African Union by leaders meeting in Ethiopia. Sets out ambition of "United States of Africa" even embracing the Caribbean.
2009 June - Gaddafi pays first state visit to Italy, Libya's former colonial ruler and now its main trading partner.
Convicted bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi (l) gets a hero's welcome
2009 August - Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi is freed from gaol in Scotland on compassionate grounds and returned to Libya. His release and return to a hero's welcome causes a storm of controversy.
2009 September - Libya holds celebrations to mark 40 years since Colonel Muammar Gaddafi seized power.
2009 December - Diplomatic row with Switzerland and European Union after Gaddafi's son is held in Switzerland on charges of mistreating domestic workers.
2010 January - Russia agrees to sell Libya weapons in a deal worth $1.8bn. The deal is thought to include fighter jets, tanks and air defence systems.
2010 May - Afriqiyah Airways plane crashes on approach to Tripoli, killing 103 on board. A Dutch boy is the sole survivor.
2010 June - UN refugee agency UNHCR expelled.
2010 July - US senators push for inquiry into claims that oil giant BP lobbied for Lockerbie bomber's release.
BP confirms it is about to begin drilling off Libyan coast.
2010 October - European Union and Libya sign agreement designed to slow illegal migration.
2010 November - Group of journalists arrested in apparent power struggle within ruling elite. Gaddafi later orders them to be freed.
2010 December - US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks indicate that Gaddafi threatened to cut trade with Britain if Lockerbie bomber died in prison.
2011 February - Arrest of human rights campaigner sparks off violent protests in eastern city of Benghazi.