1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Derna

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DERNA (anc. Darnis-Zarine), a town on the north coast of Africa and capital of the eastern half of the Ottoman province of Bengazi or Barca. Situated below the eastern butt of Jebel Akhdar on a small but rich deltaic plain, watered by fine perennial springs, it has a growing population and trade, the latter being mainly in fruits grown in its extensive palm gardens, and in hides and wool brought down by the nomads from the interior. If the port were better there would be more rapid expansion. The bay is open from N.W. round to S.E. and often inaccessible in winter and spring, and the steamers of the Nav. Gen. Italiana sometimes have to pass without calling. The population has recovered from the great plague epidemic of 1821 and reached its former figure of about 7000. A proportion of it is of Moorish stock, of Andalusian origin, which emigrated in 1493; the descendants preserve a fine facial type. The sheikhs of the local Bedouin tribes have houses in the place, and a Turkish garrison of about 250 men is stationed in barracks. There is a lighthouse W. of the bay. A British consular agent is resident and the Italians maintain a vice-consul. The names Darnis and Zarine are philologically identical and probably refer to the same place. No traces are left of the ancient town except some rock tombs. Darnis continued to be of some importance in early Moslem times as a station on the Alexandria-Kairawan road, and has served on more than one occasion as a base for Egyptian attacks on Cyrenaica and Tripolitana. In 1805 the government of the United States, having a quarrel with the dey of Tripoli on account of piracies committed on American shipping, landed a force to co-operate in the attack on Derna then being made by Sidi Ahmet, an elder brother of the dey. This force, commanded by William Eaton (q.v.), built a fort, whose ruins and rusty guns are still to be seen, and began to improve the harbour; but its work quickly came to an end with the conclusion of peace. After 1835 Derna passed under direct Ottoman control, and subsequently served as the point whence the sultan exerted a precarious but increasing control over eastern Cyrenaica and Marmarica. It is now in communication by wireless telegraphy with Rhodes and western Cyrenaica. It is the only town, or even large village, between Bengazi and Alexandria (600 m.)  (D. G. H.)