Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Africa is my old stomping grounds; that is where I did a LOT of my soldiering.

The name Africa came into Western use through the Romans to describe the northern part of the continent, as the province of Africa with its capital Carthage, corresponding to modern-day Tunisia, and the most northern parts of Algeria and Libya. The Roman suffix "-ca" denotes "country or land". The later Muslim kingdom of Ifriqya, modern-day Tunisia, also preserved a form of the name.

Egypt was already known territory to the Ancients, but further South was unknown land. Around 2,000 years ago "Aethiopia" seems to have been used to describe the land found south of Sahara.

The origin of the word is still a little uncertain . . . "Africa" may not even be an African word: in Greek aphrike means ‘without cold’; the Latin aprica means ‘sunny’; or possibly the Phoenician `afar, meaning dust.

The Romans called it Africa Terra which translates "Land of the Afri". So the word Africa may come from Afri, a name attributed to several peoples who dwelt in North Africa near Carthage . . . perhaps a Berber tribe, although possibly of European or Asian origin. Their name is usually connected with the Phoenician `afar.

One theory has the name Africa stemming from a Berber word ifri or Ifran meaning "cave", in reference to cave dwellers. Ifri or Afer is name of Banu Ifran from Algeria and Tripolitania (Berber Tribe of Yafran).

The 1st century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus asserted that it was named for Epher, grandson of Abraham according to Gen. 25:4, whose descendants, he claimed, had invaded Libya.

The historian Leo Africanus (1495-1554) attributed the origin to the Greek word phrike (φρικε, meaning "cold and horror"), combined with the negating prefix a-, so meaning a land free of cold and horror. But the change of sound from ph to f in Greek is datable to about the first century, so this cannot really be the origin of the name.

The name "Africa" later came to describe the entire continent. Somewhere along the line it changed from the Land of Warmth and Sunshine to "The Dark Continent".

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