Azania is the name that has been applied to various parts of sub-Saharan Africa. In Roman times -- and perhaps earlier -- the name referred to a portion of the east African coast south of the "tip" of the Horn of Africa, extending south perhaps as far as modern Tanzania. In the late 20th century, the term was used in place of "South Africa" by some opponents of the white-minority rule of that country.

Origin of name

The earliest attestations for the name Azania do not explain it. John Hilton alludes to a number of etymologies proposed in the nineteenth century that claimed the name was derived from an Arabic or Persian word referring to the dark-skinned inhabitants of Africa, which he dismisses as examples of the colonial mindset of that period.

More recently, G.W.B. Huntingford offered two suggestions for the origin of the word. The first was from the Arabic "`ajam" ("foreigner, non-Arab"). The second, which he favors, comes from the Greek "azainein" ("to dry, parch"), which fits his identification of Azania with the arid coastline of modern Somalia.

Ancient Azania

Pliny the Elder mentions an "Azanian Sea" (N.H. 6.34) that began around the emporium of Adulis and stretched around the south coast of Africa. The slightly later "Periplus of the Erythraean Sea" offers more details about Azania (chapters 15,16,18). From chapter 15 of the "Periplus", Huntingford argues that Azania properly referred to the Somali coast, plausibly identifying the "Lesser and Greater Bluffs", the "Lesser and Greater Strands", and the "Seven Courses" of Azania with landmarks of that country. However, chapter 16 clearly describes Rhapta, located south of the Puralean Islands at the end of the Seven Courses of Azania, as the "southernmost market of Azania." Modern identifications of Rhapta place it on the coasts of modern-day Tanzania -- indicating that Azania referred to a far longer stretch of East African coastline than Somalia, perhaps an area identical to the later Arab Zanj. Professor Chami has found archaeological evidence indicating that Rhapta was probably located near the mouth of the Rufiji River. Azania was known to the Chinese as 澤散 "Zésàn" by the 3rd century CE. [ [] The "Weilüe". Draft translation by John Hill]

Later writers who mention Azania include Claudius Ptolemy and Cosmas Indicopleustes. Cosmas records the fact that in his time Azania was under the control of Axum, and that gold was bartered for butchered beef.

Modern uses of the name "Azania"

For South Africa

Azania appeared again in 1958, when the name was proposed as a replacement name for South Africa, at the All-African Peoples Conference hosted in Accra, Ghana by Kwame Nkrumah.

The Modern use of Azania as an alternative name for South Africa among revolutionary Black African nationalists only began to become popular in 1979, however, appearing in the names of groups such as the Azanian People's Organisation, the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania and the Socialist Party of Azania. At the time of the 1994 multi-racial elections, some proposed "Azania" as an alternative official name for the country, but this never received widespread support. In fact the African National Congress had always been extremely dismissive of the name, associating it with colonialism and the Pan Africanist Congress which had split from the ANC. The first mention of the name Azania with a South African connection appeared in the 1930s archaeological reports of excavations at Mapungubwe in the northern Transvaal. The skeletal remains were referred to as "ancient Azanians" meaning they were probably Cushitic peoples who had filtered down the Rift Valley from Ethiopia and East Africa. Zionist Church movements in South Africa say that unvocalized Hebrew for Zion is ZN (which is not in fact true; see Zion), as is unvocalised Azania.Fact|date=July 2007 While South Africa had diplomatic relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan, the People's Republic of China officially referred to South Africa as "Azania".

Other meanings

* A locality in Arcadia in Greece, named for Azan.
* The name of the annual journal of the The British Institute in Eastern Africa.
* From 2002 onwards, a geologists' name for a microcontinent which is theorized to have been amalgamated into Gondwanaland.

In fiction

* A fictitious island off the coast of Somalia in Evelyn Waugh's novel "Black Mischief" written in 1932;
* "Azania" as alternate name for South Africa is mentioned in passing in Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer's novel July's People;
* a black-ruled South Africa extending far northwards, in Bruce Sterling's "Islands in the Net";
* A new name for South Africa, in Kim Stanley Robinson's "Red Mars" (published in 1 January 1993). This rename was not followed up in this book's sequels Green Mars, etc, probably because of developments in the real world in the 1994 South Africa elections.
* A province of Bilalistan in in the books Lion's Blood and Zulu Heart by Steven Barnes
* The surname of a character in Max Brooks's novel World War Z. The meaning of the name is significant in the character's history.


*Casson, Lionel (1989). "The Periplus Maris Erythraei". Lionel Casson. (Translation by H. Frisk, 1927, with updates and improvements and detailed notes). Princeton, Princeton University Press.
*Chami, F. A. (1999). "The Early Iron Age on Mafia island and its relationship with the mainland." "Azania" Vol. XXXIV 1999, pp. 1-10.
*Chami, Felix A. 2002. "The Egypto-Graeco-Romans and Paanchea/Azania: sailing in the Erythraean Sea." From: "Red Sea Trade and Travel." The British Museum. Sunday 6 October 2002. Organised by The Society for Arabian Studies. From: []
*Huntingford, G.W.B. (trans. & ed.). "Periplus of the Erythraean Sea". Hakluyt Society. London, 1980.

External links

* [ Electronic Antiquity Journal: Communicating the Classics, Vol 1 no 5] , research by John Hilton at the University of Natal, Durban.
* [ Azania, Journal of the British Institute in Eastern Africa]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Azania — ist ein Name für verschiedene subsaharanische afrikanische Gegenden. Er wurde erstmals zur Zeit des Römischen Reiches als Bezeichnung für die Küste Ostafrikas südlich von Kap Guardafui in Somalia bis etwa ins heutige Tansania verwendet. Als… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Azanĭa — (a. Geogr.), die OKüste Afrikas, am Azanischen Meere (Azanischen Meerbusen, Sinus barbaricus), einem Theile des Arabischen Meerbusens, gegen den Anfang des Oceans; j. Ajan …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Azania — Azania,   Asania, antike Bezeichnungen für das Küstenland Ostafrikas (südlich von Kap Guardafui), das mindestens seit dem 1. Jahrhundert n. Chr. von arabischen Kaufleuten besucht wurde …   Universal-Lexikon

  • AZANIA — Aethiopiae regio in ora maris Azanii, ubi Azanium promontor. in ora occidentali Xoa, teste Orteliô. Aliis Adel regnum. Item urbs Massiliensium. Steph …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Azania — Côte d Ajan La Côte d Ajan ou Azanie (Azania) est l ancienne appellation d une partie de la côte de l Afrique orientale (aujourd hui en Somalie), qui s étend le long de l océan Indien, du fleuve Magadoxo (Mogadiscio) au cap Gardafui, entre les 2e …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Azania — Sp Azanià Ap Азања/Azanja L Serbija …   Pasaulio vietovardžiai. Internetinė duomenų bazė

  • Azania — Azanian, n., adj. /euh zay nee euh, euh zayn yeuh/, n. the indigenous name applied to South Africa by indigenous black nationalists or liberationists. * * * Azania /ə zāˈni ə or zäˈ/ noun A name given to South Africa by supporters of Black… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Azania — Azanian, n., adj. /euh zay nee euh, euh zayn yeuh/, n. the indigenous name applied to South Africa by indigenous black nationalists or liberationists. * * * …   Universalium

  • Azania — African nationalist name for the Republic of South Africa …   Eponyms, nicknames, and geographical games

  • Azania — A•za•ni•a [[t]əˈzeɪ ni ə, əˈzeɪn yə[/t]] n. geg gov the Republic of South Africa: a designation used by black liberationists A•za′ni•an, n. adj …   From formal English to slang