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Afri (singular Afer) was a Latin name for the Carthaginians. It was received by the Romans from the Carthaginians, as a native term for their country. Latin-speakers at first used afer as an adjective, meaning "of Carthage", "of Africa". As a substantive, it denoted a native of Africa, i. e., a Carthaginian.
The ultimate etymology of the Punic term for the country remains uncertain. It may derive from a Punic term for an indigenous population of the area surrounding Carthage. (See Terence for discussion.) The name may be connected with Phoenician `afar, dust (also found in other Semitic languages), or with Berber ifri, cave (see Tataouine). The classical historian Flavius Josephus asserted that descendants of Abraham's grandson Epher invaded the region and gave it their own name.
This ethnonym provided the source of the term Africa. The Romans referred to the region as Africa terra (land of the Afri), based on the stem Afr- with the adjective suffix -ic- (giving Africus, Africa, Africum in the nominative singular of the three Latin genders). Following the defeat of Carthage in the Third Punic War, Rome set up the province of Africa.
The Germanic tribe of the Vandals conquered the Roman Diocese of Africa in the 5th century; the empire re-conquered it as the Praetorian prefecture of Africa in AD 534. The Latin name Africa came into Arabic after the Islamic conquest as Ifriqiya.
The name survives today as Ifira and Ifri-n-Dellal in Greater Kabylie (Algeria). A Berber tribe was called Banu Ifran in the Middle Ages, and Ifurace was the name of a Tripolitan people in the 6th century.
Troglodytism was frequent in northern Africa and still occurs today in southern Tunisia. Herodotus wrote that the Garamantes, a North African people, used to live in caves. The Greeks also called an African people who lived in caves Troglodytae.
- Venter & Neuland, NEPAD and the African Renaissance (2005), p. 16
- Names of countries, Decret & Fantar, 1981
- Africism, bc.edu