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Azania (Ancient Greek: Ἀζανία)[citation needed] is a name that has been applied to various parts of southeastern tropical Africa.[1] In the Roman period and perhaps earlier, the toponym referred to a portion of the Southeast Africa coast extending from northern Kenya to the border between Mozambique and South Africa.,[2][3] Azania was mostly inhabited by Southern Cushitic peoples, whose groups would rule the area until the great Bantu Migration.[4][5]

Ancient Azania[edit]

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 1st century AD Greek travelogue the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea first describes Azania based on its author's intimate knowledge of the area. Chapter 15 of the Periplus suggests that Azania could be the littoral area south of present-day Somalia (the "Lesser and Greater Bluffs", the "Lesser and Greater Strands", and the "Seven Courses").[6] Chapter sixteen describes the emporium of Rhapta, located south of the Puralean Islands at the end of the Seven Courses of Azania, as the "southernmost market of Azania". The Periplus does not mention any dark-skinned "Ethiopians" among the area's inhabitants. They only later appear in Ptolemy's Geographia, but in a region far south, around the "Bantu nucleus" of northern Mozambique. According to John Donnelly Fage, these early Greek documents altogether suggest that the original inhabitants of the Azania coast, the "Azanians", were of the same ancestral stock as the Afro-Asiatic populations to the north of them along the Red Sea. Subsequently, by the 10th century AD, these original "Azanians" had been replaced by early waves of Bantu settlers.[7]

Later Western writers who mention Azania include Claudius Ptolemy (c. 100 – c. 170 CE) and Cosmas Indicopleustes (6th century CE).

Azania was known to the Chinese as 澤散 (Middle Chinese: /ɖˠæk̚.sɑnX/, Pinyin: zésàn) by the 3rd century AD.[8]


The term was briefly revived in the second half of the 20th century as the appellation given to South Africa by African nationalists such as the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) party. It was also considered as a possible name for South Sudan when it voted for independence in 2011, and has been applied to Jubaland within Somalia.

Zanj Coast[edit]

Mofarite, Hadramite and Omani merchants established various trading posts on the Zanj Coast corresponding to Azania, the South Semitic etymology of A'Zania preceded the later Arabic Al-Zanjia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Collins & Pisarevsky (2004). "Amalgamating eastern Gondwana: The evolution of the Circum-Indian Orogens". Earth-Science Reviews. 71 (3): 229–270. Bibcode:2005ESRv...71..229C. doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2005.02.004.
  2. ^ Richard Pankhurst, An Introduction to the Economic History of Ethiopia, (Lalibela House: 1961), p.21
  3. ^ The rise of Azania. Snippet w: David Dube. 1983. p. 17.
  4. ^ JournalInsert Hilton, John (1993-10). "Peoples of Azania". Electronic Antiquity: Communicating the Classics. 1 (5). ISSN 1320-3606. Check date values in: |date= (help).
  5. ^ Azania. 1983.
  6. ^ George Wynn Brereton Huntingford, The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, (Hakluyt Society: 1980), p.29
  7. ^ Fage, John (23 October 2013). A History of Africa. Routledge. pp. 25–26. ISBN 978-1317797272. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  8. ^ "Weilue: The Peoples of the West. Draft translation by John Hill". 23 May 2004. Retrieved 27 December 2016.


  • 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.[][dead link]
  • Collins, Alan S.; Pisarevsky, Sergei A. (2005). "Amalgamating eastern Gondwana: The evolution of the Circum-Indian Orogens". Earth-Science Reviews. 71 (3–4): 229–270. Bibcode:2005ESRv...71..229C. doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2005.02.004.
  • Huntingford, G.W.B. (trans. & ed.). Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. Hakluyt Society. London, 1980.
  • Yu Huan, The Weilue in The Peoples of the West, translation by John E. Hill [1]

External links[edit]

  1. ^ "Weilue: The Peoples of the West". 23 May 2004. Retrieved 27 December 2016.