Azania (Ancient Greek: Ἀζανία) is a name that has been applied to various parts of southeastern tropical Africa. In the Roman period and perhaps earlier, the toponym referred to a portion of the Southeast Africa coast extending from Kenya, to perhaps as far south as Tanzania. This area was inhabited by Southern Cushitic-speaking populations until the wave of Bantu expansion.
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. Later Western writers who mention Azania include Claudius Ptolemy (c. 100 – c. 170 CE) and Cosmas Indicopleustes (6th century CE).
The first century AD Greek travelogue known as the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea first describes the Horn of Africa littoral, based on its author's intimate knowledge of the area. 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 Azania, the "Azanians", were of the same ancestral stock as the Afroasiatic-speaking populations to the north of them in the ancient Barbara region along the Red Sea. Subsequently, by the tenth century, these original "Azanians" had been replaced by early waves of Bantu settlers.
John E.Hill's translation of Chinese 3rd century Weilue identified a country named Zésàn (Chinese: 澤散; Middle Chinese: /ɖˠæk̚.sɑnX/) with Azania. But later text like New Book of Tang stated "Zesan" locating to the northeast of Roman Empire, so that is unlikely.
Many South African political parties have lobbied the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to rename the country to Azania or Azanj . The third largest political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), is among the parties calling for this name change . The ANC has routinely rejected the proposal on the bases of cost.
It is the name Evelyn Waugh gave to his fictitious East African empire in his 1932 novel Black Mischief where it bears some resemblance to East Africa including the Nestorian faith of the native people and their independence from European colonial powers.
- Collins & Pisarevsky (2004). "Amalgamating eastern Gondwana: The evolution of the Circum-Indian Orogens". Earth-Science Reviews.
- Richard Pankhurst, An Introduction to the Economic History of Ethiopia, (Lalibela House: 1961), p.21
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- Original text: 臣役小國數十，以名通者曰澤散，曰驢分。澤散直東北，不得其道裏. New Book of Tang, vol. 221下
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- 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.[www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/ane/fullpapers.doc][dead link]
- Collins, Alan S.; Pisarevsky, Sergei A. (2005). "Amalgamating eastern Gondwana: The evolution of the Circum-Indian Orogens". Earth-Science Reviews. 71: 229–270. 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 
- 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[permanent dead link]