Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30,300,000 km² (11,700,000 square miles) including its adjacent islands, it covers 5.9 percent of the Earth's total surface area, and 20.3 percent of the total land area. more...
With more than 840,000,000 people as of 2005 in 61 territories, it accounts for more than 12 percent of the world's human population.
The name Africa came into Western use through the Romans, who used the name Africa terra — "land of the Afri" (plural, or "Afer" singular) — for the northern part of the continent, as the province of Africa with its capital Carthage, corresponding to modern-day Tunisia.
The Afri were a tribe — possibly Berber — who dwelt in North Africa in the Carthage area. The origin of Afer may be connected with Phoenician `afar, dust (also found in most other Semitic languages). Some other etymologies that have been postulated for the ancient name 'Africa' that are much more debatable include:
- the Latin word aprica, meaning "sunny";
- the Greek word aphrike, meaning "without cold" (see also List of traditional Greek place names). The historian Leo Africanus (1495-1554) attributed the origin to the Greek word phrike (φρίκη, meaning "cold and horror"), combined with the negating prefix a-, so meaning a land free of cold and horror. However, the change of sound from ph to f in Greek is datable to about the 10th century, so this is unlikely to be the origin.
Ancient Africa lay to the west of Egypt, while "Asia" was used to refer to Anatolia and lands to the east. Originally Egypt and the Levant had an indeterminate position between these locations, though as part of the Persian empire they were sometimes absorbed in the loose concept of "Asia". A definite line was drawn between the two continents by the geographer Ptolemy (85 - 165 AD), indicating Alexandria along the Prime Meridian and made the isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea the boundary between Asia and Africa. As Europeans came to understand the real extent of the continent, the idea of Africa expanded with their knowledge.
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