Asia Minor - Etymology


The earliest attested name is the Hittite Assuwa a region in central-western Anatolia which seems to be connected with the Mycenean Greek epithet a-si-wi-ja in Linear B inscriptions found at Pylos. The Assuwa league was a confederation of states in western Anatolia concluding a wide-ranging array of minor Anti-Hittite powers across the region. The Greek cognate of Assuwa first describes a plain near the Kayster river in Homer. In early Greek testimonial Asia indicated central-western Anatolia. In Greek mythology Asia was a Titan goddess in Lydia. The region became a province of the Roman Empire, with the same name Asia.

The name Asia Minor was given by the Latin author Orosios in the 4th century AD. While not entirely synonymous with Anatolia, the term Asia Minor, derived from the Latin Asia Minores, refers to Asia inside the Roman Empire, versus Asia Magna, all of Asia beyond the borders. Konstantinos Porphyrogennetos, the fourth emperor of the Macedonian dynasty of the Byzantine Empire in the 9th century AD, referred to Asia Minor as East thema, "ανατολικόν θέμα" (from the Greek words anatoli: east, thema: administrative division), placing this region to the East of Byzantium, while Europe was lying to the West. The European sailors and merchants gave the name Levant to the west and south coasts of Asia Minor, including Syria. Levant is derived from the French verb lever meaning "to rise" indicating that part of the world where the sun rises.

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