6

Follow up on this question.

Other than the name being similar to the English one, why would one assume that אפריקי in the Gemara has anything to do with Africa? The names are similar, but is there any other reason?

Example of what I mean, is there anywhere (a Torah commentary, the Gemara itself, etc.) that discusses the place as having animals, features, or the like that make it Africa in particular?

7
  • There is something perhaps with Totafot
    – kouty
    May 21 '17 at 13:15
  • 2
    Ezra, balashon.com/2007/01/totafot.html discusses how some Talmudic authorities did not shy away from using words from languages other than Hebrew or, I suppose, Amarahic. The article specifically discusses the word Afriki . It is from the Phoenician related Phyrigian language considered related to Indo-European tounges ( en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phrygian_language). Afriki most certainly does not mean Africa.
    – JJLL
    May 21 '17 at 13:25
  • 2
    @JJLL, it could be from either Greek or Latin, which were certainly known to Chaza"l May 21 '17 at 13:40
  • Keep in mind that the etymological relatedness of place names does not necessarily mean that they refer to the same place. For example, the Latin Scotia refers to Ireland, not Scotland, and Latin Asia refers to Asia Minor, not the entire continent of what is today called Asia in English. May 22 '17 at 0:32
  • 3
    Possible duplicate of Did Rabbi Akiva Go To Africa?
    – Al Berko
    Dec 5 '18 at 19:10
5

Maharal (Netzach Yisroel 34) explains that this is indeed not the Africa of today. He proves it from Tamid 32a that Afriki is a place where there are mountains so high so there is never sunlight. Thus, one couldn’t travel there, therefore it’s not Africa. And Africa isn’t know to have such described mountains.

ועוד יראה דהכי פירושו, דמתחלה הגלה אותם לאפריקי. ואינו אפריקי שהוא ידוע לנו, אבל הוא מקום דפסקי הרי חושך, וזה נקרא גם כן 'אפריקי'. וכך מוכח במסכת תמיד (לב. ), דקאמר אלכסנדר מוקדן לזקנים דבעינא למיזל למדינת אפריקי, אמרו ליה לא מצית, דפסקי הרי חושך. שמע מינה דאי אפשר לעבור שם, ואפריקי הידוע אין נראה דפסקי הרי חושך.

Gomer in Ber. 10:2 is translated by Targum Yonathan as Afriki. Gomer is identified as Phrygia by Aruch HaShalem.

More info here.

4
  • I wonder where the term אפריקי comes from.
    – ezra
    Dec 5 '18 at 18:03
  • 1
    Good sources, but one correction: Aruch Hashalem says that אפריקי can refer both to Africa (the province, not the continent) as well as Phrygia. @ezra It's taken from Aphrike, the Greek name for Africa
    – b a
    Dec 5 '18 at 18:03
  • He seems to bring several opinions (which aren’t too relevant) Where are you referring to on the page? @ba
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Dec 5 '18 at 18:21
  • @Dr.Shmuel The page before the one you linked
    – b a
    Dec 5 '18 at 18:34
4

Why would people assume that “Afriki” is Africa?

Because that's how the Greeks (whose influence on Judaism and many other cultures is well documented) spell and pronounce the word Αφρικη until this very day.

Other than the name being similar to the English one, why would one assume that אפריקי in the Gemara has anything to do with Africa? The names are similar, but is there any other reason?

You almost make it sound as if the English invented the word, which simply isn't the case.

The names are similar, but is there any other reason? Example of what I mean, is there anywhere (a Torah commentary, the Gemara itself, etc.) that discusses the place as having animals, features, or the like that make it Africa in particular?

The Greek word literally translates as without cold, a- being the negative particle (as in atheist), and friké meaning cold (as in Romanian frig, for instance). Obviously, Africa is a notoriously warm continent.

The Talmud also speaks of Gehenna (another notoriously warm place) lying beyond the dark mountains, and needing an Egyptian donkey to reach. Obviously, Africa is home to Egyptians in particular, and other dark-skinned people in general, as for the mountains in question, they are described as being incredibly tall, so as to completely block the rays of the sun, a rather transparent allusion to the famous Atlas mountains, whose height was believed by the above-mentioned ancient Greeks to reach heaven, which is why they named them after their legendary homonymous hero, condemned by their supreme god to carry the sky on his shoulders.

5
  • Your etymology doesn't seem correct to me. The Greek name for Africa is borrowed from Latin. It was named after the general who conquered the province. Libya is the native Greek name
    – b a
    Jan 28 at 20:27
  • @ba: And, in Latin, frigus means cold, since both languages are Indo-European. At any rate, the Talmud closely follows Greek. Also, Libya usually referred to the western part of (North) Africa, its eastern half being known as Egypt.
    – Lucian
    Apr 23 at 12:16
  • 1. I didn't say that frigus doesn't mean cold. I said that Africa doesn't come from it. I was under the impression that it was named for Africanus, the general who conquered it. Apparently, I was wrong, since Wikipedia says the general was named after the place. But your etymology still seems fanciful. For one thing, the privative a- prefix gives a word recessive stress, but Aphrike has ultimate stress. Though I see that Wiktionary gives your etymology as a possibility, but I think it's wrong
    – b a
    Apr 23 at 13:55
  • 2. The Roman province of Africa is west of the Roman province of Aegyptus. The native Greek name for this area was Libya, not Aphrike, because (it seems to me) Aphrike was borrowed from Latin
    – b a
    Apr 23 at 13:55
  • @ba: There are a handful of possible etymologies for the term. It seemed logical to mention the one most relevant to the question.
    – Lucian
    Apr 23 at 14:03

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .