Syria (etymology)
The name Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 is Latinized from the Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 used it loosely to refer to Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a historical region in Central Anatolia, largely in Nevşehir Province.In the time of Herodotus, the Cappadocians were reported as occupying the whole region from Mount Taurus to the vicinity of the Euxine...

 (Pipes 1992).
In Greek usage, Syria and Assyria were used almost interchangeably, but in the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, Syria
Syria (Roman province)
Syria was a Roman province, annexed in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It remained under Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, rule for seven centuries, until 637 when it fell to the Islamic conquests.- Principate :The...

 and Assyria
Assyria (Roman province)
Assyria or Assyria Provincia was a roman province that lasted only two years .-History:Assyria was one of three provinces created by the Roman emperor Trajan in 116 AD following a successful military campaign against Parthia, in present-day Iraq.Despite Rome's military victory, Trajan's province...

 came to be used as distinct geographical terms. "Syria" in the Roman Empire period referred to "those parts of the Empire situated between Asia Minor and Egypt", i.e. the western Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

, while "Assyria" was part of the Persian Empire
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

, and only very briefly came under Roman control (116-118 AD, marking the historical peak of Roman expansion), where it was known as Assyria Provincia.

Etymologically, the name is often connected to , , from the Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 𒀸𒋗𒁺 .
Theodor Nöldeke
Theodor Nöldeke
Theodor Nöldeke was a German Semitic scholar, who was born in Harburg and studied in Göttingen, Vienna, Leiden and Berlin....

 in 1881 was the first to give philological support to the assumption that Syria and Assyria have the same etymology, a suggestion going back to John Selden
John Selden
John Selden was an English jurist and a scholar of England's ancient laws and constitution and scholar of Jewish law...

 (1617) rooted in his own Hebrew tradition about the descent of Assyrians from Jokshan
Jokshan ; most probably Josephus' Jazar. According to the Bible he was the second son of Abraham and his concubine Keturah, whom he wed after the death of Sarah...


Current academic opinion strongly favours the connection.
A Hieroglyphic Luwian
Hieroglyphic Luwian
Hieroglyphic Luwian is a variant of the Luwian language, recorded in official and royal seals and a small number of monumental inscriptions. It is written in a hieroglyphic script known as Anatolian hieroglyphs...

 and Phoenician bilingual monumental inscription found in Çineköy, Turkey, (the Çineköy inscription
Çineköy inscription
The Çineköy inscription is a Hieroglyphic Luwian-Phoenician bilingual, uncovered from Çineköy, Adana Province, Turkey , dating to the 8th century BC...

) belonging to Urikki, vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

 king of Que
Quwê – also spelled Que, Kue, Qeve, Coa, Kuê and Keveh – was a "Neo-Hittite" Assyrian vassal state or province at various times from the 9th century BCE to shortly after the death of Ashurbanipal around 627 BCE in the lowlands of eastern Cilicia, and the name of its capital city,...

 (i.e. Cilicia
In antiquity, Cilicia was the south coastal region of Asia Minor, south of the central Anatolian plateau. It existed as a political entity from Hittite times into the Byzantine empire...

), dating to the eighth century BC, reference is made to the relationship between his kingdom and his Assyrian overlords. The Luwian inscription reads whereas the Phoenician translation reads , i.e. , which according to Rollinger (2006) "settles the problem once and for all".

Some 19th century historians such as Ernest Renan
Ernest Renan
Ernest Renan was a French expert of Middle East ancient languages and civilizations, philosopher and writer, devoted to his native province of Brittany...

 dismissed the etymological identity of the two toponyms.
Various alternatives have been suggested, including derivation from Subartu
The land of Subartu or Subar is mentioned in Bronze Age literature...

(which most scholars in fact accept is an early name for Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

), the Hurrian
Hurrian language
Hurrian is a conventional name for the language of the Hurrians , a people who entered northern Mesopotamia around 2300 BC and had mostly vanished by 1000 BC. Hurrian was the language of the Mitanni kingdom in northern Mesopotamia, and was likely spoken at least initially in Hurrian settlements in...

 toponym , or (the Phoenician name of Tyre). Syria is known as in Amarna Period
Amarna Period
The Amarna Period was an era of Egyptian history during the latter half of the Eighteenth Dynasty when the royal residence of the pharaoh and his queen was shifted to Akhetaten in what is now modern-day Amarna...

 Egypt, and as , ʾ in Biblical Hebrew. J. A. Tvedtnes has suggested that the Greek Suria is loaned
A loanword is a word borrowed from a donor language and incorporated into a recipient language. By contrast, a calque or loan translation is a related concept where the meaning or idiom is borrowed rather than the lexical item itself. The word loanword is itself a calque of the German Lehnwort,...

 from Coptic
Coptic language
Coptic or Coptic Egyptian is the current stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century. Egyptian began to be written using the Greek alphabet in the 1st century...

, and due to a regular Coptic development of to . In this case, the name would directly derive from that of the Hurrians, and be unrelated to the name Aššur. Tvedtnes' explanation was rejected as unlikely by Frye in 1992.

See also

  • Names of Syriac Christians
    Names of Syriac Christians
    The various communities of indigenous pre-Arab Neo-Aramaic-speaking people of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian Territories and the surrounding areas advocate different terms for ethnic self-designation...

  • Greater Syria
    Greater Syria
    Greater Syria , also known simply as Syria, is a term that denotes a region in the Near East bordering the Eastern Mediterranean Sea or the Levant....

  • Cinekoy inscription
    Çineköy inscription
    The Çineköy inscription is a Hieroglyphic Luwian-Phoenician bilingual, uncovered from Çineköy, Adana Province, Turkey , dating to the 8th century BC...

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