Thursday, July 9, 2009

Origin of the name “Albania”

Over the years, I have received many, many inquiries requesting information about the origin of the name "Albania." The information below provides, I believe, a definitive response.


Origin of the name “Albania” is Illyrian tribe “Albanoi”

One of the first written evidences of the use of the word "Albanoi" as the name of an Illyrian tribe in what is now north-central Albania goes back to the AD 130, in a work of Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy). Albanopolis of the Albani is a place located on the map of Ptolemy and also named on an ancient family epitaph at Scupi, which has been identified with the Zgërdhesh hill-fort near Kruja in northern Albania. Arbanon is likely to be the name of a district – the plain of the Mat has been suggested – rather than particular place. An indication of movement from higher altitudes in a much earlier period has been detected in the distribution of place-names ending in -esh that appears to derive from the Latin -enisis or -esis, between the Shkumbin and the Mat, with a concentration between Elbasan and Kruja.

The term Albanoi may have been slowly spread to other Illyrian tribes until its usage became universal among all the Albanian people. According to the Albanian scholar Faïk bey Konitza, the term "Albania" did not displace "Illyria" completely until the end of the fourteenth century. The word "Alba" or "Arba" seems to be connected with the town Arba (modern Rab, Croatia), in prehistoric times inhabited by the Illyrian Liburnians, first mentioned in 360 BC.

The derivation of the name Albania is of considerable antiquity, dating back perhaps to the pre-Celtic alb (hill), from whence Alps, or possibly from the Indo-European albh (white), from whence albino and Albion. Approximately a millennium after, some Byzantine writers use the words "Albanon" and "Arbanon" to indicate the region of Kruja. Under the Angiò, in the 13th century, the names "Albania" and "Albanenses" indicate the whole country and all the population, as it is demonstrated by the works of many ancient Albanian writers such as Budi, Blanco and Bogdano.

We first learn of the ancestors of the modern Albanians in their native land as the Arbanites of Arbanon in Anna Comnena's account (Alexiad, IV) of the troubles in that region caused in the reign of her father Alexius I Comneus (1081-1118) by the Normans. In the History written in 1079-1080, Byzantine historian Michael Attaliates was first to refer to the Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the duke of Dyrrachium (present day Durres on the southern Albanian seacoast – Ed). Their descendants in Greece and Italy have been called in different ways with the passing of the years: Arbërór (in Arvanitic) or more commonly Arvanites (in Greek), Arbënuer, Arbënor, Arbëneshë, Arbëreshë. There seems to be no doubt that the root Alb- or Arb- is earlier than Shqip-, from which the modern name of the state (Shqipëria) derives, a name which appears only in the time of the Turkish invasions.



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