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Map of Asia

Asia (एसिया) is Earth's largest and most populous continent.


Asia is located primarily in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres. It shares the continental landmass of Eurasia with the continent of Europe and the continental landmass of Afro-Eurasia with both Europe and Africa.

Origin of name

Asia gets its name from Asiagh Jats. These people were called Asiagh because they used to keep Asi (असि), which mean the sword in Sanskrit language.

One of the first classical writers to use Asia as a name of the whole continent was Pliny. Asia c. 1300, from Latin Asia, from Greek Asia, speculated to be from Akkadian asu "to go out, to rise," in reference to the sun, thus "the land of the sunrise." Used by the early Greeks of what later was known as Asia Minor; by Pliny of the whole continent.[1] This metonymical change in meaning is common and can be observed in some other geographical names, such as Skandinavia (from Scania).

Chadwick suggests that the names record the locations where these foreign women were purchased.[2] The name is also in the singular, Aswia, which refers both to the name of a country and to a female of it. There is a masculine form, aswios. This Aswia appears to have been a remnant of a region known to the Hittites as Assuwa, centered on Lydia, or "Roman Asia." This name, Assuwa, has been suggested as the origin for the name of the continent "Asia".[3] The Assuwa league was a confederation of states in western Anatolia, defeated by the Hittites under Tudhaliya I around 1400 BCE.

Alternatively, the etymology of the term may be from the Akkadian word (w)aṣû(m), which means 'to go outside' or 'to ascend', referring to the direction of the sun at sunrise in the Middle East and also likely connected with the Phoenician word asa meaning east. This may be contrasted to a similar etymology proposed for Europe, as being from Akkadian erēbu(m) 'to enter' or 'set' (of the sun).

T.R. Reid supports this alternative etymology, noting that the ancient Greek name must have derived from asu, meaning 'east' in Assyrian (ereb for Europe meaning 'west'). The ideas of Occidental (form Latin Occidens 'setting') and Oriental (from Latin Oriens for 'rising') are also European invention, synonymous with Western and Eastern. Reid further emphasizes that it explains the Western point of view of placing all the peoples and cultures of Asia into a single classification, almost as if there were a need for setting the distinction between Western and Eastern civilizations on the Eurasian continent. Ogura Kazuo and Tenshin Okakura are two outspoken Japanese figures on the subject.[4]


The Silk Road connected civilizations across Asia[5]

The history of Asia can be seen as the distinct histories of several peripheral coastal regions: East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, linked by the interior mass of the Central Asian steppes.

The coastal periphery was home to some of the world's earliest known civilizations, each of them developing around fertile river valleys. The civilizations in Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley and the Yellow River shared many similarities. These civilizations may well have exchanged technologies and ideas such as mathematics and the wheel. Other innovations, such as writing, seem to have been developed individually in each area. Cities, states and empires developed in these lowlands.

The central steppe region had long been inhabited by horse-mounted nomads who could reach all areas of Asia from the steppes. The earliest postulated expansion out of the steppe is that of the Indo-Europeans, who spread their languages into the Middle East, South Asia, and the borders of China, where the Tocharians resided. The northernmost part of Asia, including much of Siberia, was largely inaccessible to the steppe nomads, owing to the dense forests, climate and tundra. These areas remained very sparsely populated.

The center and the peripheries were mostly kept separated by mountains and deserts. The Caucasus and Himalaya mountains and the Karakum and Gobi deserts formed barriers that the steppe horsemen could cross only with difficulty. While the urban city dwellers were more advanced technologically and socially, in many cases they could do little in a military aspect to defend against the mounted hordes of the steppe. However, the lowlands did not have enough open grasslands to support a large horsebound force; for this and other reasons, the nomads who conquered states in China, India, and the Middle East often found themselves adapting to the local, more affluent societies.

The Islamic Caliphate took over the Middle East and Central Asia during the Muslim conquests of the 7th century. The Mongol Empire conquered a large part of Asia in the 13th century, an area extending from China to Europe. Before the Mongol invasion, Song dynasty reportedly had approximately 120 million citizens; the 1300 census which followed the invasion reported roughly 60 million people.[6]

The Black Death, one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, is thought to have originated in the arid plains of central Asia, where it then travelled along the Silk Road.[7]

The Russian Empire began to expand into Asia from the 17th century, and would eventually take control of all of Siberia and most of Central Asia by the end of the 19th century. The Ottoman Empire controlled Anatolia, most of the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans from the mid 16th century onwards. In the 17th century, the Manchu conquered China and established the Qing dynasty. The Islamic Mughal Empire and the Hindu Maratha Empire controlled much of India in the 16th and 18th centuries respectively.[8]


  1. "Asia – Origin and meaning of Asia by Online Etymology Dictionary".
  2. Ventris, Michael; Chadwick, John (1973). Documents in Mycenaean Greek (2nd ed.). Cambridge: University Press. Ventris, Michael; Chadwick, John (1973). Documents in Mycenaean Greek (2nd ed.). Cambridge: University Press.
  3. Bossert, Helmut T., Asia, Istanbul, 1946.
  4. Reid, T.R. Confucius Lives Next Door: What living in the East teaches us about living in the west Vintage Books(1999).
  5. Silkroad Foundation, Adela C.Y. Lee. "Ancient Silk Road Travellers".
  6. Ping-ti Ho. "An Estimate of the Total Population of Sung-Chin China", in Études Song, Series 1, No 1, (1970). pp. 33–53.
  7. "BBC – History – Black Death". BBC. 17 February 2011.
  8. Sen, Sailendra Nath (2010). An Advanced History of Modern India. p. 11. ISBN 9780230328853.

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