Ancient Aethiopia (Greek: Αἰθιοπία) first appears as a geographical term in classical documents in reference to the upper Nile region, as well as all certain areas south of the Sahara desert and south of the Atlantic Ocean.
Illustration of the story of Theagenes and Charicleia as recounted in Aethiopica by Heliodorus of Emesa.
Image of the Black in Western Art (Harvard University)
The Image of the Black in Western Art Research Project and Photo Archive, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University.
-Flanders/France (ca. 1620)
Its earliest mention is in the works of Homer: twice in the Iliad, and three times in the Odyssey. The Greek historian Herodotus specifically uses the appellation to refer to such parts of Sub-Saharan Africa as were then known within the inhabitable world.
In classical antiquity, Africa (or Ancient Libya) referred to what is now known as the Maghreb and south of the Libyan Desert and Western Sahara, including all the desert land west of the southern Nile river. Geographical knowledge of the continent gradually grew, with the first century AD Greek travelogue the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea describing areas as far south as Zimbabwe. Αἰθίοψ (Aithiops), meaning “burnt-face”, was used as a vague term for dark-skinned populations since the time of Homer. It was applied to such dark-skinned populations as came within the range of observation of the ancient geographers i.e. primarily in what was then Nubia, and with the expansion of geographical knowledge, successively extended to certain other areas below the Sahara.