The origin of the name Africa is believed to have originated from a native Berber tribe called the Afri, though the Romans did extend that designation to the ethnically Punic Carthaginians. From Roman times down to the Medieval period, Africa initially was understood have been all of North Africa west of the Nile River, which in modern terms is called the Maghreb (Arabic) or Tamazgha (Berber). Alternately, the name Libya was applied to all of North Africa west of Egypt by the Greeks and Romans (Libua in Greek).
In the main, the area of modern Tunisia was simply known as the Province of Africa by the Romans after the conclusion of the Third Punic War. In antiquity, the coastal lands of North Africa, from Morocco to Tripolitania, were predominantly colonized by the Phoenicians of Lebanon, while the Greeks, prior to the conquests of Alexander the Great in Egypt in the late 4th Century BCE, settled in Cyrenaia in modern Libya. The three basic ethnic divisions of the Maghreb at the time were the Punics, the western Mediterranean offshoot populations of the Phoenician colonizers of the past, the "Libyans", the racial term for the modern Berber populations such as the Numdians, and the "Aethiopians" or Black Africans, being the ancestors of the modern Tuaregs (mixed Berber and Subsaharan Africans), Toubou people, Haratin people, Nubians and Ethiopians. The ancient Bafour people were a black African population who are believed to have been present across the Sahara since Neolithic times, were well-practiced in agriculture and animal herding before the drying of the Sahara compelled many to migrate south into west Africa, where the modern Wolof and the Fulani are among their descendants. Thos who remained in the areas of the Western Sahara and Mauretania are the Imraguen people. The Bafour would have lived in communities alongside the ancient Amazigh Berbers, and would have intermixed with them to some degree.
The Punic people, the descendents of Phoenician seafarers and colonists in the western Mediterranean, established cities from the shores of the modern Libyan region of Tripolitania to the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Phoenician colonies were also found in Sicily, Malta, Corsica, Sardinia, the Beleares, Ibiza and coastal Spain. The foundation of an unified Punic commonwealth was the city of Carthage, or "Qart-Hadasht" near modern Tunis, and its neighbour and partner, Utica, or "Attiq" located on the Medjerda River. Carthage and Utica were allied city-states, both of which were founded by citizens of Tyre in Phoenicia (Lebanon), and formed a league of Punic states from Leptis Magna in Tripolitania to Gadir in Spain against the Greek colonial states whom competed against their interests. Carthage through its wealth obtained by trade, silver from its Spanish territories, gold and salt from across the Sahara, purple dyes from its own shores and other monopolies, was able to afford the services of a large navy and a mercenary army to protect its overseas possessions against the Greeks and to keep in line its native Libyan tribal vassals. Cultural influence, in the form of language, religion and architecture, was diffused among the indigenous Libyan nations, such as the Numidians and the Mauri.
Numidia was a geographic zone in modern Algeria which involved th main tribal confederations of the Massyli and the Masaesyli. Prior to the Punic Wars, Numidia had a solid relationship with Carthage in terms of commerce and military support. Numidian mercenaries served the Carthaginians well as light cavalry and archers, while Punic cultural influence turned the Numidians from semi-nomads into an aspiring urban civilization which built the cities of Cirta, Thugga and Tebessa. The Numidians are believed to be the direct ancestors of the modern Chaoui people, a Berber nation, though their ranks may have included pre-Haratin Aethiopian tribes as well.
The ancient Berber country of Mauretania corresponded to the Mediterranean coast of modern Morocco and the western regions of modern Algeria. The territory was named for the Berber Mauri people, the source of the Medieval term "Moors". The main cities in Mauretania were the Punic colonies of Lixus (modern Larache), Volubilis, Chellah and Mogodor all built along the coast or on the banks of rivers connected to the sea. A Mauretanian king, Bocchus I, was the father-in-law to King Jurgurtha of the Numidians, whom he betrayed to the Romans.
The Garamantes inhabited the Fezzan region of modern Libya. Settlements were constructed in the deserts, in which they were supported by subterranean sources of water contained in rock-cut tunnels, allowing for some limited agriculture. The Garamantes are believed to have been related to the Berbers, possibly among the ancestors of the modern Tuaregs, who maintained trade-routes from north to south of the Sahara desert, and hunted other indigenous peoples whom the Greeks identify as "Aethiopian Troglodytes" (the modern Tubu people) or "cave-dwelling" people whom the Garamantes sought as a source of slave labour. The Garamantes reportedly used chariots in battle and while raiding for slaves. They also would have supplied slaves to the Carthaginians and the Romans, as they dominated trade routes between the Mediterraean and Sub-Saharan Africa. Their main settlements were Garama (Germa) and Cydamus (modern Ghadames).
The Gaetuli were an ancient Berber people whose territiorial range extended to the Mediterranean coast north of the Atlas Mountains and apparently as far south as the Niger River. The Gaetuli were a nomadic people who may have been comprised of both "Libyan" or "Aethiopian" elements, given the vast geographic range of their territory either side of the Sahara Desert. Tribes of Gaetulians are reported to have aided the Numidian King Jurgurtha in his conflict with Rome.
The Nasamones were a nomadic Berber people whose territory extended from the shores of the Libyan Sea to the oasis region of Augila (modern Awjila). Like the Garamantes, the Nasamones used chariots in battle and would raid the Greek settlements on the coastal lands of Cyrenaica.
The city-state of Cyrene (near modern Shahhat), the chief Greek colony in Libya and the city which gave it's name to the coastal region of Cyrenaia/Cyrenaica, was settled by Greeks from the island of Thera (Santorini), whom found the region to be lush and fertile. The founder of Cyrene was King Battas I during the 600's BCE. During the middle of the 400's BCE, though, it became a republic after King Battus III invited the Mantinian Greek Demonax to assist him in creating a new constitution for the Cyrenian state, and after that the king's role was restricted to religious matters, Cyrene was part of a league of five cities in Libya called Pentapolis which included Barca (modern Al-Marj), Apollonia (modern Susah), Euesperides (modern Banghazi) and Taucheira (modern Tukrah).
Though named for a Nilo-Saharan nomadic tribe whom arrived in the region in the 4th century BCE, the land of Nubia was the location of a formidable urban civilization along the banks of the Nile in both the northern Sudan and the south of modern Egypt. Several states, such as the kingdoms of Kerma, Kush and Meroe, held power in the region prior to the Common Era. The Twenty-Fifth Dynasty of Egypt, or the "Kushite Dynasty" held power from 760-656 BCE after the Kushite conquest of the country under the leadership of their King Piye, before they were later ousted from northern Egypt by the Assyrians. The Nubians/Kushites were a Subsaharan people who practiced agriculture along the Nile River and shared much of the same polytheistic religious beliefs, myths and gods of the Egyptians further north. Even pyramids were built for the burial of Nubian royalty. They were known to excell as cavalry, archers and spearmen. In the era of the Old Kingdom of Egyptian history, Medjay tribesmen from Nubia would serve in the armies of both the kings of Egypt and Kerma. The three historical capitals of Nubia were Kerma, Napata and Meroe.
Ethiopia, or Aethiopia, was a Greek exonym for the region of the modern country of Ethiopia, Nubia and the rest of Subsaharan Africa in general. Egyptians and Semitic-speaking peoples referred to it as "Kush". Ethiopia proper was and still is predominantly inhabited by the Habesha people, whose language and ethnic ancestry are a mix of both Subsaharan African and South Arabian. The two known historic states which existed in Ethiopia prior to the Common Era were the kingdoms of D'mt (Damot) located on the site of modern Yeha in the Tigray region, and the Kingdom of Axum (or Aksum) which arose sometime in the First Century BCE, and in time would expand into an empire which would comprise parts of modern Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan and Somaliland. At its height, it would enjoy maritime links as far as the Mediterranean Sea through Egypt and as far as India and China.
Egypt was the location of one of the oldest continuous civilizations in world history. Based around the great River Nile and standing between Asia and the rest of Africa, Egypt was at a crossroads between other societies in the ancient world. At the time of the Third Servile War, Egypt was a shadow of its former glory. Though it became a force to be reckoned with under the early Ptolemaic kings after centuries of Persian rule, Egypt had grown weak after losing much of its former empire, multiple wars with the Seleucids and Native Egyptian rebels and its national debts to Rome were such that it easily became a client-state to the Roman Republic about a century before the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE. From the conquest of Alexander the Great in 332 BCE and the reign of Ptolemy I Soter from 323-283 BCE, Egypt was colonized and dominated by a class of ethnic Greek and Macedonian settlers who owned most of the land limited the rights of the indigenous Egyptian population. The army of the Ptolemies of Egypt, reluctant to trust their native subjects, relied for much of their history on foreign mercenaries and military settlers of Greek, Carian, Thracian, Syrian, Jewish and Celtic origin.