Albania is an independent state on the Balkan Peninsula in south-eastern Europe, formerly communist, Muslim, and part of NATO. It’s name may originate in the Latin word Illyria, or perhaps the Albania Veneta Venetian colony established in the region in the 15th to 18th centuries.
But today’s Albania wasn’t the first region with the name. In fact it was the one of the last of many such regions to hold the name. The first such nation was what the Romans called Caucasian Albania, also known as Arran, an ancient kingdom that existed in the territory that is modern-day Azerbaijan. The history of Caucasian Albania is not entirely clear, but sometime at around the 1st century B.C. it became a unified state ruled by one king, was Christianized at around the 3rd century A.D, and the region kept the name Albania when it was conquered by the Iranian Sassanid Empire. The name was probably lost with the Turkification of the region that came with the migration and invasion of Turks out of Central Asia westward.
Alba, a Gaelic name for Scotland, may be related to the Greek name of “Britain Albion”, Latinized as Albania during the High Medieval period. This later passed into Middle English as Albany, an English city name that was attached to the settlement that became the capital of the U.S. state of New York, and dozens of other settlements across the New World.
Some recent scholarship has connected the name Albania to the Roman name for Ireland, Hibernia, and also the myth of “Great Ireland.” This legendary region was rumored to exist beyond Ireland/Hibernia in the Atlantic, and was known as Hibernia Major, or Albania. This phantom island was believed by many Norsemen and others to have been settled by Irishmen.
I started this post by saying that Albania was “one of the last of many such regions to hold the name.” It was not the last region. There are three towns in Colombia with the name Albania, in the states of La Guajira, Santander, and Caquetá. Like Iberia and Alexandria noted in previous psots, Albania is another place where the context of the use of the name must be understood before assuming the location.