History in Antananarivo

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Antananarivo History is fascinating since its origin has a mystical aura to it. Antananarivo is also called Tananarive or just Tana. Antananarivo has an unusual geographical location, built along a bent, Y-shaped mountain range that consists of more than 10 small hilltops. This unique topography of the city didn’t happen by accident. It was planned by one of Madagascar’s most revered historical figures—King Andrianampoinimerina who called his people Merina (meaning Highlanders).

Antananarivo—City of Thousand Warriors

A Malagasy ruler, King Andriana, ruled the island nation of Madagascar in the late 18th and early 19th century and laid the foundation for the city of Antananarivo. At this time, Antananarivo was a fortified village with huge garrisons built on every side to protect the occupants from invading tribesmen.

The village of Antananarivo was further designed in a strategic manner. It was shaped in such a manner that the most prized possessions, including the noblemen and royalty, were located along the steepest hills while the lower hills were occupied by soldiers. The outer edge of barricades are said to have been protected by nearly a thousand soldiers, which explains the adoption of the word ‘Antananarivo’ since it means ‘a thousand warriors.’

Antananarivo’s Old City

This historical and uppermost part of Antananarivo is often called the ‘rova’ or the royal fort since this is the location from where the Malagasy kings ruled. The lower end of the city has a maze of alleys and stone-paved stairs that were intentionally developed in such a manner that an intruder wouldn’t be able to gain easy access into the city.

One such stairway is stretched along 600 feet and is called Tsiafakantitra. When translated ‘Tsiafakantitra’ means ‘old people can't make it,’ pointing to navigational problems through such a demanding terrain. This part of Antananarivo forms the rural part of the city and the remnants of the fortified city are still visible in the form of narrow streets and pedestrian pathways.

Most approximations hint at the presence of at least 12 mountains upon which the foundation for Antananarivo was laid. This fact is further sanctified by some researchers of Malagasy history who say that King Andrianampoinimerina chose 12 sacred mountains to protect his people.

It is the area around the outer edges of the barracks that further developed as a commercial space under the French colonial rule and later became a part of the present topography of Antananarivo. This every-expanding and commercially-viable part of Antananarivo is often referred to as the ‘new city.’

Contributors
March 13, 2010 new by ak1980

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