What is the Origin of the Name Sarasota Florida?

Explore how Sarasota Florida got its name from its original Spanish name Zara Zote to its current name Sara Sota with its possible ties to Roman emperors.

What is the Origin of the Name Sarasota Florida?

The area now known as Sarasota, Florida has a long and interesting history. It was originally named Zara Zote on maps dating back to the early 18th century, and remained Sara Sota. Early settlers were attracted by the climate and the beauty and abundance of Sarasota Bay. A search for maps of the Mediterranean does not reveal Zarazota, but there is a city of Zaragoza in Spain, called Saraqustah during the Arab presence there, an interpretation of the original name Caesar-Augusta when it was founded by the Roman emperor Augustus.

So the “Sara” of Sarasota may come from “Caesar”, like the word “tsar”. Zarazota could be another Spanish-Arabic name that commemorates another Caesar, but unlike “Zaragoza”, there are no names of other Roman emperors that are likely to be pronounced “azota”. There are cities originally called Zara in Turkey, Iran and Albania, which may refer to a fortress or palace, with origin in the Iranian “thraya- “(protect). So explorers could have discovered a Mediterranean zarazota named after a fort or palace.

It is conceivable that De Soto or his officers had in mind a Zara Soto (Fort de Soto), but the name of the DeSoto family itself refers to one of the many villages called Soto from Spanish “Soto” (scrub or forest) from the Latin “saltus” (grassland with forest). So any Mediterranean fortress or palace in a grove or town called Soto may have been called Zarazota, Zara Soto or even Sara de Soto. The city limits expanded significantly with the housing fever of the early 20th century, reaching nearly 70 square miles (180 km). The speculation boom began to collapse in 1926 and the city limits began to contract, shrinking to less than a quarter of that area.

According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.9 square miles (67 km), of which 14.9 square miles (38.6 km) are land and 11.0 square miles (28 km) are water. Of that population, 3.9% were under 5 years old, 14.6% were under 18, and 28.0% were 65 years or older.

Tourism contributes significantly to Sarasota's economy. Top employers include Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, APAC Customer Services, The Zenith and Roper Technologies which is headquartered in Sarasota. Many aspects of the city are overseen by the county government from schools, libraries, major waterways, county-designated highways, fire departments and more. Therefore, the election of county commissioners is important for municipal voters.

Sarasota has many places for music, dance, theater, circus and other performing arts such as The Sarasota Ballet, The Sarasota Opera, The Asolo Repertory Theater, The Florida Studio Theater, The Players Center for Performing Arts and many others. Theatrical venues include The Florida Studio Theatre, The Asolo Repertory Theatre, The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and The Players Theatre among others. The Keating Theater at The Florida Studio Theater is among the oldest surviving buildings in Sarasota having been founded in 1903 as The Sarasota Women's Club which set out to create a meeting place to host social events and activities as well as forums for public committee meetings. Other cultural attractions include fine art galleries and artist collectives as well as cinema and decorative arts venues such as The Sarasota Museum of Art and The Ringling Museum which are located in Sarasota.

In addition to these attractions there are also many historic homes from the 1920s boom period along the north shore of Sarasota Bay which have survived including Cà d'Zan which was recently restored. However many important structures from the relatively recent period of The Sarasota School of Architecture in the mid-20th century have not survived.

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