Aksum An African Civilisation of Late Antiquity Stuart Munro-Hay

Yüklə 4,8 Kb.

ölçüsü4,8 Kb.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   101

of only some 250 km across Ethiopia, varied from the snow and frost of the Semien 
mountains to the waterless salt plains of the eastern lowlands. The highest point in the 
mountains reaches about 4620 m and the lowest, in the Danakil desert, is about 110 m 
below sea level, and although the campaigns would not have touched quite these 
extremes, the diversity of the country the Aksumites attempted to subdue is well 
illustrated. The same series of campaigns continued to police the roads leading to the 
Egyptian frontier region and over the sea to what are now the Yemeni and Saudi Arabian 
The Aksumite rulers became sufficiently Hellenized to employ the Greek language, as 
noted quite early on by the Greek shipping guide called the Periplus of the Erythraean 
Sea (
Ch. 2: 2
), a document variously dated between the mid- first and third centuries AD 
with a consensus of modern opinion favouring the first or early second centuries. 
Somewhat later, Greek became one of the customary languages for Aksumite inscriptions 
and coins, since it was the lingua franca of the countries with which they traded.  
The Aksumites grew strong enough to expand their military activity into South Arabia by 
the end of the second or early third century AD, where their control over a considerable 
area is attested by their Arabian enemies' own inscriptions (
Ch. 4: 3
); a direct 
reversal of the earlier process of South Arabian influence in Ethiopia already mentioned.  
As the consolidated Aksumite kingdom grew more prosperous, the monuments and 
archaeological finds at Aksum and other sites attest to the development of a number of 
urban centres (Chs. 
) with many indigenous arts and crafts (Chs. 
13: 3

demonstrating high technological skills, and a vigorous internal and overseas trade (
). The inscriptions and other sources imply a rising position for Aksum in the African 
and overseas political concerns of the period. In the towns, the lack of walls even at 
Aksum seems to hint at relatively peaceful internal conditions, though the inscriptions 
Ch. 11: 5
) do mention occasional revolts among the subordinate tribes. Exploitation of 
the agricultural potential of the region (
Ch. 8: 2
), in places probably much higher than 
today and perhaps enhanced by use of irrigation, water-storage, or terracing techniques
allowed these urban communities to develop to considerable size. Perhaps the best-
known symbols of the Aksumites' particular ideas and style are the great carved 
monoliths (
Ch. 5: 6
), some of which still stand, erected to commemorate their dead 
rulers; they also record the considerable skill of the Aksumite quarrymen, engineers, and 
stone-carvers, being in some cases among the largest single stones ever employed in 
ancient times.  
The prosperity which such works bespeak came from Aksum's key position in the 
exploitation of certain costly luxuries, either brought from areas under Aksum's direct 
control, traded locally, or transhipped from afar (
Ch. 8: 4
). We have accounts of trade in 
such precious items as turtle-shell from the Dahlak Islands near Adulis, obsidian, also 
from Red Sea islands, ivory from across the Nile, rhino- horn, incense, and emeralds from 
the Beja lands in the Red Sea hills. Gold from the Sudan was paid for by salt from the 
Danakil desert, cattle, and iron. Other commodities such as civet, certain spices, animal 
skins, and hides seem also to have been among Aksum's exports. Royal titles on 

inscriptions attest (
Ch. 7: 5
) to Aksum's claim to control the catchment area of some of 
these exports, including parts of such neighbouring regions as the old Kushite or Meroitic 
kingdom, the lands of the Noba and Beja peoples, other now-unidentifiable African 
districts, and even parts of South Arabia. To some extent such claims may be wishful 
thinking, but the general prosperity and reputation of the country led the Persian religious 
leader Mani to label Aksum as the third of the kingdoms of the world in the later third 
century; and something of this reputation is substantiated by the production of an 
independent coinage (
Ch. 9
) at about this time. It paralleled the country with the few 
other contemporary states with the wealth and political status to issue gold coinage
Rome, Persia (to a lesser degree), and, into the third century, the Kushana kingdom in 
northern India.  
Aksum's considerable imports (
Ch. 8
), ranging from wines and olive oil to cloth, iron, 
glass and objects of precious metals, are reported by various ancient writers, but 
containers for the foodstuffs and examples of some of the others have also been found in 
tombs and domestic buildings excavated at the capital and other towns. From such 
discoveries some ideas can be suggested concerning the social structure and way of life 
of the Aksumites (
Ch. 14
), while the tombs reveal something of their attitude to death and 
expectations of an afterlife. There was a radical change in this sphere in the second 
quarter of the fourth century, when the Aksumite king Ezana, previously a worshipper of 
gods identified with such Greek deities as Zeus, Poseidon, and Ares, was converted to 
Christianity (
Ch. 10
). From then on the coins and inscriptions show royal support for the 
new religion by replacing the old disc and crescent motifs of the former gods with the 
cross, though it may have taken a considerable time for Christianity to spread into the 
remoter regions under Aksumite control. Aksumite inscriptions from this period are in 
three scripts and two languages; Ge`ez, the local language, written both in its own cursive 
script and in  the South Arabian monumental script (Epigraphic South Arabian, or ESA), 
and Greek, the international language of the Red Sea trade and the Hellenized Orient.  
The adoption of Christianity must have aligned the kingdom to some extent towards the 
Roman empire, but this seems not to have been a slavish obedience for political ends. 
The Alexandrian patriarch Athanasius appointed, about 330AD, a Tyrian called 
Frumentius, who had lived in Aksum for some years, as Aksum's first bishop (
Ch. 10: 2
and this apparently founded a tradition of Alexandrian appointments to the see of Aksum. 
In about 356AD the emperor Constantius II wrote to Ezana trying to persuade him to 
submit Frumentius to doctrinal examination by his own appointee to Alexandria, the 
bishop George of Cappadocia, who, with the emperor, subscribed to the Arian heresy. In 
such matters of church politics, Aksum seems to have followed Alexandria's lead, and 
refused to adopt Constantius' proposed changes. After the Council of Chalcedon in 451 
the international church was divided, and Aksum, with Egypt and much of the east, split 
from the so-called melkite or imperial church and followed the monophysite 
interpretation of Christ's nature which Ethiopia still retains.  
Little is known about fifth century Aksum, but in the sixth century king Kaleb (
Ch. 4: 6

) reiterated Aksumite claims to some sort of control in the Yemen by mounting an 
invasion. This was ostensibly undertaken to prevent continued persecution there of the 

Dostları ilə paylaş:
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   101

Verilənlər bazası müəlliflik hüququ ilə müdafiə olunur ©genderi.org 2019
rəhbərliyinə müraciət

    Ana səhifə