An important aspect of the Aksumite kings' responsibilities was the conduct of military
campaigns, the main theme of almost all the Aksumite royal inscriptions which have
Ch. 11: 5
). The significance of this element for the kings is emphasised by
Ezana's identification in the pagan period as the son of Mahrem, whose parallel in Greek
was the war- god Ares. In most of the inscriptions we are given a fair amount of detail
about the campaigns which the Aksumite rulers conducted throughout the Aksumite
sphere of influence. Similarly, the South Arabian inscriptions mentioning Habasha t and
Aksum deal with Ethiopian military activities on the east side of the Red Sea. We
therefore have a considerable amount of information about the Aksumites' methods and
tactics in warfare. It is very probable that the Aksumite system of controlling sub ject
peoples through their own rulers had the effect of encouraging these to try the strength of
their overlords at each succession or other crisis. This might explain the `revolts' which
occurred at places apparently quite near to the centre of the kingdom. The inscriptions
and coins often use the word `peace', but we gather that the `Pax Aksumita' was, if not
apparently seriously challenged, in need of continuous repair.
The Aksumite inscriptions are rather stereotyped in style and content, being the official
records of the campaigns. In general, they commence with the reasons for the campaign;
these included damage to a trading caravan, DAE 10; rebellion of vassal kings or tribes,
DAE 4, 6 & 7, Geza `Agmai; and a combination of rebellion and a plea for assistance
from subjects under attack, DAE 11, Anfray, Caquot and Nautin 1970. Other reasons,
implied in a general way by the Monumentum Adulitanum inscription, but certainly
important, were the need to deal with such questions as frontier security, piracy in the
Red Sea, and the security of land routes for trade.
After the justifications for war, the inscriptions next recount any diplomatic efforts
towards achieving a peaceful settlement (DAE 11) and, these failing, there finally came
the decision to make war.
The next stage in the inscriptions is the account of the campaign itself. Details are
supplied as to the routes and encampments, provisioning, the strategy, the troops or
regiments used at different phases of the campaign, and the eventual inevitable victory.
Geographical information abounds, though it is often difficult to place on the modern