The Aksum Empire: a Forgotten African Civilization

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Updated: Dec 01, 2023
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Africa’s rich historical tapestry is sometimes forgotten, but the Aksum Empire, an ancient country situated in what is now Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, is a witness to that fact. Aksum was a highly developed political force, a civilization of great riches, and it flourished from about the first to the eighth century AD. This article seeks to provide light on the Aksum Empire’s past, accomplishments, and lasting impact while also shedding light on the empire’s place in the larger scheme of global history.

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Although some archeological evidence points to much older beginnings, the Aksum Empire may be dated back to the first century AD. Aksum emerged as a major force in ancient global trade because of its location along the Red Sea and close to the commercial routes connecting India and the Mediterranean. Because of its advantageous position, the empire was able to flourish as a center of trade, allowing the flow of commodities that were highly valued both within and outside of the Roman Empire, such as ivory, gold, incense, and exotic animals.

Aksum’s successes in culture and architecture may be attributed to its economic prosperity. The empire is most known for its enormous obelisks, or stelae, which were finely carved single slabs of granite that marked the locations of subterranean burials. The biggest of them, the Obelisk of Aksum, is a wonder of ancient engineering standing over 24 meters high. Furthermore, Aksum’s sophisticated and powerful money system in the ancient world of trade included gold coins with the likenesses of its monarchs.

Being among the earliest African nations to accept Christianity, the Aksum Empire’s early conversion to the faith was one of its most notable features. Aksum formally became a Christian nation under King Ezana in the fourth century AD, and this event had a significant impact on the political and cultural landscape of the kingdom. Additionally, Aksum’s conversion strengthened its ties to the Christian world and the Byzantine Empire. The proliferation of religious writings and the building of beautiful buildings as a result of the arrival of Christianity added to the rich literary and artistic legacy of the empire.

The Aksum Empire started to fall in the seventh century AD, despite its strength and influence, for a variety of reasons. The empire’s economic base was weakened by a number of factors, including changing trade routes, over use of agricultural land, and environmental changes. Aksum was further isolated by the establishment of the Islamic Empire and its consequent dominance over the Red Sea trading routes. The empire gradually gave way to other political organizations by the eighth century, having lost much of its land and power.

Nonetheless, the Aksum Empire’s influence is still felt today. The idea that Africa was just a peripheral part of ancient civilization is called into question by its historical relevance as a powerful African empire. Scholars and visitors alike are drawn to Aksum’s architectural treasures, especially its stelae, which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is still a major religious organization in Ethiopia, a result of the empire’s early acceptance of Christianity.

To sum up, the Aksum Empire was an amazing civilization that had a big impact on the political, cultural, and economic climate of antiquity. Early African communities were very sophisticated and complex, as shown by their accomplishments in commerce, construction, and religion. A more nuanced understanding of Africa’s place in world history is offered by knowing and appreciating the history of Aksum, which highlights the continent’s rich legacy and contributions to global civilization.

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The Aksum Empire: A Forgotten African Civilization. (2023, Dec 01). Retrieved from