The Kingdom of Aksum was an ancient state centered in present-day Aksum, Ethiopia. It existed between 100 CE and 940 CE. At its height, the empire stretched across present-day Eritrea, northern Ethiopia, Sudan, western Yemen, and southern Saudi Arabia. Aksum established its prominence as a commercial hub, engaging in the trade of gold and ivory with the Roman Empire and Ancient India, as well as conquering the declining Kingdom of Kush. It has been described as one of the four great empires of its time, alongside Persia, Rome, and China, by the Persian prophet, Mani.
Aksum was one of the first African nations to mint its own currency (gold, silver and bronze coins), which was distributed widely across the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula through trade. The Kingdom also pioneered distinctive architecture in the region: it was famous for, among others, its Stelas, elaborate granite monuments used as burial markings for royal families, e.g., the famous Obelisk of Aksum.
The people of Aksum, collectively referred to as Habesha, represented a mix of Semitic-speaking people, Cushitic-speaking people, and Nilo-Saharan-speaking people. As early as the 4th century, the Kingdom of Aksum established the first written script on the continent, Ge’ez, based on South Semitic languages from the Horn of Africa. Aksum was also one of the first nations to proclaim Christianity as a state religion, in 333 CE. The kingdom adopted their own unique form of Christianity, establishing the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, one of the oldest churches in the world.
By Edel Were