Aksum: An African Civilisation of Late Antiquity

Aksum: An African Civilisation of Late Antiquity

Aksum: An African Civilisation of Late Antiquity

Aksum: An African Civilisation of Late Antiquity

Excerpt

This book is designed to introduce the ancient African civilisation of Aksum to a wider readership than has been catered for by specialist publications currently available. The Ethiopian kingdom centred on Aksum in the northern province of Tigray during the first six or seven hundred years of our era, is still very little known in general terms. Its history and civilisation has been largely ignored, or at most accorded only brief mention, in the majority of recent books purporting to deal at large with ancient African civilisations, or with the world of late antiquity. Perhaps, considering the paucity of published material, authors of such syntheses can hardly be blamed for omitting it; those who do include it generally merely repeat the same vague outlines of Aksumite history as are found in much older works. The excavations of the 1950s-70s in Ethiopia, and the studies of a few scholars in recent years, have increased the scope of our information about the country's history and civilisation, and the time has now come when a general introduction to Aksum should be of value to interested readers and students of ancient history alike.

The Aksumite state bordered one of the ancient world's great arteries of commerce, the Red Sea, and through its port of Adulis Aksum participated actively in contemporary events. Its links with other countries, whether through military campaigns, trading enterprise, or cultural and ideological exchange, made Aksum part and parcel of the international community of the time, peripheral perhaps from the Romano-centric point-of-view, but directly involved with the nations of the southern and eastern spheres, both within the Roman empire and beyond. Aksum's position in the international trade and diplomatic activity which connected the Roman provinces around the Mediterranean via the Red Sea with South Arabia, Persia, India, Sri Lanka, and even China, tied it too firmly into the network of commerce to be simply ignored (Ch. 3: 6).

Whether or not Aksum, as is sometimes claimed (Ch. 4: 5). gave the final coup-de-grâce to the ancient Sudanese kingdom of Meroë in the modern republic of Sudan, it nevertheless had an important influence on the peoples of the Nile valley, and also on the South Arabian kingdoms across the Red Sea (Ch. 3: 6). As far as the history of civilisation in Africa is concerned, the . . .

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