Aksum is perhaps most famous and well known by the mysterious stelaes. It is also the alleged resting place of the biblical Ark of the Covenant and the purported home of the legendary Queen of Sheba. The Kingdom of Aksum or Axum, also known as the Aksumite Empire was an important trading nation in northeastern Africa, ruled from approximately 100–940 AD. The Empire of Aksum at its height extended across most of present-day Eritrea, northern Ethiopia, Yemen, southern Saudi Arabia and northern Sudan. The capital city of the empire was Aksum, now in northern Ethiopia. The Kingdom used the name "Ethiopia" as early as the 4th century.
The Aksum Empire was named as one of the four great powers of the world along with Persia, Rome, and China. Aksum’s prosperity seems to have peaked in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries AD. Monumental royal tombs were constructed, each marked by a huge monolithic stela carved to represent a multi-storied building. Around the same time, Aksum began to produce its own coinage, with gold used for international trade, and copper and silver for local circulation. In about AD 340, the Aksumite kingdom formally adopted Christianity under king Ezana (320–360 AD), becoming only the second nation in the world (after Armenia) to do this.
History of the Aksum Kingdom
Aksum lies on the western side of the northern Ethiopian highlands, some 200 km inland from the strategic ancient port of Adulis on the Red Sea coast of modern Eritrea. Aksumite kingdom rising to importance around the time of the birth of Christ. During the first seven centuries AD, Aksum was the capital of a major far-reaching empire, a kingdom that dominated the vital crossroads between Africa and Asia for almost a thousand years. The Aksumites introduced a written language, Ge'ez, and created a new imperial power and political cohesion. They also gave Ethiopia its first organized religion – Christianity -in the fourth century AD.
Aksum rose from the gradual merging of an indigenous farming population with immigrants from southern Arabia. These had settled in the region several hundreds of years previously, bringing with them important cultural traditions, including literacy in a Semitic language. Aksum rapidly became powerful and prosperous. It occupied fertile land, and with access to ivory and gold the Aksumites established political leadership over surrounding populations, and attracted trade from far beyond its own borders, mainly through the port of Adulis. Despite this, and its literary and technological achievements.