History Community ~ All Empires Homepage


This is the Archive on WORLD Historia, the old original forum.

 You cannot post here - you can only read.

 

Here is the link to the new forum:

  FAQ FAQ  Forum Search   Events   Register Register  Login Login

Forum LockedKing Ezana of Axum (Ethiopia)

 Post Reply Post Reply
Author
Preobrazhenskoe View Drop Down
Consul
Consul
Avatar

Joined: 27-Jul-2006
Location: United States
Status: Offline
Points: 397
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Preobrazhenskoe Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: King Ezana of Axum (Ethiopia)
    Posted: 15-Mar-2007 at 14:32

King Ezana (reigned 330 - 356 AD) of the Axumite Kingdom, modern-day Ethiopia.

When Ezana ascended to the throne of Axum in the early 4th century AD, he was the ruler of an already significant kingdom of the Red Sea region that ruled modern-day African nations of Ethiopia, Eretria, northern Somalia, Djibouti, as well as modern-day Yemen in the southern Arabian Peninsula. It was a kingdom that had traded avidly with Egypt, with Rome, the Arabian Peninsula, and had seaborne trade extended into the Indian Ocean as far as Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka) and modern-day India, which eventually brought Buddhist missionaries (adding some cosmopolitan nature to the thriving Ethiopian kingdom). Their trade networks were well defended on land and sea, the latter ensured by a considerable Axumite navy. Ezana styled himself as a "King of Kings" (nəgusä nägäst), a traditionary title used by earlier Persian monarchs who had conquered Egypt before, yet initiated in Ethiopia from the earlier Axumite monarch King Sembrouthes (circa 250 AD) (although tradition would have it that it was initially begun by Menelik I, the legendary son of Solomon and Makeda, Queen of Sheba). He succeeded his father Ella Amida (Ousanas) when he was young, while his mother Sofya acted as a ruling regent for a time. Although he was later to convert to Christianity, it was shown by early inscriptions that Ezana was originally a polytheist who worshipped a slew of many deities, gods and goddesses. Roughly 8 centuries before his reign (around the 6th century BC), the pre-Axumite peoples had created a new written script to fit their language, which evolved into modern Ge'ez (influenced by Sinaitic and South Arabian writing scripts). However, it was under Ezana's reign that Ge'ez would be transformed into a true literary language (also into an abjad written script).

^King Ezana's Stele, a 1700-year-old stone Obelisk in Axum, built at a height of 70 feet (21 meters), and was erected during his reign in the 4th century AD. Obelisks such as this (including the taller Great Stele, 108-feet tall, or 33 meters tall, now knocked over at the site) acted as tombstone markers for the underground grave chambers of monarchs, royal family members, and nobles in Axumite society.

As a young monarch, Ezana was tutored by a Middle-Eastern Christian named Frumentius (died 383 AD), a Syrian-Phoenician Greek who was born in the city of Tyre (modern-day Lebanon). According to the historian Rufinus, Frumentius and his brother Edesius traveled with their uncle Metropius by ship to Ethiopia around 313 AD, a land under Axumite control. While at harbor in the Red Sea region, the crew of their entire ship was slaughtered over a brawl that had broken out (while another account says they were shipwrecked and lost that way instead). In any case, the two boys, Frumentius and Edesius managed to survive, and were brought as slaves to the court of King Ousanas. The King favored the two, raising them to positions of trust, and before he passed away, liberated them from slavery. His widow, the acting regent Sofya, had the two (now young adults) stay at court and tutor her young son Ezana. Using their influence over the central administration of the kingdom, Frumentius managed to befriend Christian merchants living and working within the kingdom, along with converting Ethiopian Axumites to the Christian faith. While his brother Edesius traveled back to his original home of Tyre to be ordained a priest, Frumentius stayed behind in Ethiopia to continue his work of conversion. Eventually, the Orthodox Christian Patriarch of Alexandria, Athanasius, raised Frumentius to the status of Bishop, whereupon he baptized King Ezana. Frumentius is honored in Ethiopian history as the Kesate Birhan (Revealer of Light) and Abba Salama (Father of Peace), as well as the first Abune, head of the Coptic Church of Ethiopia. His is also accredited with being the first to translate the New Testament into the Ethiopian writing system of Ge'ez.

Genesis 29.11-16, written in Ge'ez, the native Ethiopian writing script

Along with Constantine I of Rome and Tiridates of Armenia, King Ezana of Axumite Ethiopia was one of the first monarchs in history to convert to Christianity, to establish a Christian state, and to erect many Christian churches of worship. The significance of Christian alliance and King Ezana's kingdom was given great thought by the Roman Emperor Constantius II (r. 337 - 361 AD), who attempted by persuasive letter to King Ezana and his brother Saizanas to have their favored Frumentius replaced by an Arian bishop known as Theophilus. However, his attempts were in vain, as Frumentius remained in charge of the Coptic Church while Ezana, a new Christian, cemented the religion into Ethiopian culture.

In terms of commercial power (with the trade networks north and into the Indian Ocean mentioned above), the Axumite Kingdom had much to offer. To Rome and maritime ports of call in India, the Axumites exported ivory, tortoise shell, gold and emeralds, and imported silk and spices. Axum was the first African polity to issue its own coins of currency. This tradition (influenced largely by Rome) was begun first by Endubis around 270 AD, was continued by Ezana (inscribed with his faith in the Trinity), and was not stopped until the reign of Armah around 610 AD, when Axum began to decline and the creation of the Islamic-dominated world was just beginning (Axum was spared later Arab conquests in Africa because the Ethiopians had sheltered their prophet Muhammad in time of need). The minting of gold, silver, and bronze coins was not only a means for the Axumites to put themselves on similar grounds and standing with powers like Rome and then Byzantium, but it also simplified trade and was a means for the monarch to spread his image as a political tool of propoganda if needed. During Ezana's reign the issued coins were changed in their decoration from paganistic motifs of disc and crescent to that of the Christian cross, marking Ezana's reign as the first time in African history that currency of an African polity was issued bearing the symbol of the Christian cross. No doubt, the commercial power of Axum was felt around the world, as proven in the late 1990s, when ancient Axumite coins bearing King Ezana's name were found in archeological sites in India.

"May this please the people."

- Minted inscription in Greek, TOYTOAPECHTHXWPA, although this coin above has written inscription of native Ethiopian Ge'ez script. This golden-coin currency is of King Ezana (reigned 330 - 356 AD), King of Axum. Although the nation was a racial mixture of Sub-Saharan Blacks and Semitic people, notice the distinct Sub-Saharan facial features of Ezana himself.

King Ezana was also known as a conquerer. While the Sudanese-African Kingdom of Kush, home of the Nubians (referred to often in Egyptian history), was in economic and political decline, the Axumite Kingdom was on the rise, and set their sights on Kush and southern Egypt. While Axum conquered tributary states along the southern Arabian Peninsula in the 2nd century AD, it was during Ezana's reign that Kush fell to Axumite forces around 350 AD. On the famous King Ezana Stone, written in three languages (Greek, Sabaean, and Ethiopian Ge'ez), it describes not only King Ezana's conversion to Christianity, but also the conquests of Kush and their capital city of Meroe. In addition to his title of "King of Kings", Ezana also styled himself as the "King of Saba and Salhen, Himyar and Dhu-Rayden". In addition to that, contemporary historian S. C. Munro-Hay states that Ezana was "the most famous of the Axumite kings before Kaleb".

Glass goblets excavated from a grave in Axum are believed to come from Syria about the time of Christ

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/comm...Damo_Church.jpg

^Coptic Church of Debre Damo built in the 6th century, typical Axumite architecture. Wiki has this to say:

Quote
Debre Damo is the name of a mountain and a 6th century monastery in northern Ethiopia, lying west of Adigrat in the region of Tigray. Thomas Pakenham records a tradition that Dabra Damo had also once been a royal prison for heirs to the Emperor of Ethiopia, like the better known Wehni and Amba Geshen.

The monastery is accessible only by rope up a sheer cliff. It is known for its collection of manuscripts, and having the earliest existing church in Ethiopia. Tradition claims the monastery was founded in the sixth century by Abuna Aregawi.

Well, that's it for now, hopefully next time I will cover Angolan-Black slave revolts in 17th century Brazil, and the establishment of a separate republic created by run-away Black slaves to combat the Portuguese, known as the Quilombo dos Palmares! Until then!

Yours truly,
Preobrazhenskoe

Back to Top
Decebal View Drop Down
Arch Duke
Arch Duke
Avatar
Digital Prometheus

Joined: 20-May-2005
Location: Canada
Status: Offline
Points: 1793
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Decebal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Mar-2007 at 16:00
Excellent article, as usual, Preobranzheskoe. I would add asa comment here, that Mani, who lived between 210-276 CE, mentioned Ethiopia as one of the 4 great powers of the world, along with the Roman Empire, the Sassanians and China. This should be indicative of the power and prestige which Ethiopia had during this period.
What is history but a fable agreed upon?
Napoleon Bonaparte

Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.- Mohandas Gandhi

Back to Top
Preobrazhenskoe View Drop Down
Consul
Consul
Avatar

Joined: 27-Jul-2006
Location: United States
Status: Offline
Points: 397
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Preobrazhenskoe Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Mar-2007 at 22:09
Thanks Decebal, and I would agree with Mani's position.
 
Eric
Back to Top
 Post Reply Post Reply
  Share Topic   

Forum Jump Forum Permissions View Drop Down

Forum Software by Web Wiz Forums® version 11.10
Copyright ©2001-2017 Web Wiz Ltd.

This page was generated in 0.047 seconds.