Aksum civilization

The Aksumite civilization emerged in the 4th century BC. and peaked around 4th to 7th centuries AD.

The origins of the Aksumite civilization date back to around the 1st century AD when Semitic-speaking people known as the Ge’ez migrated from southern Arabia and settled in the Horn of Africa.

They established the Kingdom of D’mt that laid the foundations for the rise of Aksum.

The Aksumite Empire is one of the past great empires that once flourished largely.

Situated in present-day Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, this ancient civilization thrived from the 1st to the 8th century AD, extending its influence up to Yemen and Sudan.

The ancient city of Aksum is located close to Ethiopia’s northern border. It marks the location of the heart of ancient Ethiopia, when the Kingdom of Aksum was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia.

The kingdom was at the crossroads of the three continents: Africa, Arabia and the Greco-Roman World, and was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia.

The massive ruins, dating from between the 1st and the 13th century A.D., include monolithic obelisks, giant stelae, royal tombs and the ruins of ancient castles.

Long after its political decline in the 10th century, Ethiopian emperors continued to be crowned in Aksum.

In command of the ivory trade with Sudan, its fleets controlled the Red Sea trade through the port of Adulis and the inland routes of north eastern Africa.

The introduction of Christianity in the 4th century AD resulted in the building of churches, such as Saint Mary of Zion, rebuilt in the Gondarian period, in the 17th century AD, which is believed to hold the Ark of the Covenant.

Maryam Tsion Basilica, Aksum
An obelisk in Aksum
Map of Aksum
Map of Aksum

Reference: whc.unesco.org/en/list/15/gallery/


The strategic location of the Aksumite Empire at the crossroads of Africa, Arabia, and the Mediterranean allowed it to thrive as a center of trade.

It was pivotal in exchanging goods, ideas, and culture between the Roman Empire, India, and Arabia. The empire’s economy was based on agriculture, with crops such as wheat, barley, and teff as staples and the export of valuable items such as ivory, gold, and frankincense.

Aksum’s international trade was facilitated by minting of its currency, which included gold, silver, and bronze coins.

These coins, adorned with the effigy of the reigning king, were a testament to the empire’s wealth and power and significantly contributed to its economic success.

Religion and culture

The Aksumite Empire was characterized by its religious diversity, with various faiths such as Judaism, Christianity, and indigenous beliefs coexisting peacefully. However, in the 4th century AD, under King Ezana, Christianity was declared the empire’s official religion. This began a long-lasting alliance with the Byzantine Empire, further elevated Aksum’s world status.

The Ge’ez script, an ancient writing system still used in Ethiopia and Eritrea today, was developed during the Aksumite period. The hand was employed in various religious and secular texts, including the famous stele and massive stone obelisks that served as monuments and tombstones for Aksumite royalty. The largest of these, the Obelisk of Aksum, still stands today as a witness to the empire’s architectural prowess.


The decline of the Aksumite Empire began in the 7th century AD due to various factors, including internal strife, economic fall, and the rise of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula. As a result, the empire gradually lost its grip on trade routes. It was ultimately reduced to a small kingdom centered around modern-day Ethiopia.

However, the legacy of the Aksumite Empire endures in the modern world. Its contributions to art, architecture, religion, and trade have left an indelible footprint on the history of Africa and the world. The empire’s influence on Ethiopian culture and identity is particularly notable with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church tracing its origins back to the Aksumite period.

The Aksumite Empire is a shining example of a powerful and sophisticated African