Beta Samati and the Aksumite Empire of East Africa: From the Red Sea to the Ancient Mediterranean
Paper by Jessica Lamont
Given at The View From Africa: Greco-Roman Antiquity Through an African Lens symposium at Fairfield University, on April 12, 2022
Excerpt: Towering obelisks that reach toward the sky. A thriving trade in ivory gold and other luxury goods from the sub-Saharan interior and multilingual African kings who wrote in Greek and referred to themselves as basileís – the greek term for kings. This was the mighty Empire of Aksum, an ancient east African kingdom that thrived at the same time as the Roman and Byzantine empires. Centered in the modern Ethiopian highlands and Eritrea, the Axomite kingdom at its height exercised administrative and economic control over a vast territory which included much of the mid to southern Red Sea coast the southern arabian peninsula and. after probably having conquered the powerful city of Meroë in eastern Sudan, the kingdom’s control over both sides of the southern Red Sea gave it great power over trade routes and maritime commerce traveling between Rome, Byzantium and much of the eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf and India.
Jessica Lamont is Assistant Professor of Classics and History at Yale University, where she researches on Greek medicine and magic. Click here to view her university webpage.
Top Image: Map of the Aksumite Empire – Amitchell125 / Wikimedia Commons