We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Aksum and Nubia

Warfare, Commerce, and Political Fictions in Ancient Northeast Africa

George Hatke

Publication Year: 2013

Aksum and Nubia assembles and analyzes the textual and archaeological evidence of interaction between Nubia and the Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum, focusing primarily on the fourth century CE. Although ancient Nubia and Ethiopia have been the subject of a growing number of studies in recent years, little attention has been given to contact between these two regions. Hatke argues that ancient Northeast Africa cannot be treated as a unified area politically, economically, or culturally. Rather, Nubia and Ethiopia developed within very different regional spheres of interaction, as a result of which the Nubian kingdom of Kush came to focus its energies on the Nile Valley, relying on this as its main route of contact with the outside world, while Aksum was oriented towards the Red Sea and Arabia. In this way Aksum and Kush coexisted in peace for most of their history, and such contact as they maintained with each other was limited to small-scale commerce. Only in the fourth century CE did Aksum take up arms against Kush, and even then the conflict seems to have been related mainly to security issues on Aksum’s western frontier.
Although Aksum never managed to hold onto Kush for long, much less dealt the final death-blow to the Nubian kingdom, as is often believed, claims to Kush continued to play a role in Aksumite royal ideology as late as the sixth century. Aksum and Nubia critically examines the extent to which relations between two ancient African states were influenced by warfare, commerce, and political fictions.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (16.8 MB)
pp. 2-7

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (16.8 MB)
pp. 7-8

This book began as a paper presented at the thirtieth annual conference of the Sudan Studies Association, held at Ohio State University May 13-15, 2011.1 Having defended my doctoral dissertation on Aksumite relations with Ḥimyar at Princeton University some months earlier,2 ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (16.8 MB)
pp. 9-10

read more

1. Introduction

pdf iconDownload PDF (16.8 MB)
pp. 11-24

The Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum3 and the Nubian kingdom of Kush were two of the great African civilizations of antiquity. Both were expansionist polities linked to the outside world through long-distance trade and have left rich records of their respective histories in the form of monuments and inscriptions. ...

read more

2. The Question of Aksumite Trade with Nubia

pdf iconDownload PDF (16.8 MB)
pp. 25-36

Though excavations at the hill of Bēta Gīyōrgīs indicate that the district of Aksum, the town after which the kingdom took its name, was occupied at least as early as the fourth century BCE,63 it was not until the first century CE that the kingdom of Aksum was first mentioned by Graeco-Roman authors. ...

read more

3. The Third Century CE: Monumentum Adulitanum II (RIE 277)

pdf iconDownload PDF (16.9 MB)
pp. 37-66

Having examined the evidence for contact between Aksum and Kush during the first two centuries of the Common Era, one is left with the impression that the two kingdoms, though closely tied to the commerce of the outside world, had little interest in maintaining intensive trade ties with each other. ...

read more

4. The Fourth Century CE: Aksum in Nubia

pdf iconDownload PDF (17.2 MB)
pp. 67-148

The story of Aksum’s military operations in Upper Nubia is a familiar one, retold countless times—with varying degrees of accuracy—in secondary literature on Ethiopia and Nubia, as well as in general histories of pre-colonial Africa.270 Traditionally, the dynamic Aksumite king ‘Ēzānā, also famous as the first Christian king of Ethiopia, ...

read more

5. After Kush: Aksum and Nubia in the Sixth Century CE

pdf iconDownload PDF (16.8 MB)
pp. 149-166

An able and powerful ruler, Kālēb (c. 510-540) compares favorably with ‘Ēzānā as one of Aksum’s greatest military leaders. By far the most significant development in his reign was the conquest of the South Arabian kingdom of Ḥimyar, the successor to Saba’ and the polity which since the early fourth century had enjoyed uncontested dominion over South Arabia ...

read more

6. Conclusion

pdf iconDownload PDF (16.8 MB)
pp. 167-172

What have we learned of Aksumite-Nubian relations? In fact, very little. For the period before the rise of Aksum, there is indeed good evidence of commercial and even political contact between Nubia and the Horn of Africa. By the turn of the first millennium BCE, however, the two regions seem to have gravitated toward two different axes: ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (16.9 MB)
pp. 173-199


pdf iconDownload PDF (16.8 MB)
pp. 200-202


pdf iconDownload PDF (17.1 MB)
pp. 203-208

E-ISBN-13: 9780814762783
E-ISBN-10: 081476066X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814760666
Print-ISBN-10: 081476066X

Page Count: 230
Publication Year: 2013