The Kingdom of Aksum, which existed from roughly 100 AD until 940 AD and spanned East Africa and beyond, including modern-day Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Sudan, is considered one of Africa’s greatest empires. Aksum, in the northern region of Tigray, served as Ethiopia’s capital until the seventh century CE. At its peak, the kingdom controlled territory stretching from southern Egypt to the Cushite Kingdom of Meroe, east to the Gulf of Aden, south to the Omo River, and west to the Gulf of Aden.
In the fourth century, Aksum converted to Christianity and adopted the Orthodox faith. It was during King Ezana’s reign that this happened. The Aksumites worshiped and believed in a variety of gods and deities before turning to Christianity, including Astar, Beher, Meder/Medr, and Mahrem.
According to historians, it was incredibly difficult for Ezana to persuade his people to change their minds, but he was able to do so owing to his “knowledge and skillful direction.” Ezana conquered several regions, making his empire politically, economically, and militarily strong, in addition to introducing Christianity to Ethiopia.
Ezana, one of the Aksumite Kingdom’s most beloved rulers, ascended to the throne after his father, Ella Amida, died. Ezana’s mother, Sofya, functioned as his regent while he grew up because he was too young to take the crown.
Ezana was schooled as a child by Frumentius, a Christian from Syria who was one of his father’s advisers. Frumentius was the one who later converted Ezana to Christianity and established the Ethiopian Church. Ezana took the Christian name Abreha after being baptized. He made Christianity the official religion of Aksum, making him one of the first African rulers to do so.
Ezana minted coinage with the sign of the cross to spread Christianity throughout his kingdom and surrounding nations. Aksum was strategically located in the heart of a major commerce route that connected Rome to India. It traded ivory, tortoiseshell, gold, and emeralds between India and the Mediterranean (Rome, later Byzantium), as well as silk and spices.
Aksum was one of the first African empires to issue its own currency because of its strategic location, which allowed it to control trade routes. These gold, silver, bronze, and copper coins served as representations of what was going on at the time they were made.
During Ezana’s rule, Aksum not only became one of the world’s oldest Christian kingdoms, but it also became a superpower. Ezana fought and won several battles while holding the Red Sea route, which is still the busiest trading channel today. On steles, he mostly chronicled information of his military expeditions in three languages: Geez (Old Ethiopic), Sabean, and Greek. According to one account, he despatched his brothers Shaiazana and Hadefan to subdue the Beja tribe, who were raiding commercial caravans in the north. He also talked about conquering the ancient city of Mero in northern Sudan, which allowed him to expand his domain and gain control of more trade routes and resources.
However, after conquering regions, he did something that was perhaps unprecedented at the time. According to historians, rather than oppressing or enslaving the vanquished peoples, he would assist them in resettling in a fertile part of Aksum, where they might live happy and successful lives.
The Ethiopian Herald quoted Yonas Kebede, a history lecturer at Addis Ababa University, as saying, “At that time, it was truly inconceivable for a monarch to treat his subjects thus polite, and his leadership skills had led him to capture more areas and increase trade.”
Ezana, who reigned from 330 to 356 AD, is also remembered for his granite obelisks, which can still be seen in Aksum. The tall stone-cut towers functioned as tombstones, marking graves and underground burial chambers. Ezana is especially known for his amazing rock churches, such as the Abrha we Atsbha church. Ezana is known for a number of remarkable accomplishments, the most prominent of which being his conversion to Christianity. As a result, he is still revered as a saint by many Ethiopian Orthodox churches.