Land, people, and brief ancient history of Ethiopia
Ethiopia overview of the land, people, and brief ancient history.
Get to know Ethiopia
Land, people, and brief ancient history of Ethiopia
Ethiopia is technically landlocked because the entire
coastline along the Red Sea was lost with the de jure independence of Eritrea
on May 24, 1993. Ethiopia is, therefore, the most populous landlocked country
in the world; the Blue Nile, the chief headstream of the Nile by water volume,
rises in T'ana Hayk (Lake Tana) in northwest Ethiopia; three major crops are
believed to have originated in Ethiopia: coffee, grain sorghum, and castor bean.
Geologically active Great Rift Valley susceptible to earthquakes, volcanic
eruptions; frequent droughts volcanism: volcanic activity in the Great Rift
Valley; Erta Ale (613 m), which has caused frequent lava flows in recent years,
is the country's most active volcano; Dabbahu became active in 2005, forcing
evacuations; other historically active volcanoes include Alayta, Dalaffilla,
Dallol, Dama Ali, Fentale, Kone, Manda Hararo, and Manda-Inakir.
Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa. Ethiopia’s
highest populations are found in the highlands of the north and middle areas of
the country, particularly around the centrally located capital city of Addis
Ababa; the Far East and southeast are sparsely populated.
In 1974 in Ethiopia, archaeologists excavating sites in the Awash River
valley discovered 3.5-million-year-old fossil skeletons, which they named
Australopithecus afarensis. These earliest known hominids stood upright, lived in
groups, and had adapted to living in open areas rather than in forests.
stop sleeping because of a fear of bad dreams is an Ethiopian Proverb. Wise
sayings in the language of proverbs have been passed down for generations in
the Ethiopian culture. Proverbs are an important part of traditional and modern
Kingdom of Aksumite State
Aksumite state emerged at about the beginning of the Christian era, flourished
during the succeeding six or seven centuries, and underwent prolonged decline
from the eighth to the twelfth century A.D. Aksum's period of greatest power
lasted from the fourth through the sixth century. Its core area lay in the
highlands of what is today southern Eritrea, Tigray, Lasta (in present-day Welo),
and Angot (also in Welo); its major centers were at Aksum and Adulis. Earlier
centers, such as Yeha, also continued to flourish.
the kingdom's height, its rulers held sway over the Red Sea coast from Sawakin
in present-day Sudan in the north to Berbera in present-day Somalia in the
south, and inland as far as the Nile Valley in modern Sudan. On the Arabian
side of the Red Sea, the Aksumite rulers at times controlled the coast and much
of the interior of modern Yemen. During the sixth and seventh centuries, the
Aksumite state lost its possessions in Southwest Arabia and much of its Red Sea
coastline and gradually shrank to its core area, with the political center of
the state shifting farther and farther southward.
from Aksum and elsewhere date from as early as the end of the second century A.D.
and reveal an Aksumite state that already had expanded at the expense of
neighboring peoples. The Greek inscriptions of King Zoskales claim that he
conquered the lands to the south and southwest of what is now Tigray and
controlled the Red Sea coast from Sawakin south to the present-day Djibouti and
Aksumite state-controlled parts of Southwest Arabia as well during this time,
and subsequent Aksumite rulers continually involved themselves in the political
and military affairs of Southwest Arabia, especially in what is now Yemen. Much
of the impetus for foreign conquest lay in the desire to control the maritime
trade between the Roman Empire and India and adjoining lands. Indeed, King
Zoskales is mentioned by name in the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea a Greek
shipping guide of the first to third centuries A.D., as promoting commerce with
Rome, Arabia, and India.
the African commodities that the Aksumites exported were gold, rhinoceros horn,
ivory, incense, and obsidian; in return, they imported cloth, glass, iron, olive
oil, and wine. During the third and fourth centuries, the traditions related to
Aksumite rule became secure.
around A.D. 300, Aksumite armies conquered Meroe or forced its abandonment. The
Aksumites created a civilization of considerable distinction. They devised an
original architectural style and employed it in stone palaces and other public
buildings. They also erected a series of carved stone stelae at Aksum as monuments
to their deceased rulers. Some of these stelae are among the largest known from
the ancient world.
Aksumites left behind a body of written records that, although not voluminous,
are nonetheless a legacy otherwise bequeathed only by Egypt and Meroe among
ancient African kingdoms. These records were written in two languages—Gi'iz and
Greek. Gi'iz is assumed to be ancestral to modern Amharic and Tigrinya,
although possibly only indirectly. Greek was also widely used, especially for
commercial transactions with the Hellenized world of the eastern Mediterranean.
Even more remarkable and wholly unique for ancient Africa was the minting of
coins over an approximately 300-year period. These coins, many with an inlay of gold
on bronze or silver, provide a chronology of the rulers of Aksum.