Aksum


Aksum
/ahk"soom/, n.
the capital of an ancient Ethiopian kingdom, ruled by Himyaritic emigrants from Arabia.
Also, Axum.

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or Axum

Ancient kingdom, northern Ethiopia.

At its apogee (3rd–6th century AD), Aksum merchants traded as far as Alexandria and beyond the Nile River. The modern town of Aksum (pop., 1994: 27,148), once the kingdom's capital, is a religious centre best known for its antiquities. It has long been regarded as a holy city for the Ethiopian Orthodox church; according to tradition, King Menilek I, son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, brought the Ark of the Covenant there from Jerusalem. Aksum's antiquities have made it a tourist centre.

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also spelled  Axum 
 ancient town in northern Ethiopia. It lies at an elevation of about 7,000 feet (2,100 m), just west of Adwa.

      Once the seat of the kingdom of Aksum, it is now a tourist town and religious centre best known for its antiquities. Tall granite obelisks (obelisk), 126 in all, stand (or lie broken) in the central square. One measuring 110 feet (34 m), now fallen, is said to be the tallest obelisk ever erected. The obelisks range from nearly plain slabs to intricately inscribed pillars. Door- and window-like shapes are carved into some of the pillars, giving them the appearance of slender buildings. The most recent of the obelisks announces the adoption of Christianity by a 4th-century king. One of these remarkable objects, dated to at least 300 CE, was looted by Italian troops in 1937. Returned to Ethiopia by the Italian government in 2005, it was reerected in Aksum in time for the celebration of Ethiopia's millennium year in 2008 (which was 2000 by the Coptic calendar). At least 27 carved stone thrones have been unearthed in the overgrown ruins of the ancient palace.

      Aksum has long been regarded a holy city for the Ethiopian Orthodox church. It forms the setting of the 14th-century work Kebra Negast (“Glory of the Kings”), which relates the tradition of the transference of the Ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem to Aksum by King Menilek I, legendary son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (Makeda). According to tradition, the Church of St. Mary of Zion contains the Ark of the Covenant. Over the centuries, however, the church has been destroyed and rebuilt several times; the present structure dates from the 17th century. Emperor Haile Selassie I built the new Church of St. Mary of Zion near the old one in 1965.

      An airport, a hospital, a health centre, and a community centre serve the town. Pop. (2006 est.) 47,300.

▪ ancient kingdom, Africa
also spelled  Axum,  

      a powerful kingdom in northern Ethiopia during the early Christian era.

      Despite common belief to the contrary, Aksum did not originate from one of the Semitic Sabaean kingdoms of southern Arabia but instead developed as a local power. At its apogee (3rd–6th century AD), Aksum became the greatest market of northeastern Africa; its merchants traded as far as Alexandria and beyond the Nile River. Aksum continued to dominate the Red Sea coast until the end of the 9th century, exercising its influence from the shores of the Gulf of Aden to Zeila on the northern coast of Somaliland (modern Somalia and Djibouti).

      During the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, its growth as a trading empire increasingly impinged on the power of the kingdom of Meroe, the fall of which was brought about in the 4th century by an Aksumite invasion.

      During the 4th century, the kings of Aksum were Christianized—thus becoming both politically and religiously linked to Byzantine Egypt. At the same time, they extended their authority into southern Arabia. In the 6th century, an Aksumite king reduced the Yemen to a state of vassalage. In the latter part of the 6th century, however, the Persians invaded South Arabia and brought Aksumite influence there to a close. Later, the Mediterranean trade of Aksum was ended by the encroachment of the Arabs in the 7th and 8th centuries.

      Gradually, Aksumite power shifted internally to the Agew people, whose princes shaped a new Christian line in the Zagwe Dynasty (q.v.) of the 12th–13th century.

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Universalium. 2010.

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