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The East Roman Christian Empire and the Kingdom of Axum: political, economic and military relations and influences, ca. 324-565 A.D.

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dc.contributor.author Zacharopoulou, Effrosyni
dc.date.accessioned 2008-06-24T07:50:42Z
dc.date.available 2008-06-24T07:50:42Z
dc.date.issued 2008-06-24T07:50:42Z
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10210/709
dc.description.abstract The present essay entitled as “The Christian empire of the Roman East and the kingdom of Axum from Constantine the great to Justinian” aims to investigate the political, economical and military interconnection between the early Byzantine Empire and the kingdom of Axum - during the period from 324 to 565 A. D. as well as to point out the influence exerted on Axum thereby. All through the introduction part, the criteria of setting the time limits in the essay, with regard to the Byzantine and Axum history, are exposed. In addition, a reference to the primary and side historical sources is made furthermore, the methodology used and the restricted area in which it is confined, are specified. The difficulties that arouse during the elaboration and the presentation of the material are also mentioned. Finally the title of the essay is justified and further clarification concerning the terminology is provided. The first chapter proposes a general review of the historical course of the kingdom of Axum, starting from the 1st century A. D., when the first reference to the city of Axum appears to have been made, to the close of the 6th century. The intercourse between the people of Axum and the Greco-Roman world is initially underlined as in succession to the bounds priory forged by the Ptolemies and Hellenistic Egypt. The Greek influence on the foundations of the civilization of Axum is therefore attested. Another theory is also framed; it claims that the fact that Axum made its mark as a great eastern power in the Red sea is closely associated with the promotion of the Greco-roman interests in this particular area. Further to this, Axum’s historical course from the 4th to the 6th post-christian century presented, a period mainly marked by the formal recognition of christianism in both Byzantium and Axum. There is a reference to the dominant leading figure of the kingdom of Axum during the 4th century, Ezana, as well as to his part in the Axum’s conversion to Christianity. A Graeco- Tyrian’s man contribution, named Frumentius, to this procedure was indeed decisive; he promoted the diffusion of christianism from his position as the underage king’s guardian and actual administrator of the state cases. At this point of this chapter a mention in the second most significant moment in the history of Axum is made, the one that initiates at the close of the 5th century by Tazena and is brought to completion during the 6th century, that is, during the reign of his son Caleb or Ella Asbeha. It‘s only then that Axum plays a leading role in southern Arabia bringing the state of the Himyarites under its control and converting it to Christianity. These facts of the 6th century being considered as the most critical factors for the relations between Byzantium and Axum take up a very important place throughout the whole essay and are fully developed in the third and last subdivision of the first chapter. The historical review concludes with the present of the events that led to losing control in S. Arabia and to the 198 submission of the latter to Persian control. From that point on the relations between Byzantium and Axum loosen up until they are irreversibly broken off after the Arabian expansion and possession of Egypt in the 7th century. The state of Axum was confined to its African part and was actually cut off from trade activities in the East. The second chapter looks into the relationships between the Byzantine Empire and Axum. We consider the conversion of the country to Christianity as the peak point in its evolution and historical course. Therefore, in the introductory part of this chapter, we refer to the circumstances under which the conversion took place. Rating the country’s position , in regard to the sea routes of the eastern trade , as of major significance for the Byzantine interests and considering that the Byzantium ‘s posture associated directly to the Byzantine – Persian rivalry we speak of cite the connection between these two great empires as well as the correlation of the forces in the wider area. Within this context we place the conversion of Axum which we consider as an event of great political and economical significance. We the relations between Byzantium and Axum begin based on economicalcommercial grounds, as it is believed that this kind of contact has been the main pattern on which the rest of the contacts unfolded. The great importance of agricultural economy for Axum is ascertained, yet its tremendous growth is linked to trade activities. Moving on in the chapter the part Axum played as far as the Byzantine interests in the Red sea are concerned is investigated. It is believed that the two countries’ benefit were not at all opposed to each other, on the contrary, the two powers took action within the same space in a supplementary way and the port of Adoulis developed into a famous trading port for the product of the East to be promoted to the Byzantine markets. The people of Axum are reckoned to have passed over the Yemenites in this role mostly because the Jewish penetration into the Yemeni nation, which rendered them too precarious to be Byzantine allies. The proposition made to Caleb by Justinian for a commercial and military collaboration against the Persian interests is substantial evidence of the aforesaid relations. Axum appears to have played a smaller part with regard to the relations between the Byzantines and the Blemmyes and Nobades. As a conclusion to this attempt at investigating this economic intercourse, there is a reference to the direct commercial contact between the two countries’ citizens, as these emerge in texts and documents of that time. The second part of the first chapter deals with the military relations between Byzantium and Axum. These relations are considered to be of great significance on the grounds that Byzantium in many cases often foresaw the potentially active military power of Axum, which could be used as a lever of pressure. Initially we set out the belief that the Graeco-roman world was never opposed to Axum’s strengthening, to which, on the contrary, it has never been given great support as likey as not. Following up, we try to pinpoint possible challenges between the two countries, investigating the incidents that connect to Frumentiu’s imprisonment and the Axumite’s presence in Palmyra. We believe that Axum was never against Byzantium but it never made common cause with it directly, either. It did, however, back up the Byzantine interests in an indirect way. We can sustain this allegation in regard to the operations against the Blemmyes, who caused far less troubles to the southern border of the Byzantine empire in Egypt, when they were under the control of Axum. In 199 the last part of the chapter about military relations, an elaborate mention of the military activity of the Axumites in southern Arabia during the 6th century is made. These operations aimed at restraining the Jewish extension towards the state of the Himyarites, which would be prejudicial to both Ethiopian and Byzantine interests. The Axumites’ activation in this area emerged as a result of formal collaboration with the Empire. The Homeritic state was converted to christianism and was put under Axum’s control. As a Christian nation ventured expeditions with the intention of controlling the tribes in the centre and north of the Arabian peninsula, who are at great service for the Byzantine empire. The third part of the second chapter is dedicated to political relations. These relations tie in closely with the general competition between the Byzantine- Persian Empire. Therefore, Byzantium used Axum as an allied power. It is claimed that the conversion of Axum was a political choice, promoted by Byzantium, in an attempt to arm itself against the Persian threat. On the other hand, this choice is secured the political and economical interests of Axum, which at the same time sought after the preservation of its independence. This chapter concludes with the examination of the diplomatic relations between the two states it refers to their intercourse during the 4th and 6th, certified by the sources. We ascertain that their contacts were based on the religious kindred of the two countries. The Byzantine emperor approached the king of Axum counting on his alleged role as the protector of the Christians all over the world, demonstrating his paternal concern. The impressions left by these contacts were determinative of the Axumites’ view of things, although their actual results were scanty. They prove, however, how important it was for the Byzantine to form a common Christian front as a checking mechanism against the Persian aspirations on the territory. The third chapter of the essay examines the Byzantine influence that is believed to have proceeded from Byzantium to Axum. It is originally detected in the field of economy, in connection with the currency, the weights and measures in commercial use, the economical set up and commissariat as well in taxation. Further to this we establish various similarities in the way institutions are formed and function. These similarities are pinpointed in the monarchy constitution and particularly in the ideology that associates with the king’s figure and power, his presence, the titles in which he is addressed and the process that lead him to the royal office. Moreover, the noble council that surrounded the king presents great resemblance to the Byzantine “senate”. Little influence on the military set-up and commissariat is thought likely, as well. Finally, the part of the Byzantine effect is visible in the organization of the Church, which also works as vehicle of a wide range of effects on Axum. Such influence can be found in the state’s political set-up, in both central and provincial government. In addition, through the study of legislative sources, we can ascertain an effect on legislation and dispensation of justice. The judicial powers, at the head of which is the king himself, along with some of his officials, appears to have received the influence stemming from the Byzantine equivalent. Moreover, the legislation, as far as both its principals and procedural system are concerned, has been greatly influenced by Christian ethics as well as by the contemporary Byzantine legislative codes. Moving further in this chapter, we detect the effects on the ideology, political and social. At this point, it becomes clear that many of the fundamental ideas of the Byzantine ideology can be found into the Axumite’s beliefs. Such ideas refer 200 to the sacredness of the king, the state’s origins and role, which is believed to be universal. Axum’s self-awareness and particularly the perception of their position among other nations has likewise been affected by Byzantium. At this point we refer to the way the Byzantines saw Axum. Due to serious lack of historical evidence regarding the society of Axum, we can spot very little influence in their social ideology. This chapter concludes with a pinpointing of the influence on the way Axum organized its diplomatic protocol and performed foreign policy. The essay closes with the last part, the conclusion where the main deductions are concisely recapitulated; the deductions to which we were led during our study on the character and role of this state in the international scenery of that time. en
dc.description.sponsorship Prof. B. Hendrickx en
dc.language.iso en en
dc.subject Byzantine Empire en
dc.subject Aksum (Kingdom) en
dc.title The East Roman Christian Empire and the Kingdom of Axum: political, economic and military relations and influences, ca. 324-565 A.D. en
dc.type Thesis en


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