Ethiopia - Aksum The state of Aksum developed around the first century BC, and at the height of its power it stretched from the Red Sea Coast to the Nile Valley, from Sudan to Somalia, including also part of Yemen on the Arabian side of the Red Sea. In about AD 300 the armies of Aksum conquered Meroe in Nubia, ending the empire. The wealth of Aksum was based on the commerce between Rome, the Red Sea, India and the rest of Africa. Gold, ivory, incense and obsidian were exported in exchange for cloth, iron, oil, wine and glass. The title of the kings of Aksum was Negusa Nagast or King of Kings. They created an important civilisation which has lasted almost up to the present day. Palaces and buildings were built in an original architectural style, and enormous carved stelae were erected in memory of the dead kings. In fact the Aksumites had their own form of writing, and many written records were left in Gi’iz and Greek, making it easy to decipher them - Greek was often used for commerce in the area and with the Mediterranean. Coins were minted and used as currency. During the second century AD, Christianity spread throughout the area, although there had already been contacts with the Christian world before that. In about 330 Ezana, the emperor, was converted to Christianity, starting a tradition that was to last many centuries. In spite of the rise of Islam in the seventh century, Aksum stayed Christian, because the Arabs considered Aksum to be one of the great civilisations of the world, on the same level as the Byzantine Empire and China, and so did not carry out a holy war against it. Problems arose with its connections to the rest of the Christian world, when Egypt was taken by the Muslims, as this cut off its link with the Mediterranean Sea and the Byzantine Empire. Some contact was kept with the Coptic church in Egypt, which sent a Patriarch to Aksum. Many of Aksum’s trading routes in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean were lost through the Islamic expansion, and at last it was forced to turn inwards and look for new markets within Africa. It found these in the northern Ethiopian highlands. Slowly the Aksumites began to move the centre of their empire away from Aksum, and by the seventh century AD, Aksum was abandoned. It was only used as a ritual place where new kings were crowned, to show that they traced their line to Aksum. The new capital was moved to Amhara in the south. By the tenth century a Christian kingdom had been established in the central northern highlands, which extended from present day Eritrea to Zeila in modern Somalia. A new dynasty, known as the Zagwe, developed.