Rise of Axum: A Timeline
The original thread can be found here, all discussion goes in that thread.
Because information on Africa in general, especially in the 4th century is so scarce, I was forced to string together bits of information found all throughout my search. There may be innacuracies in this timeline, but we will never know it. The deliberate POD in this is Ezana continuing up the Nile after the battle of Daro, but because of the quality of information I have to use for the background, there could be others I am not aware of. Also realize that I threw all of this together today and am only publishing now so that I will feel obligated to continue the timeline, as such there may be some grammatical errors; I will almost certainly revise large portions of it.
Part I: Reign of EzanaIn 321 AD, Ezana, son of Ella-Amida was crowned King of Axum. At the time, he was still a baby and his mother, Sofya, served as his regent. Outside of his family, one of Ezana’s largest influences growing up was his childhood tutor, Frumentius, who handled the administrative part of his mother’s regency and taught the young boy much about the day-to-day process of running a kingdom. Frumentius was also a Syrian Christian of the Monophysite branch who converted Ezana and his brothers at a young age, making Ezana the first Christian ruler of Axum. In 328 AD, Frumentius was ordained Bishop of Ethiopia by the Patriarch of Alexandria, who acted without the permission of the patriarch of Constantinople. Ezana would eventually make him the head of the Ethiopian Church.
On Ezana’s 18th birthday, he was by the traditions of Axum confirmed a man. With this, his mother stepped down from the regency and he began to pursue his own agenda of expanding and enriching the kingdom. He appointed his two brothers, Se’azana and Hadefa, Princes of Axum and gave them a position in his court as his two closest advisors. Se’azana was his chief military advisor, a fearsome man who would reinvigorate the regiments of Axum, making many of Ezana’s future campaigns possible. Hadefa was his chief advisor on trade. It was he who established some of the most lucrative trade routes with India and also he who advised Ezana to mint coins with the image of the Cross on them when Ezana converted to Christianity. They would help him with the administration of the Kingdom and support him in his conquests.
In the mean time, the Kingdom was becoming rich with trade. Goods from Rome flowed down the Red Sea to Adulis, Axum’s major port, and from there to India and vice versa. The King’s coiffeurs were filled with money from the trade, as were the pockets of the average man. Grains, ivory, incense, salt, iron, gold, slaves, and exotic animals were all axumite exports and were bought for high prices in faraway lands. Besides enriching the people of Axum, this also spread the Kingdom’s influence and raised its prestige with other nations. Even more importantly, the money would be used by Se’azana under Ezana’s discretion to fund a rejuvenation of the army.
In roughly 343 AD, Ezana began his campaigns. He raised a vast army, commanded by him and divided into five regiments, one to him and each of his brothers, the other two commanded by Ousanas and Eon, both veteran warriors. They first marched against Sarane of Afan to the south and the Agwezat to the east, two Axumite provinces in a state of rebellion. After defeating both tribes, Ezana resettled the more troublesome members of the tribes outside of his realm, effectively ending any resistance in the region. He then turned his attention northward. The semi-nomadic Bega had been raiding into the Ethiopian highlands for centuries. The army swiftly crushed the Begans. Ezana offered to allow them to remain on their ancestral land if the surviving warriors would join his army as auxiliaries. When the Begans learned that he was offering them a chance to get rich they readily agreed; for Ezana had set his sight on Axum’s historical trade rival, Meroe.
Meroe, or Kush as it was sometimes referred to, was a major trading
kingdom along the Nile River, just south of Egypt. When trade switched from the Nile to the Red Sea in around 100 AD, the kingdom began a slow decline. One of Ezana’s pagan ancestors had invaded it roughly a century before and conquered much of southern Meroe, namely the Alwa people. Sometime afterwards, the Noba, or Nubatae as they were known to the Romans, rebelled and took much of northern Meroe for themselves. Ezana was determined to finish what his ancestor had started, to conquer the entire region and secure Axum’s northern border.
The invasion began in the spring of 350 AD, Ezana was aged 30. His army still consisted of the five regiments, but had the added strength of the Began auxiliaries who were sworn to his service. The army made boats and traveled north along the Atbara River to where it joined with the Nile. Here the first major battle was fought against Kushite forces in the town of Daro. The Axumites emerged victorious, routing the enemy and taking many prisoners. The town was renowned for its fine masonry and to commend his victory, Ezana ordered a large throne statue erected near the Daro.
After resting briefly, the army continued north. They were met with little resistance from the natives; in fact, they seemed a welcome change to the old overlords. Ezana arrived at the gates of Meroe, capital of Kush the following month. His army surrounded the city and his ultimatum was sent to the King; surrender or die. This King of Meroe was old and feeble, and you knew perfectly well that he could not hold out against the Axumites and, more importantly, his people would revolt if he tried. To his shame and his people’s joy, he surrendered to Ezana, and with him all of Meroe became Axum’s territory.
Following his brother, Se’azana’s advice, Ezana executed the King and appointed a respected yet pliant elder as “King” of the city, on the condition that the city was to remain a part of Axum and would act as such. The warning proved unnecessary; the people of Meroe had heard of Axum’s immense wealth and were looking to profit in it. With everything under control, Ezana and his army trudged north; into Noba.
The Noba were a tribe who had once been ruled by the Kushites, but had rebelled many years ago. They were determined not to let themselves be ruled by a foreign power, but endless warring with both Meroe and the Romans in Egypt had depleted their supply of able-bodied men. This crucial fact allowed Ezana to win a quick victory. He stationed Eon’s regiment here to put down any rebellions that might arise and to handle the day-to-day affairs of the region, and then led his army back to Axum, laden with the spoils of war.
Ezana dismissed the Begans, whose loyalty had been firmly solidified by all of the loot they had won after the campaign and marched triumphantly into Axum in the year of 352 AD. His return was marred by the news that his mother Sofya had died. It took him a year to recover from the loss, after which he arranged his marriage with a Princess of Meroe, so as to secure Axum’s rule over the new land. They had two sons, Israel, who died the week after he was born, and Mehadeyis.
In 356, when Ezana was 36 years of age, he led an expeditionary force consisting of his sole personal regiment across the Red Sea to reinforce the Axumite garrison in Tihama and try to open talks with the Himyarites, whom Axum had been at war with on and off for over a century. Upon landing, they were encircled by a horde of Himyarites and attacked. The regiment was able to make a successful fighting retreat back to the ship, but Ezana died with an arrow in his throat.
The Kingdom of Axum at the death of Ezana
Part II: First Intermediate Period
When news reached Axum that Ezana had been killed, the people were devastated. In retaliation, the brothers declared war on Himyar, seeking to avenge the death of their beloved brother. Se’azana led his and Ousanas’s regiments across the Red Sea. They were able to secure the important city of Zafar, but after that initial success became bogged down in fighting.
This left Hadefa de facto in charge of the Empire. His first act was to raise another regiment to fight in Himyar. Secondly, he declared himself regent of King Mehadeyis and placed a heavy guard around the year-old boy and his mother. He then began to root out powerful men; warriors, merchants, and government officials that he suspected or knew of dissenting. Some he executed for plotting treason, others he befriended and invited into his inner circle. For Hadefa had lived his entire life playing third string, the little, unimportant brother. He had admired Ezana, and so put up with it, but he would not let Se’azana be declared regent and as such ruler of the empire.
To this end, he sent a message to his friend Eon in Noba; “Ezana has died fighting the Himyarites. Se’azana leads the war effort in Himyar, while I rule in Axum. Come back home and help me secure the young heir’s position in the Kingdom.” Eon responded saying that Noba’s were in rebellion and that he could not leave until it was put down, and that a permanent regiment in the region would be necessary in the future if Axum wished to hold onto the area.
Despite this loss, Hadefa went on building his circle of co-conspirators. Hadefa was put his cunning to use, only the men he trusted were allowed to know his plans, this kept Se’azana from finding out. Hadefa domination of the Axumite court kept things relatively calm after the initial shock. The new regiment, led by a trusted colleague of his and a renown warrior, Datawnas, was dispatched to Himyar to aid his brother.
News came from across the Red Sea that Se’azana, buoyed by the addition of Datawnas’s regiment, had left Ousanas to hold Zafar and besieged the Himyarite capital of Sanaa. The capital fell after months of encirclement with no aid from the other Himyar tribes. Se’azana successfully negotiated a peace which made the Kingdom of Himyar a vassal of Axum and recognized the sovereignty of Hadramaut, a tribal confederation who had chaffed under the yoke of Himyar and allied with Axum against their common foe.
Se’azana returned to Axum fully expecting a hero’s welcome. When he entered the palace, Hadefa rose from the throne and commemorated him, then famously declared, “You my brother are King of Himyar but I am Negusa Nagast, King of Kings, Emperor of Axum. This enraged Se’azana, who attacked his brother with his fists. Hadefa drew a knife from his robes and plunged it into his brother’s neck, this guaranteeing him the sole ruler of the Empire of Axum.
After this, Hadefa mysteriously returned to his chambers, and did not reappear for over a year. In his stead, the three regiment commanders, Ousanas, Datawnas, and Eon, who had successfully put down the rebellion in Noba, ruled the empire in what would later be known as simply the Triumvirate. It was during this year of 359 AD that Axum received its first communication from Emperor Constantius of Rome, addressed to Ezana and Se’azana. The Emperor demanded that Frumentius, who by then was 51 years old, step down from his position as Bishop of Ethiopia so that Theophilus, an Arian bishop, could take his place. The Triumvirate decided to ignore his message, somewhat straining relations with the seemingly distant Romans.
The year was a peaceful respite from the past decade of war. The Nobataen revolt has been put down, the Kushites were content with having a king, albeit a baby king, who was partially of their blood, the original Axumites were happy with the Indian Sea trade which was firmly in their hands now that they had no competition in Arabia, and the himyarites were still licking their wounds. The year saw Mehadeyis celebrate his fourth birthday and, at its very end, Hadefa emerged from his self-imposed recluse.
His appearance was shocking; clothing disheveled and drooping off of his emaciated frame, hair ripped, skin slashed and bleeding, eyes red with insanity. He ignored his servants and strode directly into his nephew’s nursery. There he witnessed Eon, the man who had once upon a time been his best friend, playing with the boy. “Kill him!” he shrieked. “Kill the boy before he steals my throne!” Eon got up and carried the mad king outside into the hallway, where he snapped his neck.
This event in Axum’s history prompted the Triumvirate to establish a formal method of succession. In the event that the Negusa Nagast, or King of Kings died, rule would temporarily be established by the leaders of his regiments. None of these commanders could aspire to the throne. Their job instead was to select the candidate best suited for the job in the line of succession. They also had the right to assume control of the Empire if it was obvious that the Negusa Nagast was not in his right mind, or otherwise unable or unwilling to rule, and a successor would be chosen using the same process.
As such, the Triumvirate chose Mehadeyis’s mother to be Queen of Axum, though they ruled in her stead. The next fourteen years were quiet years, years of rebuilding. All was quiet in the empire’s new provinces, trade flourished, and Axum swelled. But it wouldn’t be long until a new King ascended to the throne and old conflicts were made new.
The Kingdom of Axum at the death of Hadefa
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Part III: Reign of MehadeyisOn his eighteenth birthday, Mehadeyis, In the Year 373, ascended to the throne of Negusa Nagast. Of the Triumvirate, Ousanas and Eon had turned over their position as regiment commanders to younger men and assumed the duties of aging statesmen (they were each in their fifties). Datawnas still commanded his regiment, which was stationed in the province which would come to be known Yemen.
Eon, Mehadeyis’s most trusted advisor, suggested that the young king begin his reign by touring his vast realm. He agreed eagerly, and decided to begin his tour in Yemen, where Datawnas had asked him to come and listen to a proposal. He was accompanied across the Red Sea by Frumentius, the elderly Bishop of Ethiopia, who wished to see how the effort to convert the natives to Christianity was progressing.
He met Datawnas in the ancient city of Marib and accompanied him on a tour of the city. Datawnas’s proposal was that the ancient dam in the city be repaired and rebuilt so as to allow the countryside to once again be rich, irrigated land. As a side effect, the discontent of Himyarites may simmer down when they saw that Axum had their interests at heart and at the same time Axum would benefit from an increased spice trade. Mehadeyis readily agreed and construction began soon after.
While Mehadeyis was doing this, Frumentius and his cohort of Priests established a church in Marib with the intent of converting the natives and establishing churches in other neighboring cities. During their stay in Marib, the elders of Hadhramaut heard of this new religion and its young leader, and embarked on a journey to Marib to learn more. After a prolonged stay, the chief elder converted to Christianity, and many of his followers converted as a show of loyalty. Mehadeyis, who was gifted with a silver tongue, managed to convince the new converts that the best way to show their dedication to god was to pay “tidings” to the Ethiopian Church and the Axmite treasury. To the dismay of his compatriots, the chief elder agreed, bringing Hadhramaut firmly under the Axumite sphere of influence.
The King returned to Axum Proper, where a prominent trading family proposed that Axum annex the island of Socotra to give the traders a friendly port to stop at between Adulis and India. Mehadeyis agreed and dispatched Ousanas’s former regiment, now commanded by a man named Wazena, to secure the island. The islanders, who were found to be Christians, readily agreed to join the realm, though little changed for the people of Socotra.
In the fall of 374, Mehadeyis continued with his tour, riding the Atbara river north through Alodia into Meroe. He arrived in the ancient city a week before the death of its Governor, the man appointed by Ezana. So as to keep the Kushites from thinking that they had their own separate dynasty from Axum, Mehadeyis appointed the leader of a popular trading family who had demonstrated their loyalty to Axum.
With that sorted out, he continued north, into Noba. The Nubatae had been plotting behind Axum’s back for two decades now, and with the arrival of Mehadeyis’s regiment, they went into open revolt. The king quickly put it down, destroying the “army” that the rebels had thrown together. He expelled the most troublesome survivors to the western desert, and sent a message back to Axum, ordering Eon’s former regiment, now commanded by the young warrior Gadarat, to “travel to Noba with all haste, to maintain order and our border security”.
The Imperial Tour completed, Mehadeyis returned to Axum. With complete domination of both the Red Sea and the Nile trade, Axum continued to grow richer. With the completion of the dam in Marib, much of the agriculture was switched from Axum Proper to Yemen and the Nile Valley, preventing the over-farming of the soil.
In 377, when Mehadeyis was twenty-two years old, he arranged a marriage with the tribe of Azd, the dominant power in eastern Arabia who controlled the city of Mecca. He and his wife had many children, four of which were boys; Zoskales, Ouazebas, and the twins Endubis and Aphilas. In 383, Frumentius died in his sleep, thus ending the first chapter in the history of the Ethiopian Church.
The following year, the people of Hadhramaut imprisoned their Christian King and declared that they would pay “tithes” to no man. Datawnas was dispatched with his regiment to put down the rebels. After a short campaign, the rebels released their King. As they had done in Noba, the more rebellious tribes of Hadhramaut were resettled farther to the east, in Oman. The King was forced to swear homage to Mehadeyis and his descendants and the territory officially became a vassal of the Empire of Axum.
In 386, the ruler of Mecca, of the tribe of Azd, died. That same year, the Quraysh tribe began to gather allies in an open attempt to take Mecca. With no leadership, and a population outnumbered by the enemy, the people of Azd turned to Mehadeyis, husband of their princess, for protection. But Mehadeyis was still shrewd at age thirty-one, and demanded that in exchange for destroying their rivals, the people of Azd would become full subjects of Axum. The people acquiesced, and the regiments were sent in.
Mehadeyis arrived just in time to stop the Quraysh from taking Mecca, forcing them back into the desert. The Quraysh regrouped and tried again, only to be smashed at the battle of Jeddah. Their leader, Qusai ibn Kilab, was dragged back to Mecca in chains, where the people of Azd excuted him; their last act as a sovereign state.
The king stayed in Mecca for another year, to make sure that his rule of the area was solid. A month before he planned to return to Axum, a wave of smallpox spread the city. He quarantined everyone inside, before falling ill himself. In 389, Mehadeyis, Negusa Nagast of Axum, conquerer of Mecca, was the last man in that city to die of Smallpox.
The Empire of Axum at the death of Mehadeyis
The World at the death of Mehadeyis
Part IV: Second Intermediate Period
At the time of Mehadeyis’s death, his oldest son, Zoskales, was only eleven years old, necessitating another rule of the triumvirate. By 389, Ousanas and Eon were old men who wanted nothing to do with affairs of state. That left Datawnas and the younger regiment commanders, Wazeba and Gadarat to stay the course of the Empire for seven years.
It quickly became apparent that this would not be as stable a triumvirate as the last one. Gadarat was for all intents and purposes a war-monger, demanding that Axum south to the Blue Nile and all across the Arabian coast of the Red Sea to Nabataea. To placate him, Datawnas and Wazeba allowed Gadarat to lead an expedition in the Hijaz (between Yemen and Mecca). The campaign proved a mixed success. The Hijaz fell firmly under Axum’s control, but Gadarat was severely injured, taking a spear in his stomach. His old regiment promoted Nezool, a more cool-headed, veteran warrior to the command, and thus to the triumvirate.
After the death of Mehadeyis, a charismatic leader came to power in Bega. He preached that they should not be vassals, beholden to Axum, but instead free to do what they like. In 393, he began to organize the warriors for a mass raid on Roman Egypt. Back in Axum, the triumvirate received word that the Begans were preparing for a revolt and acted accordingly, dispatching three regiments under the joint command of Wazeba and Nezool.
In the face of such overwhelming force, the resistance collapsed immediately. The leader was executed and as punishment, Bega was annexed as a province. The next three years were relatively uneventful, with Axum’s continued profit from trade and tribute.
In 396, Zoskales legally became a man, thus fit to rule the empire. But there was a problem. Zoskales was mentally retarded. The triumvirate declared him unfit to rule, and Zoskales was to Mecca, to keep him away from any scheming members of the court and, hopefully, to catch smallpox. This put Ouazebas next in line for the succession.
During this period, the Roman Empire began to fall apart, with the Western half constantly besieged by barbarian hordes and the east locked in a deadly struggle against the Sassanid Persians. With the death of Shapur II, the Sassanid’s agreed to a peace, allowing the east to recover. Theodosius, the last emperor to rule both halves of Rome, died in 395, after which the empire became permanently divided. In the west, the emperor was mearly a figure head, controlled by the wishes of his Germanic army, while in the east, Emperor Arcadius was dominated by his advisor and wife.
The world at large continued to ignore Axum; for all intents and purposes, they were simply “that ambiguous kingdom on the Red Sea”. But with the coronation of Ouazebas, that perception would begin to change.
Empire of Axum at the Coronation of Ouazebas
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Part V: The Roman War
In 399, Ouazebas was crowned Negusa Nagast, ruler of Axum. His realm stretched from the Nile to Socotra and from Nubia to the Ethiopian highlands; a true empire. But to the rest of the world, Axum was nothing but a barbarian kingdom on the edge of civilization. He made it his first priority to fix this. After a relatively uneventful two-year tour of the Empire, Ouazebas tasked his younger twin brothers to visit Persia and Rome and establish diplomatic relations.
Endubis was sent to Constantinople, where he met Emperor Arcadius and his domineering wife Aelia Eudoxia. But the real power behind the throne was Arcadius’s advisor, Eutropius. Eutropius had just acceded to the advisorship after engineering the death of Arcadiu’s previous advisor, Rufinus. Eutropius was hated for his greed and cruelty, and had made enemies of both Empress Aelia and Gainas, leader of the gothic mercenaries.
Endubis saw what a precarious position the Byzantine throne was in, and decided to take action. He wheedled his way into Arcadius’s confidence as the Emperor’s Confessor, an ironic position as the devout Endubis followed a version of Christianity that was considered by the Imperial Church heretical. He also befriended the empress and Gainas, and together the three of them overthrew Eutropius. Endubis’s goal in this was to install himself as Arcadius’s advisor, and thus control the Byzantine Empire behind the shadows for Axum.
In 403, Arcadius was poisoned to death. Gainus blamed Endubis and demanded he be executed for assassinating the Emperor. Endubis pleaded his innocence to Aelia, but was dismissed from the royal court and sentenced to death. In 404, Endubis was executed for high treason, thus washing the hands of the real assassins.
In 402, Aphilas arrived in Ctesiphon to greet Yazdegerd, a young, energetic king who was in full control of his court and country. The two struck an instant friendship through which learned tidbits of important information. The new ruler was very tolerant, discontinuing the persecution of Christians which had gone on under his predecessors. The second, even more important thing was that the Yazdegerd dreamed to be as great a leader has his Great-Grandfather, Shapur II, and saw his first priority as regaining influence from Rome in Armenia.
In 404, Aphilas learned that his twin had been executed in Constantinople and that Ouazebas was preparing for a massive invasion of Egypt. He quickly negotiated an alliance with Yazdegerd who was eager to test himself and his nation in war.
Back in Axum, Ouazebas took his time planning, making sure that his revenge would incapacitate the northern beast. Multiple axumite regiments were raised up along with Began cavalry, and Hadhramaut vassal warriors.
Gainas heard of Ouazebas’s massive preperations and left to Egypt with most of the army. With his absence in Constantinople, John Chrysostom attempted to seize control, claiming that Aelia had infact poisoned her own husband and then handed control of the empire over to gothic barbarians (all of which was true). He managed to imprison her and, appointed his friend Anthemius, the Praetorian Prefect, to Regent Emperor. When Gainas heard of this, he rushed back to Constantinople, leaving only a small guard on the Egyptian border.
He reached Constantinople in early 405 and demanded that Aelia be released and John and Anthemius be executed for high treason. The exact sequence of events is unknown, but soon thereafter fighting broke out between his loyal gothic mercenaries and the units raised in Byzantium. He troops one the fight, but their strength was severely depleted. Gainas then executed all of those he thought might be political opponents of his. The following week, the Sassanids invaded.
Gainas knew that he could not face the massive Persian forces, but even more dangerously, the citizens of Constantinople resented his gothic troops. Less than a month after the Sassanid invasion, the remainder of his army was massacred in the streets of Constantinople and he and his lover Aelia were executed.
Upon hearing of Gainas’s death and the vulnerability of Constantinople, Tribigild, the leader of the Ostrogoth colony in Phyrgia (central Anatolia) rebelled again and marched on Constantinople. Fearing the populance within, he lay siege to the city, demanding that Phyrgia be made autonomous from Rome.
Persia had forced Armenia back into Vassalage and invaded roman Syria. He had made inroads, before being stopped by a young General named Anastasius. When Anastasius heard of the events in Constantinople, he had no choice but to withdraw from Syria to restore order in the capital, allowing Yazdegerd I to take the entire province.
In this same month, Ouazebas launched his invasion. He ferried troops up the Nile into Egypt, where the roman detachments were easily defeated. By the end of the month, all of the historical Upper Egypt had fallen to Axum.
While Axum and Persia absorbed their new territories and prepared for more conquests, Anastasius rushed back to Constantinople, where he quickly defeated Tribigild and assume control of the empire. He then raised more legions while sending out envoys to Ouazebas and Yazdegerd begging for peace. Yazdegerd was content with his new holding which gave him a port on the Mediterranean and accepted, rerouting some of his troops to subjugate Armenia while Rome was still reeling. Ouazebas, still fired by vengeance would not so easily be persuaded, and demanded that Lower Egypt and the Levant be created into the independent state of Egypt, a protectorate of Axum.
Anastasius expectedly disagreed, and sailed south to meet Ouazebas in battle. Their armies clashed outside the ruins of the ancient city of Akhetaten. The romans were severely outnumbered by the Axumite army and consisted mostly of armored cataphracts. Seeing the potential for disaster, Ouazebas encamped his army inside of the city ruins. The king would send single regiments towards the Roman camp in an attempt to lure them back into battle in the ruins, a strategy which ultimately proved successful.
Anastasius’s subordinate officers proved to be headstrong, and on the third day of the battle disobeyed his orders, leading the roman army in a mad chase after the Axumite infantry regiment. In the ruins, the heavy cavalry lost their advantage and were surrounded and slaughtered by axumite warriors armed with spears. Anastasius himself was captured while attempting to salvage his army.
The war ended in fall of 405, and was a crushing defeat for Rome; Axum gained Upper Egypt, Persia gained Syria and regained influence in Armenia, and the Kingdom of Egypt was made independent under the protection of Axum. Anastasius returned to Constantinople bitter. He quickly installed himself as Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, opening up another wound; the western Empire.
Map of the World at the end of the Roman War in 405 AD
Part VI: 405-450
Immediately after the Roman war, Yazdegerd took his army east to deal with the Hua and White Hun tribes that threatened his northeastern border. Aphilas left his entourage to return to Axum, where his brother appointed him to King of Egypt.
In India, the Gupta Empire expanded to cover the entire northern subcontinent and the Kingdom of Vakatas expanded to cover all of central India. Emperor Ouazebas sent an envoy to establish relations with the new kingdoms. In the meantime, axumite traders began to shift their focus to southern India. Trade outposts were also established further down the African coast, which would become important later in Axum’s history.
In Europe, Germanic tribes were being driven west by the presence of the Hun Empire. Many of these tribes began to encroach on Western Rome. Honorius’s top advisor and general, Stilicho managed to outmaneuver the court in Ravenna for a time, smashing the Ostrogoths led by Alaric in Illyria but in the end was not able to stop the flood of refugees.
Over the next fifty years, western Rome would continue to lose land to barbarian tribes. The Vandals established a kingdom in Southern and Western Gaul, the Visigoths established a Kingdom in northern Africa, the Visigoths stayed in Northern Illyria, and the Suebi rose up in Hispania, taking the western portion of Iberia. All of Britain was abandoned to Germanic tribes. This was also a time of civilization of Saharan tribes. The Moors established a kingdom in North Western Africa, the Austoriani to their east, and the Laguantan people bordering Egypt to the west.
In the Eastern Roman Empire, Anastasius proved a strong ruler, quickly subjugating the imperial court in Constantinople. Despite this, the eastern empire had been dealt a serious blow, robbed of their grain-producing regions and signifigantly reduced in manpower and gold as barbarian hordes threatened their borders and rose within.
This was also the time of the Attila the Hun, who established a loose empire across the north Eastern Europe. It was his hordes that forced all of the Germanic tribes into Rome, though the Huns caused problems of their own. In 444, they faced Anastasius in battle outside of Constantinople. The battle was a pyrrhic victory for the Romans, who forced the Huns to retreat, but destroyed what was left of the eastern empire’s standing army. Two years later, they were forced to pay massive tribute.
In Axum, King Ouazebas died of natural causes when he was fifty-seven in 438. He died childless, unaible to produce children, allowing his brother Aphilas to ascend to the crown of the Negusa Nagast. He unified the crowns of Axum and Egypt, firmly establishing the Empire’s role on the world stage. He later ordered an expedition up the Red Sea and into Arabia, conquering the Kingdom of Nabataea and forcing the Ghassanids into vassalage.
Aphilas married and had one male child; Loel, who was thirty-seven at the time of his father’s death in 450. This would be the first time since before Ezana that a triumvirate rule would not be necessary after the death of a previous Emperor.
Map of the World at the death of Aphilas; 450 AD
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Part VII: Reign of Loel
Loel inherited an empire called “Axum”, but an empire whose citizens were mostly Egyptians, or Nubians. The empire had been held together by the riches of continually conquest, but those would not last. He decided that a first step towards unity would be engineered through the church. He struck an agreement with the heads of the Ethiopian and Egyptian churches to coalesce them into a unified “Coptic Church”, which would have dual head quarters in Axum and Alexandria.
His next act would be a major update to the empire’s transportation. His goal was to link the Roman roads of Egypt and the Levant with the major southern cities such as Meroe, Axum, and Adulis. This plan was not as immediately successful, requiring large amounts of money and labor. The project did, however, placate many of the wealthy citizens in Egypt, who no longer viewed Axum as a barbarian kingdom, albeit a powerful one.
This period was notable for a major climate shift. Drought racked the southern portions of the empire, forcing many farmers to either move north to the Nile to continue farming or find another occupation; usually either in the cities or at one of the road construction sites. This had many important consequences. The large flow of northward immigration spread native axumites amongst the conquered population, further integrating the conquered kingdoms.
The roads had initially been a project driven by slave labor and overseen by a few skilled architects and slave drivers. When Loel learned of the massive unemployment, he decided to use the roads to his advantage. He ordered that the project managers hire the former farmers. They were paid small wages, but enough to get by when they would have otherwise starved. This raised Loel’s popularity immensely.
It also, at least temporarily, stopped the practice of slavery, which the Negusa Nagast’s decrees made unprofitable. Some of the newly freed slaves went back to their homeland to try and resume their lives where they left off, while most went to the cities to start anew. They, along with the former farmers, helped establish a middle class which, formerly, had only existed in the form of sea merchants.
While Axum flourished, Rome collapsed. The Visigoths in North Africa gained control of the Western Mediterranean, taking Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and the Balearic Islands. The Suebi in Iberia took Cantabria and Vascones before launching a campaign that forced the Roman army to cede the province so as to reinforce their northern border.
The beginning of Loel’s reign was also marked by the collapse of the Hun Empire in North Eastern Europe, creating a power vacuum on the continent. The tribes who had lived squeezed between the Huns and the Romans began to assert themselves, notably the Alamannia and Burgundy who created kingdoms north of the Alps, and the Vandals and Franks, who invaded Gaul.
Western Rome continued to disintegrate under the strain of multiple barbarian invasions, the collapsing economy and changing social structure that forced many roman citizens to become proto-serfs. It was at this time that Ricimer emerged as the most powerful figure in the west. Ricimer was a Roman general, born of a Germanic family. His heritage left him unable to declare himself Augustus but his hunger for power demanded that he rule Rome. So in 459, Ricimer assassinated Emperor Majorian dissolved the Imperial court in Ravenna; declaring himself Dux, or Governor.
Officially that subordinated him to the Emperor in Constantinople, but there was no emperor. Anthemius had died the previous year of natural causes, and multiple courtiers and general were locked in a deadly struggle to decide the next emperor. Ricimer used the situation to his advantage, and named himself king of Rome. Modern historians argue that Western Rome fell with the assassination of Majorian and call its successor state “Ricimer’s Kingdom”. Ricimer ruled with an iron fist, killing all of his political allies and using his loyal army put down rebellions across his kingdom, which by that point consisted only of Italy and northern Illyria.
There was one province of Western Rome still unconquered that refused to recognize Ricimer’s kingdom. That province was Soissons. Led by Aegidius, Soissons declared itself the legitimate successor to Rome. Aegidius allied himself with Childeric’s Salian Franks. When Childeric was banished, Aegidius was crowned king of the Franks, and merged the land of the Salians with his own Roman Empire.
A steady stream of roman refugees from Britain bolstered Soissons, allowing Aegidius to stop the advancing Vandals who had carved their own empire out of southern Gaul. Another boon for Soissons was the imperial court in Constantinople. Upon Anthemius’s death, his wife, Lupicina, and son, Justin, had found themselves a pawn in courtly maneuvers. Fearing for her son’s life, Lupicina fled the capital, accompanied only by a trusted advisor and two bodyguards. She arrived in Ravenna only a month before Majorian’s assassination. Fearing that Ricimer would use her son as a pawn to reunite the Empire, Lupicina fled again, this time north into Soissons.
Aegidius declared the boy emperor of the entire empire, himself as Justin’s regent. He then allied himself with Burgundy and Alamanni, who both were enemies of Ricimer’s kingdom and of the Vandals. Ricimer responded by leading an army of the Alps, which was smashed by a combined force led by Aegidius in 460. Ricimer returned to Ravenna, where he would spend the next thirteen years administering his kingdom until his death in 463.
In the previous 45 years, Yazdegerd I had campaigned in eastern Persian against the White Huns. This campaign had proven futile, as the White Huns doubled in size, though Persia itself lost little territory. When Yazdegerd returned west, he annexed Armenia and vassalized the Lakhmids and Aran. In 438, Yazdegerd died and was succeeded by his son Bahram V. Bahram V was a very average ruler, who neither gained nor lost anything significant in his reign.
In India, the Gupta Empire was forced to halt their expansion, positioning all of their troops on their northern border in anticipation of a White Hun invasion. This allowed the Vakatakas to expand unmolested, taking the southwestern Indian kingdoms of Abhira and Rastrakutas and the six major trading kingdoms in the east.
In 464, Emperor Loel died in a boating accident in the Red Sea on his 51st birthday. His son Ezana, who was named in honor of the first Christian King, was crowned Negusa Nagast.
Map of the World at the death of Loel; 464 AD
Part VIII: 464-467 Europe
Since the death of Anthemius, Byzantium had been ruled by a series of weak, short-lived empires. In 464, Leo, a General in the Roman army, was able to seize power. He moved quickly, eliminating his enemies and building up support in the military. Once he secured his position as Emperor, he made it his personal crusade to retake the Western Roman Empire. His first target was the Italian Peninsula, which was a scene of chaos.
Since the death of Ricimer in 463, the Italian Peninsula had had no clear ruler. Ricimer had not married and died childless. One of his generals, Aridius, declared himself Ricimer’s successor, however he only ruled a fraction of the former kingdom. Gondioc, king of Burgundy had invaded form the west to prop up Gundobad, his son and nephew of Ricimer. In 464, the armies of Gondioc and Aridius met, resulting in a crushing victory for Burgundy. Aridius was captured and marched into Rome at the head of the army where he was executed. Burgundy now extended as far south as Rome.
Ostrogoths also invaded from the east and conquered Ricimer’s entire Kingdom not in Italy itself. The Alamannia, a loose tribal confederation, feared that the Ostrogoths would continue their expansion and sought the protection of Soissons, becoming in practice a vassal of the Western Roman Empire’s legitimate successor state.
Seizing the opportunity, the Visigoths invaded the southern Peninsula of Italy. Heeding a letter from Emperor Leo, they went no farther north and instead dug in their army, prepared to demand payment in exchange for its return to Rome.
Emperor Leo launched his invasion in the spring of 465. The Roman army landed in eastern Italy and marched north by west. The people in the countryside aided his march, glad to see that Rome had not forsaken them. Leo’s army met Gondioc south of Rome, where the Burgundians were routed by the disciplined Roman troops. Realizing that staying would be futile, Gondioc regrouped his forces and led them north across the Rubicon where they were entrenched. He called on his oldest son and his trusted chieftains to raise more men who managed to reinforce his position before Leo arrived.
The Burgundians managed to hold off the first Roman foray across the river and before another one could be launched, Leo was called back to Constantinople to stop a plot by a group of nobles to seize the throne. The subordinate he left in charge of the army, rather than pressing ahead, struck a deal with Gondioc which gave Burgundy all of the land north of the Rubicon. When he found out, Emperor Leo was furious, but there was little he could do.
In 466, after the conspiracy against Emperor Leo had been crushed, the Visigoths sent a letter offering to return their territory in the Italian Peninsula for an outrageous sum of money. The King of the Visigoths, Thorismund, also insinuated that he and Emperor Leo were equals and that he the Byzantines were fortunate not to pay tribute to him. Enraged, Leo gathered another army and merged it with the veteran elements of the one now garrisoned in Rome before marching south. After a pitched battle, the Visigoths were forced to retreat to Sicily.
Leo followed, landing in on the eastern tip of the island and pushing the Visigoths back. At the same time, the two powers fought at sea. The Roman Navy suffered numerous defeats, allowing Thorismund to be continuously reinforced. Despite all of this, Leo proved himself an apt General, winning numerous battles in Sicily. When his army captured Thorismund, a peace was signed forcing the Visigoths to cede their territories in Italy and Sicily to Rome. Emperor Leo returned to Constantinople triumphantly, only to be assassinated a month later by the same conspirators he thought he had broken up the year prior.
The conspirators turned out to be a group of nobles. They appointed Basiliscus, a minor court official, as their puppet emperor. The Visigoths and Burgundy took this as a sign of weakness, retaking the land that they had held before Leo’s campaigns. Emperor Basiliscus gave up the land without a fight and even acceded to the Visigoth’s demands of tribute.
Since becoming the regent of Justin, the boy emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Aegidius renamed the Domain of Soissons the Roman Empire, calling the eastern Romans Byzantines. His overall ambition was to retake Rome, but before that he would have to deal with the Vandals. The Vandals had been raiding across Loire River for years. Aegidius built up his strength and in 465 he retaliated, marching into Vandal territory at the head of an army of Romano-Gallic soldiers, augmented by Roman refugees from Britain and hunnish auxiliaries. Unknown to him, the Vandals had all of their military might in the south fighting the Suebi. Aegidius was able to march into the capital and declare the king part of the new Roman Empire. When the king of the Vandals heard this, he rushed back to the capital only to be defeated in a pitched battle.
The Roman Empire nearly doubled in size; however it was not a unified entity. This issue became dire when Aegidius died in 466 of the plague. In Soissons, his son Syagrius was declared regent, while the Salian Franks backed Childeric who had returned from his banishment. The Vandals went into a state of rebellion, led by Huneric, son of the late king.
Syagrius was able to summon a large force augmented by numerous mercenaries, while his enemies had to rely on homegrown support. He decided to first deal with the Franks, who, led by Childeric, had gathered an army and marched west towards Soissons. The army was badly supplied and ill-trained, allowing Syagrius to crush them at the battle on the Seine. Childeric and his son Clovis were both killed in the route and with the slaughter of their men; the Salian Franks lost their will to fight.
Syragrius then turned his attention south. Huneric had not been able to amass a large army because certain rival chieftains of his had decided to lead their own rebellions, which generally amounted to calling their followers together in a village and declaring “independence”. Syragrius was able to bribe many of these chieftains onto his side, undercutting the rebellion. In 467, Huneric was killed by another Vandal chieftain in close combat, thus ending the Empire’s succession crisis.
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