New Chronology of the Kingdom of Aksum

I've been working on a revised chronology for the Kingdom of Aksum for the last few years, and I had something of a breakthrough looking at the original sources.

Aksum as a kingdom was founded around 200 CE, and sources such as the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea does not mention Aksum, instead the only kingdom described is Adulis where the king Zoscales rules from in around 100 CE.

The Adulis state is the foundation of the Aksumite empire as evidenced from two different sources. The first is the Adulis monument recorded into Christian Topography by Cosmas Indicopleustes who copied it (the Greek version anyways, it was trilingual). It states that the ruler of Adulis conquered many tribes in the interior of Ethiopia and also in Yemen, before returning to Adulis to erect the monument to his victory. This conqueror does not mention his own name in the monument but corresponding inscriptions in Arabia mention that this ruler is Gadurah, or Za Gedur.

A variation of this, Zagdur, Agdur, Gedur or something similar, is near the top of every Ethiopian king list, however it is ambiguous and doubtful that he is a king of Aksum, despite being the founder of the empire, as Aksum apparently did not yet exist and would be founded by one of his successors, who founded it as a new capital in the approximate centre of the new empire.

Gedur's successor appears to be Azebah or in the most ancient king lists "Zazebas Besedo" (Za Azeba bisi Do) who corresponds to "Aksumawi" (Father of Aksum) and the foundation of Aksum, though it is unclear whether he actually moved his capital to Aksum and may not have considering his successor Za Taunasya (ZTWNS in epigraphic, Zakawasya or Tahawasya in the king lists) is "of Aksum" and is the Malik Aksum of the ancient lists. This is also the "Ebna Hakim" of the king lists, the "son of the wise".

With the move to Aksum, the following kings of Aksum minted their own coins (in Greek) and so are known better by the Greek transliteration of their names:

Endubis is Za Hendedyu.
Aphilas is Za Afilya
Ouazebas or WZB is Za Wazba
Ousanas is Za Awsena

And finally there is Aizana. Aizana is the first incorrectly conflated ruler in the old king lists and legends, who is conflated with Ela Abreha. The monuments and inscriptions of Aksumite kings always use their throne name or in combination with their personal name, while their coins use their personal name. On actual inscriptions from Ezana the throne name Ela Abreha is never used, and indeed the use of throne names appears to be a post-Ezana innovation.

In the 8th year of Ezana's rule he converted to Christianity and his coins stop having the crescent moon and dot of the god Almaqah and instead have a cross. The king lists, seeking to stretch into deep antiquity, list Ezana. However as Ezana is very well known, this king is changed to be Bazen. This slight of hand is actually pretty easy, Bazana is written ባዛና while Ezana is written ዔዛና notice how they're actually written quite similarly. Correctly there is an ayn at the beginning of his name, it should be pronounced Ceezaanaa. The 8th year conversion is rewritten to be the birth of christ, as the chronicles are vague (the Gadla Awagawi for instance simply says in the 8th year of Bazen "christ arrived").

This massively redates the early kings of Aksum forward about 333 years. Year 1 of Bazen is not 8 BCE but rather 325 CE. The ancient Aksum king lists repeat themselves as lists are merged and repeated.

According to the Gadla Aragawi, there are 244 years and 19 kings between Bazen and Abreha and Azbeha. This historically was always discarded for being incorrect, as clearly Aksum did not convert to Christianity in 236 CE, however this was based on incorrect assumptions about Bazen, and if considered from the reign of Ezana, then the end of Ela Abreha and Ela Azbeha is in 569 or the Year of the Elephant. In the Year of the Elephant, Abreha died after attacking the Quraysh tribe for desecrating a church.

The identity of Abreha has been very vague and not well known, and chronicles have theorized various origins, however the inscriptions by Abreha state that he was a king's son. Kaleb has long been credited with invading Yemen in response to the massacre of the martyrs of Najran by Dhu Nuways, however that's not what the primary sources say. There is a Byzantine legate Nonnosus who travelled to Aksum in this period and HIS account states that it was not Kaleb at all who invaded Yemen but rather an earlier ruler, Ela Amida. It was later histories that changed this to Kaleb. Ela Amida according to the inscriptions of Kaleb is Kaleb's grandfather. Kaleb of course is Ela Atzbeha. It appears that after Ela Amida invaded Yemen, Tazena ruled briefly before dying and two brothers decided to administer the kingdoms of Yemen and Aksum, with Ela Azbeha (Kaleb) ruling in Aksum and his brother Ela Abreha ruling in Yemen. Ela Abreha ended up extending his influence over much of Arabia during his reign, until dying in 569. The Persian Sassanid Empire invaded shortly thereafter and annexed Yemen in 575.

Aksum continued on as before and the Gadla Aragawi states that there were another 9 rulers and 124 years until Gabra Masqal, and the total number of years between Bazen (Ezana) and Gabra Masqal is 368 years. This would place the reign of Gabra Masqal beginning in 693 when he overthrew his brother Israel, who had converted to Judaism. This triggered a civil war that lasted many years and split the Aksumite kingdom into several pieces. Due to state collapse, by 714 the coast and Dahlak islands were ruled by pirates who raided Jeddah, triggering an invasion by the Caliphate and annexation of the coast and Dahlak Islands who built a fort at Arkiko.

Aksum declined and the Christian half successor state to Aksum under Del Naod moved the capital south to Lake Hayq and founded Debre Istafanos monastary. This is the foundation of the Amhara state and "Beta Amhara" which opposed the descendants of Israel ruling to the west of them at Gondar the "Beta Israel". The younger son of Del Naod was given land in Shewa and a this branch would go on to overthrow the state in 1270 under Yekuno Amlak, the older branch continued in Lake Hayq however.

The struggle with Beta Israel would wax and wane until around 940 when the queen of the Beta Israel named Aster decisively defeated the Amhara and captured Aksum, crowning herself Yodit, Empress of Aksum. She ruled for over 40 years, dying in 985. After she died her successors were defeated and pushed out of Aksum, allowing the Amhara claimant Anbasa Wedem to take the throne. The Amhara kings would continue ruling for 150 years until the main branch died out and the Zagwe came to the throne by marriage. The Zagwe dynasty ruled for 133 years until the coup d'etat of Yekuno Amlak in 1268. Victorious in 1270, Yekuno Amlak compensated the heirs of the murdered Zagwe kings with the region of Waag to rule as Waag Shum. Yekuno Amlak's grandson Amde Seyon would then conquer all the kings and tribes of the highland Horn of Africa and lay the foundations of modern Ethiopia.
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