The Kingdom of Aksum was a trading empire centered in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia. It existed from approximately 100–940 AD, growing from the Iron Age proto-Aksumite period c. fourth century BC to achieve prominence by the first century AD.
According to the Book of Aksum, Aksum’s first capital, Mazaber, was built by Itiyopis, son of Cush. The capital was later moved to Axum in northern Ethiopia. The Kingdom used the name “Ethiopia” as early as the fourth century.
The Empire of Aksum at its height at times extended across most of present Day Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Sudan, Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The capital city of the empire was Aksum, now in northern Ethiopia. Today a smaller community, the city of Aksum was once a bustling metropolis, cultural and economic center. Two hills and two streams lie on the east and west expanses of the city; perhaps providing the initial impetus for settling this area. Along the hills and plain outside the city, the Aksumites had cemeteries with elaborate grave stones called stelee or obelisks. Other important cities included Yeha, Hawulti-Melazo, Matara, Adulis, and Qohaito, the last three of which are now in Eritrea. By the reign of Endubis in the late third century, it had begun minting its own currency and was named by Mani as one of the four great powers of his time along with the Sasanian Empire, Roman Empire, and “Three Kingdoms” China. The Aksumites adopted Christianity as its state religion in 325 or 328 under King Ezana, and was the first state ever to use the image of the cross on its coins.
Around 330 AD, Ezana of Axum led his army into the Kingdom of Meroë, conquering and sacking the town itself. A large stone monument was left there, and the conquest is also related on Ezana Stone.Around 520, King Kaleb sent an expedition to Yemen against the Jewish Himyarite king Dhu Nuwas, who was persecuting the Christian community there. For nearly half a century south Arabia would become an Ethiopian protectorate under Abraha and his son Masr
Dhu Nuwas was deposed and killed and Kaleb appointed a Christian Himyarite, Esimiphaios (“Sumuafa Ashawa”), as his viceroy. However, around 525 this viceroy was deposed by the Aksumite general Abraha with support of Ethiopians who had settled in Yemen, and withheld tribute to Kaleb. When Kaleb sent another expedition against Abraha this force defected, killing their commander, and joining Abraha. Another expedition sent against them was defeated, leaving Yemen under Abraha’s rule, although payment of a tribute resumed, where he continued to promote the Christian faith until his death.