Ancient Ethiopia and Arabia

Hi all,

Wondering if anyone has information about the types of troops these two colonies had in the 100-500 AD era. Im simply looking for the the weaponry they had. Info doesnt have to be massive amounts. Im good with simply "bow/arrow" or "spear". :p




Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
Colonies? Northern Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia were part of the Kingdom of Aksum, a very powerful kingdom during the period you are asking about.

Under Ezana (fl 320–360), Aksum became the first major empire to convert to Christianity, and was named by Mani (216–276) as one of the four great powers of his time along with Persia, Rome, and China
I haven't found anything about their armies, only that they were great traders.

[ame=]Kingdom of Aksum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]
Just did a quick google search on that kingdom. Found this:

[FONT=Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif]Weapons[/FONT]
[FONT=Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif]Tomb finds at Aksum have revealed iron weapons, including tanged spear-heads. Iron knives or poniards, probably originally with bone or wood handles, were also found, and, from Matara (Anfray and Annequin 1965: pl. LXIV, 1), came a handle of bronze decorated on each side with bosses formed by the heads of large nails.
[FONT=Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif]Horses[/FONT]
[FONT=Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif]Although there is as yet no direct evidence, one would suppose that horses were known and used in warfare; some of the regiments could perhaps have been cavalry forces. That horses were valued possessions in at least one of the lands under Aksumite hegemony is shown by the burial of horses, in elaborate silver and jewelled harness, at the tombs of the `X-Group' monarchs at Ballana (Kirwan 1973).[/FONT][FONT=Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif]
[FONT=Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif]Ships
[/FONT][FONT=Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif]There are numerous occasions when ships and shipping are mentioned in Aksumite contexts. The various expeditions and trading ventures overseas would suggest that Aksum was mistress of a fleet of some kind. Though there is no really clear statement to that effect in the local sources, a fleet is mentioned in the [/FONT][FONT=Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif]Monumentum Adulitanum[/FONT][FONT=Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif] inscription, and other inscriptions also refer to expeditions by land and sea.

Since the information is going to be used in a video game, I will just create some sort of weapons for them. Between those two articles i should be able to throw something together.

Nov 2010
I know Axumites and Ethiopians in general had a reputation as expert archers.
A post I made last year could be relevant to the topic ...

There were several Christian enclaves south of Egypt beginning about the time Christianity came to Alexandria. A lot of people don't realize the role Ethiopia (Nubia) played in spreading Christianity. Take Theodor Mommsen's famous quote:
"It was through Africa that Christianity became the religion of the world. Tertullian and Cyprian were from Carthage, Arnobius from Sicca Veneria, Lactantius, and probably in like manner Minucius Felix, in spite of their Latin names, were natives of Africa, and not less so Augustine. In Africa the Church found its most zealous confessors of the faith and its most gifted defenders."

No mention of Christian Ethiopia - not Alwa, Dongola or Axum. Axum has to be the most neglected empire of the classical "Orient." Axum was the first major kingdom to recognize Christianity as the official religion. King Ezana embraced Christianity even before the emperor of Rome. Constantine ordered in a decree dating to 336 CE that all Axumites (or subjects of the king of Axum) within his empire be treated as equal to Roman citizens. There were once several holy sites in northern Ethiopia where Christians from all over the eastern Mediterranean visited regularly (in fact they still believe the Ark of the Covenant is in Axum).

Axum and Rome exchanged embassies and were quite close for kingdoms so distant from each other. Constantine is credited with converting the Himyarites to Christianity. Though little is said of the fact he sent an Ethiopian (Axumite) missionary. Axum had annexed Yemen but later lost control to the Jewish king. This same Himyarite king then decided to slaughter some 20,000 Christians, prompting Byzantine Emperor Justin I to request then King of Axum, Kaleb, reconquer Yemen - which he did. But Christianity would never again have a strong presence on the Arabian peninsula.

Axum eventually lost control of Yemen. Their naval and trading power diminished as the Persians threw their weight around the region. There was still quite the religious convergence in northern Ethiopia. When it came to Christian Nubia the Mohammedan's posture towards non-believers was totally different. Christian Axum granted Muhammad and his followers sanctuary when they fled persecution in Arabia. They would then defeat the Muslims in two major battles following the death of Muhammad, forcing the Caliph to forge a special treaty ("bakt") which remained in tact for some 600 years. Here's what a Himyarite sheik wrote to Muhammad ibn Sa'd:
"I have been to Nubia twice during the caliphate of 'Umar ibn-al-Khattab, and I never saw a people who are sharper in war-fare than they. I heard one of them say to the Moslem, ' Where do you want me to hit you with my arrow?' and in case the Moslem would disdainfully say, ' In such a spot ', the Nubian would never miss it. They were fond of fighting with arrows; but their arrows would scarcely ever hit on the ground. One day, they arrayed themselves against us and we were desirous to carry the conflict with the sword; but they were too quick for us and shot their arrows, putting out our eyes. The eyes that were put out numbered 100. We at last thought that the best thing to do with such a people was to make peace. We could carry very little booty away from them; and their ability to inflict injury was great. 'Amr, however, refused to make peace with them and went on contending against them until he was dismissed and was succeeded by 'Abdallah ibn-Sa'd ibn-abi-Sari, who concluded peace with them." (Balādhurī, 1916, pp. 380)​
I can think of no other region more consequential to the world's three "major" religions. For a kingdom that minted its own coins and could intervene on the behalf of Christians virtually anywhere in the region (up until the times of Saladin), Christian Nubia receives very little due.


Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
Here is Aljahiz boasting about the fighting prowess of the Ethiopians--Nubians and Abyssinians, during the conquest of Yemen, I believe:

when the Ethiopians, splendid in the
blackness of their skins and in the vigor and strength of their superb bodies, attacked with their spears, bows, and arrows they spread an unimaginable terror around them." When Ukaym says : On the day of Yathrib we were the stallions of the Arabs. It is a reference to Musrif ibn Uqba al Murri the general who gave the conquered city (Medina) over to the troops for pillage and the Negroes cohabited with the captured women, which are mentioned in the following verses of Mudar; ........
On this occasion the Zanj fought you, Whites, in spite of your rage. Wahrig defended you with his Persians, whilst the Ethiopian general commanded in the midst of destruction. ....... When the poet says: They are muleteers, assembled from everywhere, gathered as a net gathers fish in the stormy sea. He here accepted what story tellers say about Himyar.-That they used to be muleteers. The Negroes can also be proud of the fact that the single dead person over whom the Prophet ever prayed was their ruler, the Emperor of Ethiopia. He prayed for the Negus, while the Prophet was in Medina, and the tomb of the Negus in Abyssinia.

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