The Kingdom of Aksum (Ge'ez: መንግሥተ አኵስም), also known as the Kingdom of Axum or the Aksumite Empire, was an ancient kingdom with its capital at the city of Axum (Aksum). The kingdom was centered in what is now the Tigray Region, and spanned across modern-day Eritrea, northern Ethiopia, eastern Sudan, Yemen, and southern Saudi Arabia at its height during the reign of Kaleb of Axum. Emerging from the earlier Dʿmt civilization, the kingdom was likely founded in the early 1st century. Pre-Aksumite culture developed in part due to a South Arabian influence, evident in the Aksumite use of Ancient South Arabian script and the practice of Ancient Semitic religion. However, the Geʽez script came into use by the 4th century, and as the kingdom became a major power on the trade route between Rome and India, it entered the Greco-Roman cultural sphere and began to use Greek as a lingua franca. It is through this that the Kingdom of Aksum adopted Christianity as the state religion in the mid-4th century under Ezana of Axum. Following their Christianization, the Aksumites ceased construction of stelae.The kingdom was considered one of the ancient world's four great powers by 3rd-century Persian prophet Mani, alongside Persia, Rome, and China. Beginning with the reign of Endubis, Aksum minted its own coins—the first to be minted in sub-Saharan Africa—which have been excavated in locations as far as Caesarea and southern India. The kingdom continued to expand through late antiquity, conquering the Kingdom of Kush, from whom it inherited the Greek exonym "Ethiopia". Aksumite dominance in the Red Sea culminated during the reign of Kaleb of Axum, who, at the behest of Byzantine emperor Justin I, invaded the Himyarite Kingdom in Yemen in order to end the persecution of Christians by the Jewish king Dhu Nuwas. With the annexation of Himyar, the Kingdom of Aksum was at its largest territorial extent. However, the territory was lost in the Aksumite–Persian wars.The kingdom's slow decline had begun by the 7th century, at which point currency ceased to be minted. The Persian (and later Muslim) presence in the Red Sea caused Aksum to suffer economically, and the population of the city of Axum shrank. Alongside environmental and internal factors, this has been suggested as the reason for the decline. Aksum's final three centuries are considered a dark age, and through uncertain circumstances, the kingdom collapsed around 960. Despite its position as one of the foremost empires of late antiquity, the Kingdom of Aksum fell into obscurity as Ethiopia remained isolated throughout the Middle Ages.
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