The Conversion of Ezana
The kingdom of Aksum which reached its height during the reign of King Ezana. Although Christianity likely presided among foreign merchants, Ezana is credited with Christianizing the affluent and expansive kingdom. The reformation which took place in the ancient kingdom may have been a political maneuver to solidify trade relations with the Roman Empire. Following the traditionally accepted legend of Frumentius and Aedesius’s influence upon Ezana, Christianity presented itself first among the royal family. However, the legend does not account for the discrepancies found in the Ge’ez inscriptions and Aksumite coinage. Was the king’s conversion the result of personal beliefs or political persuasion? Examination of opposing viewpoints gives pause to the traditionally accepted legend which focuses primarily upon the influence of the Syrian brothers and the influence of their religious persuasion.
Shipwrecked off the Ethiopian coast while passing through the Red Sea in the fourth centuryAD, an encounter the between the coastal people and the crew of a merchant ship escalated into a fatal conflict in which only two young Syrian Christian brothers survived. After their capture, the brothers, Frumentius and Aedesius, The king took notice of the youths’ Greek education. Aedesius appointed the king’s cupbearer; Frumentius became the “master of correspondence and accounts.” Upon his death, the king released the brothers from their enslaved status, but the queen coaxed them into remaining in the kingdom to assist in the administration of the Aksum until her young son, Ezana, reached maturity. Under the direction of Frumentius, Christian merchants were allowed privileges in the kingdom and places to worsh...
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