The power of Aksum was based largely on trade. The Red Sea was an important thoroughfare for trading vessels at the time. Merchants from the Roman Empire traveled up and down the sea, trading in harbors along both the African and Arabian coasts, and sailing with the favorable monsoon winds on to India. Aksumites exported local products such as ivory, tortoise shell, hippopotamus hide, spices, incense, gold, obsidian, emeralds and other precious stones, and slaves. These items were exchanged for manufactured goods from the Mediterranean, including iron weapons, articles made of precious metals, glassware, cloth of great variety, garments, pottery, wine, and olive oil. Excavated Aksumite tombs contain many of these foreign objects, particularly glassware.
For the first few centuries of the kingdom’s existence, trade was conducted by barter and direct exchange of commodities. In about ad 270, during the reign of King Endubis, Aksum began minting coins in the style of Roman coins. Coinage made the exchange of products and tax collection more convenient, facilitating Aksumite trade. Aksumite coins were made of gold, silver, and bronze, and carried the name of the ruler in whose name they were issued. The coins are therefore important to historians’ understanding of the history of Aksum, providing royal names and a rough chronology of events.
As in most ancient societies, the internal economy of Aksum was based mainly on agriculture. The kingdom produced enough food to be self-sufficient. The main cereal crop may have been wheat, since a head of wheat is shown on coins. Aksumites most likely also grew teff, an indigenous cereal grain widely used in the region today. Although Aksum commonly imported iron weapons, iron was also smelted locally and manufactured into tools and weapons.
- Religion in African Society (egrejeen.wordpress.com)