8.7 Trading States of East Africa

After 100 B.C., the kingdom of Axum expanded across the northern Ethiopian highlands. By about A.D. 1, Axum had gained control of the Red Sea coast in present-day Eritrea. By controlling the Red Sea trade with Rome and Persia, Axum grew rich.

Illustration of a man in crown.

A portrait of King Lalibela, ruler of Ethiopia in the early 1200s


  • Explain how religion influenced the development of Axum and Ethiopia.
  • Understand how trade affected the city-states in East Africa.
  • Describe the economy of Great Zimbabwe.

Key Terms

  • Axum
  • Adulis
  • Ethiopia
  • Lalibela
  • Swahili
  • Great Zimbabwe


An Ideal Location for Trade

Located to the southeast of Nubia, Axum extended from the mountains of present-day Ethiopia to the sun-bleached shores of the Red Sea in present-day Eritrea. The peoples of Axum were descended from African farmers and people from the Middle East who brought Jewish traditions through Arabia. This merging of cultures gave rise to a unique written and spoken language, Geez.

The kingdom of Axum profited from the strategic location of its two main cities, the port of Adulis on the Red Sea, and the upland capital city of Axum. By A.D. 400, the kingdom commanded a triangular trade network that connected Africa, India, and the Mediterranean world.

A great variety of goods and enslaved people funneled in and out of the markets of these two cities. From the interior of Africa, traders brought ivory, animal hides, and gold to the markets of Axum. Goods from farther south and across the Indian Ocean came to the Red Sea harbor of Adulis. There, the traders and markets offered iron, spices, precious stones, and cotton cloth from India and other lands beyond the Indian Ocean. Ships carried these commodities up the Red Sea, where they collected goods from Europe and countries along the Mediterranean.

End ofPage 292

Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments