Early Christianity in East Africa and Red Sea/Indian Ocean Commerce
Peer reviewed, Journal article
MetadataShow full item record
The ancient East African kingdom of Aksum gradually adopted Christianity from the early- to mid-fourth-century reign of Ezana onwards. The well-known narrative of the late Roman church-historian Rufinus relates a top-down process of conversion, starting with the ruler himself. The report, corroborated by the adoption of Christian symbolism on Ezana’s late coinage, and monotheistic as well as overtly Christian references in royal inscriptions, is generally considered trustworthy. While not challenging the significance of charismatic and powerful individuals, this article argues that Christianity was present in the region before Ezana, and that the introduc- tion of Christianity should be situated within the context of early Red Sea/Indian Ocean commerce. Trade was the carrier of ideological impulses from communities in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean worlds and created the social infrastructure that expatriate believers, early converts, and later, church officials and local elites could draw upon.