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253358. Sold For $225

KINGS of AXUM. Ezanas. Circa 300-350 AD. AR 12mm (0.57 gm). Struck before his conversion to Christianity in 330 AD. HZA NAC, draped bust right wearing headcloth; crescent above / BACILEVS, small draped bust in circle; crescent above. Munro-Hay 39; BMC Aksum 65. Good VF, small lamination on reverse.

The Ethiopian kingdom of Axum (or Aksum according to recent transliterations) established a power base on the coast of the Red Sea sometime in the 1st century BC-AD. Its main port of Adulis became an important way point in the profitable trade routes between the Mediterranean and India. In the middle of the 3rd century the king Endubis began striking coinage, and the rulers for some 400 years would follow suit. Axum's closest relations with the west developed in the early 6th century, when Kaleb crossed the straits into Yemen at the behest of Justin I, conquering the territory to block Persian expansion into Arabia. The Axumites would be driven out of Yemen by Khusru II at the end of the century, and with the rise of Islam would gradually be cut off from outside contact. Adulis was lost in the 7th century, at which point coinage ceased, and by the 8th century the capital city itself would fall. The surviving tribes retreated into the Ethiopian highlands, where they held out until the 17th century, when the Christian kingdom of Ethiopia began expanding again to recover its lost territory. During this Ethiopian Dark Age, the legend grew in Europe of Prester John, a Christian king reigning in some distant land in Africa (or Asia, depending on the legend).