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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: CNG 72, Lot: 2280. Estimate $500. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 14 June 2006. 
Sold For $450. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

KINGS of AXUM (Aksum). Ezanas. Circa AD 330-350. AR 11mm (0.62 g, 12h). Struck circa AD 330-340. HZA• (• within crescent) •NAS, draped bust right, wearing headcloth / •BACIAEYC• (• within crescent) , draped bust right, wearing headcloth, within circle. Munro-Hay Type 39; cf. BMC Aksum 59. EF, lightly toned.

The kingdom of Axum, located along the Red Sea of modern Ethiopia, is exceptional in that it was the only sub-Saharan African state in antiquity that issued coinage. As with many other remote states to issue coinage, Axum was located along a trade route, with its particular route linking India and southern Arabia with Rome by way of Egypt. Very little is known about Axum, and the order of its kings can only be assigned to chronological groupings. The prosperity of the kingdom fueled an expansion that at times would encompass portions of southern Arabia and areas further inland in Africa. At some point, probably in the AD 330s, the Axumite king Ezanas converted to Christianity, which became the state religion, making Axum the second ancient state, after Armenia, to adopt Christianity. There are also possible links between Axum and Biblical Judaea, and an enduring legend is that, to save it from destruction at the hands of the Babylonians, king Menelek I, the son of king Solomon of Israel and Makeda, Queen of Sheba, secretly moved the Ark of the Covenant to his kingdom in Ethiopia (Axum), where it supposedly rests today in a "treasury" near the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Our Lady Mary of Zion. The kingdom appears to have waned in the seventh century AD, coinciding with the advent of Islam. Although Axum was soon surrounded by Islamic states, it coexisted peacefully among them thereafter.