Question 10. The Aksumite civilization was founded by people who had crossed the Red Sea from South Arabia. But various historians have pointed out that there was a thriving civilization present in the highlands of Northern Ethiopia by the time the Semitic people of South Arabia arrived. Who were these people? And what impact did they have on the kingdom of Axum?
My knowledge in Ancient Ethiopian history is old, but I am glad to share what I have read before and what I have come to know very recently. To begin with Aksum was not the first and oldest Ethiopian civilization. Adulis, for instance had an older existence than Aksum. There are archaeological discoveries illustrating pre Aksumite civilization and culture, and these were located at Coloe (some 20 km from Adi Qeyih), Yeha (near Aksum), Tokanda (near Coloe, and many others. We have to wait for the archaeological findings in Southern Ethiopia.
The question is whether this remote civilization was a product of ancient immigrants from south Arabia or indigenous Ethiopians? For long time scholars perpetuated a hypothesis on the South Arabian origin and/or influence of the Ethiopian civilization. This hypothesis is challenged by Ephraim Isaac and Cain Felder in their extensive article "Reflections on the Origins of the Ethiopian Civilization", Eight International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, November 1984. Without denying historical and cultural ties between Ethiopian and South Arabian, they, however, refuted "the concept of cultural domination directly or indirectly". In the first place, the hypothesis is based on a Hegelian Euro-centric philosophical perspective which entertains that no indigenous high culture developed in Africa and as such major African civilizations are often attributed to outsiders. Secondly the hypothesis contained "erroneous historical, linguistic and archaeological assumptions", which the authors demonstrated in their article. It is beyond the scope of this column to make a review, and readers are recommended to refer the article for details.
Very recently I watched a video film recording the works and views of a traditional Ethiopian scholar named Aba Tesfa Selassie Moges. In what follows I present some of his views which I patched up from his ecliptic and impressive discourse on Ethiopians and ancient civilization. Aba Tesfa Selassie Moges has done his education in the Ethiopian monasteries before he left abroad for further studies. In Greek, at the University of Athen, he studied theology and philosophy (M.A), and earned BA degree in political science. It is said that he knows 16 languages, including classical Greek, Latin, German and Arabic. He claimed that he is the only person in the world who knows the Sabean language, a dead language "of the Ethiopians". He is currently working on Ethiopian pre history and history starting from the time of Lucy (Dinknesh) up to the period of 60 BC (Before Christ). He said that he has written 12 of the 15 volumes project work. Besides, he has collected over 10 000 books on Ethiopia. When it comes to the issue of discussion at hand Aba Tesfa Selassie's view goes beyond the point of Ethiopians-South Arabians relation. He believed that Ethiopians are the foundation of mankind and the origin of its civilization. According to him the first man is an Ethiopian, and he presented such archaeological evidence as Lucy and a number of prophesies from the Bible. He defined Ethiopians as a selected race: Ethiopians differ from other races by their form (qers), skin (koda) and texture (yezet). The identity of an Ethiopian is the three colour. An Ethiopian, belonging to the same father and mother, can have one of the three colour (Mulu Qey, Ye Qey Dama and Tekur Dama, (in addition Mulu Tekur), In each family, and in every linguistic/ethnic group, there are these three colour and these colour make an Ethiopian different from black Africa, Arabs of Middle East, white and yellow people. Accordingly Somalian, people of Djibouti, Nubians of Sudan and Egypt are all Ethiopians. Ethiopians are the origins of a skin colour. Based on his archaeological and linguistic evidence, he claimed that before 1900 BC, the Egyptian were Ethiopians. Egypt was the first land where Ethiopians cultivated Lentils (Meser), thus called Land of Meser. The Faros of Egypt, some of them who ruled between 3200 to 2000 from 1700-1500 were Ethiopians. Clieopatra was an Ethiopian, as her facial features testify nothing other than an Ethiopian. It was around 1900 BC that the Arabs came to Egypt from Yemen and Iraq as slave for cultivation of agricultural plantation. And since then they intermingled and lived with the Ethiopians. Out of the 450 famous Farsan kings 250 were Ethiopians. The Israelis were also Ethiopians, (and he differentiated Israelis from Jews) and he said the land held by the Ethiopian monasteries in Jerusalem was a continuation of the old. For him Christ was an Ethiopian, and he does not accept the white Christ.
According to him the Latin and Arabic alphabet had their origin from the Ethiopian alphabet (Fidel), which was copied with no or little modification. Only the letter "S" belonged to Latin. This had been supported by a German scholar. The Ethiopian alphabet was in existence since 4500 BC. The first astronomer is an Ethiopian. Around 1900 BC an Ethiopian named Ahamenet wrote about the existence of 16 planets, the kind of life found in each of the planets. This tradition has continued and today we have a book called Awde Negest (Book of Stars) which remains mysterious to many Ethiopians. Henok who wrote about the life and resources of the earth was an Ethiopian.
Ethiopians are the founders of Christian and Islamic religions. As I have mentioned, Christ was an Ethiopian, Israel, not a Jew. According to him Jews guarded the lands of Ethiopians, Israel. The apostles were Ethiopians (Matthew, Marqos, etc.). The founder of Islamic religion is an Ethiopian, his name was Belay Gebremedhin, and he was a governor of Mecca (around 400 AD). The evidence comes from an original hand written book of Quran. By and large, the above statements summarise the views of Aba Tesfa Selassie. Without agreeing to his racial view and ideologies, I think the tenet of his hypothesis is as good as the once I have so far read. As he claimed his evidences are based on documents written by ancient Romans in ancient Greek language, for which he has a good knowledge. He had collected a total of 10900 documents in German language-- documents whose content went as far back as 3000 BC. During his three years and seven months research stay in Italy he managed to collect about 7000 documents written on Ethiopia. He reads the inscriptions written in the Sabean language, which he called an Ethiopian language. He said that he has written 3000 pages (in another point he said 12 volumes) which he planed to publish along with 500 pictures. If the material he presented is solid as he asserted and if the evidences are critically evaluated, I think his view can have a profound effect not only on ancient Ethiopian history but also on ancient world history. If you have not yet seen the video, it is good to watch it. My warning is that his comment on some religious group is offending, one which you do not expect from him.