A Brief History of Eastern African Empire in Relation to Haggard’s She
In She by H. Rider Haggard, the characters Holly, Leo, Job, and Mahomed find themselves becalmed on their whaling boat. As the boat nears the shore, Holly notices a colossal rock that he says resembles a head of an Ethiopian. Holly is at first unsure if the rock had been carved by nature or man, but later is sure that it had been made by people from an ancient, lost civilization. Little do these characters realize, they are discovering the lost Kingdom of Kôr. While Haggard has written a tale of this fictional kingdom, there is historical evidence of an ancient empire that existed on the East African Coast. Ethiopia has a long, storied history that dates back to prehistory. It often considered the birthplace of the anatomical modern human with fossils dating back 3.5 million years. The oldest know stone tools were found in this region and these date back 2.4 million years. The first empire in this region was the Kingdom of Aksum, growing in power from the 4th century BC to achieve prominence in the 1st century BC. Its seat of power was Axum, located in modern northern Ethiopia. Axum was a naval and trading power for the kingdom.
Axum is known for some of the mysteries that surround it. One mystery is its large, stone carved obelisks. At one point, the largest obelisk in the world stood in Axum, at over 108ft in height and weighing in at an estimated five tons. It is believed that this and the other obelisks that stand there now were hand carved around the 4th century AD. Another mystery is that Axum is believed to be the final resting place of the Arc of the Covenant. It is also said that after Queen of Sheba was impregnated by King Solomon, she went to Axum and ruled from there in the 10th century BC.
The Aksumites became know to the Romans in the 30s BC, when Augustus conquered Egypt. By this time, the Aksumites had already established trade routes to India and the interior of Africa. This allowed them to set up trade with the Romans, allowing them to maintain a peace with them. Around 300 AD, under King Ezana, the Kingdom of Aksum was the first major kingdom to embrace Christianity as the kingdom’s main religion. The kingdom flourished, conquering land within the African interior, as well as expanding into the Arabian Peninsula. They maintained trade with Europe until the rise of Mohammed and Islam in 640 AD pushing back the Aksumites and cutting off their entire trade with Europe. The kingdom then turned back inward to the African interior, but eventually dwindled. In 960, the last Aksumite king was murdered by Queen Gudit, who threw the entire area into what is known as the Ethiopian Dark Ages. Little is known about this period of time.
The Zagwe Dynasty came to power after the last successor of Gudit was overthrown. The empire had little power to extend its reach beyond its own ethnic homeland. The Zagwe fell the Solomonic Dynasty in 1270, with the new king claiming direct lineage to the Aksumite kings of old, and to King Solomon. The empire then became known as the Abyssinia empire and lasted until the 20th century, repealing attacks from the Italians, Turks, and Arabs, as well as making friendly contact with some European empires.
It is known that Haggard was deeply interested in archeology, and it is easy to see how the Aksumite kingdom could have influenced his fictional Kingdom of Kôr. Both have ties to ancient European empires, and while Kôr was ruled by a queen in its entirety, the Aksumite was ruled by at least one queen as well. Haggard could have incorporated this into his novel, much as he did with King Solomon in his novel previous to She.
“Axum (the Mysterious Monoliths).” Fest Ethiopia. N.p.. Web. 6 Dec 2013. <http://www.festethiopia.com/Axum.htm>.
“Ethiopian Empire.” Wikipedia. N.p., 03 Dec 2013. Web. 6 Dec 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_Empire>.
Haggard, H. Rider . She. Penguin Group, 2001. print.
“Kingdom of Aksum.” Wikipedia. N.p., 22 Novemeber 2013. Web. 6 Dec 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aksumite_Empire>.
Millard, Candice. ” Keepers of the Faith: The Living Legacy of Aksum .” National Geographic Magazine. N.p.. Web. 6 Dec 2013. <http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/data/2001/07/01/html/ft_20010701.fulltext.6.html>.
“Obelisk of Axum.” Wikipedia. N.p., 16 Oct 2013. Web. 6 Dec 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obelisk_of_Aksum>.
” Sacred Sites of Ethiopia and the Arc of the Covenant.”Sacred Sites . N.p.. Web. 6 Dec 2013. <http://sacredsites.com/africa/ethiopia/sacred_sites_ethiopia.html>.
“She: A History of Adventure.” Wikipedia. N.p., 28 Novemeber 2013. Web. 6 Dec 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=She:_A_History_of_Adventure>.