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The Periplus Of The Ports Of Ethiopia, The Hidden Empire

The Periplus Of The Ports Of Ethiopia, The Hidden Empire


Known as the Hidden Empire, Ethiopia’s official name, until recently, was Abyssinia. Its history fades back into the mists of time and for some reason, Ethiopia has largely been written out of world history.  Despite being the home of ‘Lucy’, one of the oldest ‘human’ skeletons ever found, mainstream historians maintain that civilization did not come to Ethiopia until around 700 BC at Yeha, a short distance east of Axum. It would seem that civilization in Ethiopia is much older than that, as Axum was a trading center for ivory, gems, incense, spices and gold for many thousands of years. After the time of the First Council of Ephesus (431 AD) and then the conquest of Arabia by Mohammed’s armies in 630 AD, Ethiopia basically disappears from Western history. In later years while Europe, North Africa and the Middle East continued to trade and exchange ideas, their commerce centered on the Mediterranean and the Black Sea and Ethiopia was largely excluded. It became the ‘Hidden Empire’.

The Bazaar (Wellcome Images/ CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Bazaar (Wellcome Images/ CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Kingdom Of Saba

Ethiopia was apparently an Egyptian satellite country that later became the Kingdom of Saba of the Horn of Africa, expanding over a large region on both sides of the Red Sea, controlling much of present-day Yemen, Ethiopia and Somalia. The Kingdom of Saba was a center for all sorts of trading goods coming from central Africa, the Horn of Africa, southern Arabia and India. Due to its geographical divide, Saba was not able to hold together and began to break up into separate empires, with the Axumite empire on the African side. The Arabian side broke up into countries called Saba, Qataban, Himyar and Hadramut.

The Hussle Of Ethiopia In Its Hey-Day

Ethiopia and its port of Adulis, today located about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of the modern port of Massawa in the Gulf of Zula, was an important maritime trade center and it would have received ships from all over coastal Arabia and East Africa as well as ships coming directly from India. It was a green and prosperous country with a dense population, intense agriculture, religious temples and thriving markets. Ethiopia is today, as in ancient times, a mountainous land of many villages, farms and fields. Millions of sheep, goats, donkeys and cattle roam throughout the land (including the village streets) and a wide variety of crops are grown—it is the birthplace of coffee, the traditional drink of Ethiopia, which was also gaining popularity in Arabia and Egypt.


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David Hatcher Childress, is a captivating speaker and the author or coauthor of over 20 books. He is the founder of the World Explorer’s Club and this excerpt is based on his book called ARK OF GOD: The Incredible Power of the Ark of the Covenant

Top Image: Church of Ura Kidane Mihret, Zeghie Peninsula, Lake Tana, Ethiopia. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

By David Hatcher Childress

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David Hatcher

David Hatcher Childress, known as the real-life Indiana Jones to the many fans of his books, is a captivating speaker and the author or coauthor of over 20 books. He has traveled the world several times over, seeking adventure... Read More

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