III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > D. Africa, 500–1500 > 4. Regions, 1000–1500 > c. Northeast Africa (Horn)
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 600–800)
c. Northeast Africa (Horn)
The defining characteristics of this period were the expansion of Arab peoples and the growth of Islam as a result of migration; pastoralism; and the establishment of trade networks of Muslim merchants.  1
Nubia, dominated by the central state of Mukurra, reached the height of its power as a Christian kingdom during the bakt (in force since 651).  2
Although Islam had also begun to expand in the Horn of Africa region in the new millennium, especially in the trading centers along the Red Sea Coast, there was a revival of Christian central power under the Zagwe dynasty, based in Ethiopia's northern highlands.  3
Good relations between Nubia and Egypt, existing while the latter was under Fatimid rule and the bakt continued to be observed, gave way to hostility under the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt. Nubia began to decline during the Egyptian dynasty of the Ayyubids. Egyptian campaigns against rebellious Arab groups encouraged the latter to move into Nubian territory.  4
Nubian decline intensified under the Egyptian Mamluks (1250–1517), a result of direct Egyptian pressure as well as the immigration of Arabic nomadic pastoralists. Nubia eventually fell to the Mamluk Empire.  5
Succession problems in Ethiopia led to the Zagwe dynasty's overthrow at the hands of Yekunno-Amlak (1270–85), who established the Solomonic dynasty, claiming legitimate succession from ancient Ethiopian kings who had claimed descent from King Solomon of the Old Testament.  6
When the Mamluk sultan Baybars (1260–77) demanded resumption of the bakt, Nubian king Dawud responded by taking the Egyptian Red Sea port of 'Aydhab.  7
The weakening of the Nubian state encouraged depredation by migrating Arab groups, which in turn resulted in further Egyptian incursions in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.  8
Baybars mounted a punitive expedition (See 1276) and installed Dawud's cousin Shakanda as king. As a result Nubia became a vassal state contributing slaves, state revenue, and revenue from a poll tax on non-Muslims.  9
The fall of Christian power in Nubia left Ethiopia the only Christian state in the region. Arabization and Islamization of the population—including the royal family (encouraged by the indigenous matrilinieal descent pattern)—continued, along with decentralization of power. Nubian decline led to a much wider dispersion of Arab groups toward southern pastures, carrying them west as far as Lake Chad.  10
Amda-Siyon, grandson of the founder of the Solomonic dynasty in Ethiopia, gained the throne in 1314 and ruled until 1344. Under his rule the state established military dominance over its Muslim neighbors and conquered extensive new territories. Ifat, the most important Muslim neighbor, became a tributary. Lack of Muslim unity contributed to Amda-Siyon's successes. The new regions were not ruled directly, but by local rulers under the authority of the Christian emperor, who reigned from a mobile capital. Tribute and control over trade in slaves, ivory, and gold made the Solomonic state wealthy. The establishment of new monasteries in the interior spearheaded the spread of Christianity and learning.  11
Nubia's failure to pay tribute resulted in the naming of a Muslim nephew of King Dawud to the Nubian throne.  12
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.