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Ezanas and Frumentius - dating Ethiopia's conversion to Christianity

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Room B102, Brunei Building, School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS)

Thornhaugh Street

London

WC1H 0XG

United Kingdom

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Ezanas and Frumentius - legends and history of the conversion to Christianity

Wolfgang Hahn

Coins are very informative for several aspects of Aksum’s history during the 330 years when coins were produced there, i.e. from the late 3rd to the early 7th century AD. One crucial event is the adoption of the Christian cult by king Ezanas by the middle of the 4th century AD. Much has been written on the date and the circumstances from ancient to present times. As the literary tradition is not based on more than the bare fact of the conversion it was embellished by a cloud of legends.

The authentic sources are limited to a few monumental inscriptions of Ezanas but also his coins. Their chronology contradicts the traditional date of the so-called conversion (330 or 333). The official adoption of the new cult in imitation of the Roman empire in all probability took place 359/60 AD, but this suggested change of date is likely to prove controversial.

Wolfgang Hahn is professor emeritus of numismatics and monetary history at Vienna University and an expert in late antique and medieval European coinage. He has a special interest in the significance of the Aksumite coins as a primary source of Aksumite culture.

The Anglo-Ethiopian Society is affiliated to the University of London’s Centre of African Studies (CAS) and all of our events at SOAS are co-hosted with CAS.

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Room B102, Brunei Building, School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS)

Thornhaugh Street

London

WC1H 0XG

United Kingdom

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