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Posted on 20th November 2014
The Aksumite Empire devolved into a client state of Rome, as Roman influence wormed its way into every part of their culture. Even after Rome itself fell, Aksum had been corrupted so much that they could not recover. That’s not to say elements within Aksum didn’t try.
In the 6th century AD, Aksum was ruled by King Kaléb, who had aggressively continued the kingdom’s transition from trading powerhouse to military conqueror. Kaléb sent an invasion force across the Red Sea to attack the Kingdom of Himyar (in current-day Sana’a, Yemen.) The Aksumite invasion was led by Kaléb’s most trusted general, Ariat, who was charged with overthrowing the Himayarite King. After Ariat failed to dispatch the enemy ruler, Kaléb sent a second army under the leadership of the controversial general ‘Abraha al-Ashram.
‘Abraha was a known agitator, and had publicly expressed displeasure with the Aksumite’s turn away from their traditions and their Truth. Because of his outspoken behavior, King Kaléb had relieved him of command on more than one occasion. But ‘Abraha was also Aksum’s best military mind, and when faced with an embarrassing defeat in Himyar, Kaléb gambled that ‘Abraha would behave enough to be controlled.
He should have known better. Because while ‘Abraha’s invasion force quickly overthrew their adversaries and set up a pro-Aksumite viceroy in his place, ‘Abraha kept inventing reasons to stay in Himyar. Kaléb ordered the disgraced General Ariat to stay in Yemen and keep watch over ‘Abraha. For three years, Ariat tried to contain ‘Abraha, as the latter turned his army into the center of a revival of original pre-Roman Aksumite culture. Finally, the cold war turned hot – ‘Abraha launched a coup against Kaléb’s viceroy, and his army and Ariat’s turned on each other. The Generals faced off in single combat and ‘Abraha killed his rival, but not before taking a bad wound to the head - a would that earned him the name “al-Asräm,” or “scar-face.”
Triumphant, ‘Abraha declared himself the King of a new, independent Himyar, a nation that would follow the original Aksumite precepts of even-handness and open dealing. Furious, Kaléb sent another army to destroy ‘Abraha – except when this force arrived in Sana’a, they promptly defected and joined the new kingdom. For a few short years, it seemed that ‘Abraha would succeed in creating a new Aksumite paradise.
But it was not to be, because while fighting on his blood path to restore the Truth, ‘Abraha had lied and double-crossed so many people, turned so many friends and allies into enemies, that his creation was not sustainable. King Scar-Face was wily enough to hold on to his rule, but his kingdom declined rapidly under his descendants and within three generations, they were booted out of Himyar by invading Persian forces. The remnants of ‘Abraha’s people were forced to limp back to Aksum and beg for forgiveness.
What I want you Aksumites - and all you students - to take away from this story is the following: when you are fighting to restore the Truth, you will be tempted to use lies and duplicity to further your cause. Sometimes, these can not be avoided. And yet, be on guard that you do not open yourself this way to Corruption’s insidious influence. Sometimes, the ends do NOT justify the means.