Africa is a geographical region with rich natural resources, deep-rooted history and different cultures. Despite this, today it is known as a continent of mostly poverty. However, this backwardness and poverty was not a unique fate of Africa hundreds or even thousands of years ago! In the geography of Africa full of unique beauty and natural resources, the most important civilizations emerged in that period, and the various empires that almost became global centers of power occupied an important place in the commercial, political and cultural life of that period. However, when it comes to African empires, most of us only think of the ancient civilization of Egypt. But, as we have pointed out, Africa had much more than that. Here are 7 African empires that are little known in history.
1. The Empire of Aksum
At the top of our list of lesser-known African empires in history is the Aksumite Empire, which is also one of the oldest civilizations in Africa. Our knowledge of the founding period of this deeply rooted empire is very limited. However, the Aksumite Empire was created in the lands where modern humans first appeared, according to many experts, in the area where Ethiopia and Eritrea still exist today.
The Aksumite Empire, which existed during the times when the ancient Roman Empire dominated world politics, became one of the most important economic powers of its time thanks to its trade in gold and ivory. These two important commodities also contributed to the development of the commercial empire and thus cultural relations with Asia and Europe.
On the other hand, the Aksumite Empire was a civilization dominated by high African culture. For example, behind the Algiz alphabet, one of the first alphabets to appear in Africa was the Aksumite, the constituent element of the empire. The Obelisk of Aksum, located in Axum, the historical capital of Ethiopia dating back nearly 2,000 years, was a product of this civilization. In addition, the Empire of Aksum was one of the civilizations that adopted Christianity in the fourth century AD and was a pioneer in this regard.
2. Ghana Empire
The Ghana Empire, founded in AD 300 in today’s Mauritania and Mali, enjoys a privileged position among the lesser-known African empires. Because when it comes to power and wealth, it has the distinction of being the first African civilization to truly do justice to the “empire” phenomenon. What allowed the empire to become a real power was its control of the important trade routes in West Africa.
Gold, ivory and salt, the main products of the empire’s foreign trade network, were sources of wealth and power. However, even the unprecedented wealth of the Ghana Empire could not guarantee its victory from the attacks of the Berbers in the thirteenth century, and the empire was divided into smaller provinces. Finally, in 1240 AD, the Ghana Empire disappeared from the stage of history.
3. The Mali Empire
One of the empires that ruled the west coast of Africa in the thirteenth century was the empire called Sosu. However, in the year 1230, the people led by a ruler named Sundiata Keita started a tough fight against the Soso Empire. This is how the Mali Empire was founded, which later became one of the richest in Africa.
After appearing on the stage of history, the Mali Empire, which imposed absolute domination over most of West Africa, was the African center of wealth and luxury until its collapse in the sixteenth century. The empire, which carried out very important activities especially in the field of gold mining and trade, was meeting 50 percent of the global demand for gold alone until the end of the thirteenth century AD. Mansa Musa, also known as the richest person in history, was one of the rulers of this rich country.
4. Bird Empire
The Kuchids or Kush Empire, who established one of the most important civilizations not only in Africa but in the whole world, have played an important role in world politics for more than a thousand years. The empire, which arose in the lands of present-day Sudan and Egypt at the end of 700 BC, managed to be one of the most decisive elements in the cultural and economic life of Africa for many years.
Gold, iron, and incense were the empire’s most important exports, and the Kushites, like other African empires, owed their wealth largely to their advanced trading facilities. Even the Kos Empire, which managed to carve out a very broad political territory for itself in certain periods of history, dominated the ancient Egyptian civilization during these periods. So much so that during these periods, the rulers of the Kush Empire were also called the pharaohs of ancient Egypt.
However, the relations between the Egyptian civilization and the Kush Empire were not limited to the political field. The people of the empire showed great interest in the ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses, mummifying their dead like the Egyptians and even building their own pyramids. However, even this rich cultural structure and economic power could not prevent internal unrest in the empire. The bird empire disintegrated in the middle of the third century AD.
5. Songhai Empire
The Songhai Empire was established in the lands previously ruled by the Mali Empire, and it was the most important empire in terms of land area, which managed to control a vast geography that made all other African empires jealous. As a matter of fact, the empire was on the site of a multicultural civilization where many different elements lived together.
On the other hand, the empire had an important wealth like other African empires thanks to the natural resources in the geographical areas it ruled. However, there were some aspects that set the Songhai Empire apart from others.
Unlike other African empires, the Songhay Empire was not just a trading post. At the same time, it hosted very important educational activities. People from almost all parts of Africa came to the Songhai Empire to take part in these educational activities. It has also become an important magnet for academics, especially in the Middle East and Spain. However, this great empire of Africa could not escape defeat and destruction in the wars with the Kingdom of Morocco in the late 1890s.
6. Zimbabwean Empire
The capital of the empire, “Great Zimbabwe” is home to fortress walls, cut granite blocks, stone towers and ruins of castles that have survived to this day. Of course, these structures, which have been accepted as the most obvious tangible heritage of the Empire of Zimbabwe, prove how advanced stone processing and building activities were in the Empire …
The empire of the “Masons” was established in Africa in the 13th century. It continued to exist as a local empire, ruling the area of present-day Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Although the empire became an important trading center during its existence, its influence was much more limited across Africa compared to the other empires on our list. So much so that even the capital, Great Zimbabwe, mysteriously disappeared after the empire collapsed in the 15th century.
7. The Carthaginian Empire
One of the most important empires in Africa, the Carthaginian Empire was one of the most important empires in the world. Moreover, it would have become a much more important and more effective empire, had it not been swallowed up by the Roman Empire …
Carthage was founded as a Phoenician city-state in Tunisia in the ninth century BC. However, this small city has become one of the most important players in Africa and the Mediterranean over the years. He especially occupied the trade route in the Mediterranean. With the wealth it gained from sea trade, it quickly turned into a great maritime empire. So much so that there were more than 200 large and small ports in the capital of the empire, where nearly half a million people lived.
However, Carthage’s hegemony in the Mediterranean Sea also brought with it an important danger. The Roman Empire on the other side of the coast also wanted to consolidate its hegemony over the Mediterranean, which heightened tensions between the two important empires. The collision of two sovereign states was inevitable, and it was.
Carthage and Rome faced each other several times, starting in 264 BC and again until 146 BC. It was the Roman Empire that stood out from the bloody conflicts known as the Punic Wars. After this important victory, Rome found an opportunity, which sought to expand its sphere of influence. The Carthaginian Empire joined the lesser-known African empires in history.
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