For centuries, the land of Nubia has been coming increasingly under the influence of its great northern neighbour, Egypt. When Egypt has been united and powerful, this influence has taken the form of outright conquest, at least in the north of the region.
Egyptian colonies have been planted along the river Nile, and the outlying tribes, herding their cattle on the grasslands away from the river, have owed a loose allegience to the Egyptians, and traded with the Egyptian merchants in the towns.
The powerful Bronze Age empires of Egypt, the Mitanni, the Hittites and Babylonia dominate the Middle Eastclick to view Middle East 1500BC
The civilization of Ancient Egypt is entering one of the most glorious periods of its historyclick to view Egypt 1500BC
While the civilization of Ancient Egypt reaches new heights, farming based on new tropical plants is being pioneered south of the Sahara.click to view Africa 1500BC
During the period of the New Kingdom in Egypt, much of Nubia came under the direct rule of the Egyptian government. Egyptian colonies, trading posts and garrisons were established, from which the Egyptians exercised a tight control over the country. The chiefs of the pastoral tribes which roamed the grasslands away from the river were given Egyptian titles and became client princes in an Egyptian-controlled system of indirect rule. A major purpose of this system was for Egypt to control the valuable mines and trade routes which ran through this region.
With the decline of Egyptian power in the past couple of centuries, the Egyptian ruling class has remained in place, and Nubia has become the seat of independent kings, with a court and culture very similar to that of their northern neighbours.
Invasions have devastated the old centres of civilization, but important new developments, such as the use of iron, the appearance of the alphabet and the rise of Israel, with its monotheistic religion, have taken placeclick to view Middle East 1000BC
After centuries of greatness, the civilization of Ancient Egypt has now entered a long period of decline.click to view Egypt 1000BC
Farming and cattle herding are spreading in western and central Africaclick to view Africa 1000BC
The camel has been domesticated, and trade routes now cross the great deserts of Arabiaclick to view Arabia 1000BC
In 730 BC the king of Nubia conquered Egypt, founding the 25th dynasty of pharaohs. This line of Nubian pharaohs lasted for about 60 years before being driven back into Nubia by an invasion from Assyria (670 BC). Here they have continued to rule a powerful kingdom, at first based on Napata, the old capital, and then, after 593 BC, when Napata was sacked by an Egyptian invasion, at Meroe, in the south.
The ruling class of Nubia remains notably Egyptianized. The kings continue to call themselves Lords of Upper and Lower Egypt, the traditional titles of the Egyptian pharaoh. The court continues to use the Egyptian language and script, and Egyptian gods are worshipped in the Egyptian-style temples. The move south, however, symbolizes Nubia's growing freedom from its past as its civilization begins to develop in its own distinctive way.
A succession of great empires - the Assyrian, the Babylonian, and now the Persian - have dominated the Middle East for the past few centuriesclick to view Middle East 500BC
Its ancient glories now in the past, Egypt is now just another province within the Persian empireclick to view Egypt 500BC
Arabia, a region of flourishing civilization and desert nomadsclick to view Arabia 500BC
With the decline of Egyptian civilization, Nubia is emerging as an independent civilization; and in West Africa Bantu Iron-Age farmers are beginning to spread out across the continentclick to view Africa 500BC
Meroe, the new heartland of the Nubian kingdom, is far enough south to receive tropical rains in the summer, and crops of sorghum and millet can be grown without the need for irrigation. A mixed agriculture of crop-growing and cattle-rearing flourishes well beyond the near confines of the river Nile, and forms the economic base of the Nubian kingdom.
In other ways, too, Nubian culture and society is moving away from Egyptian models. The local language has replaced Egyptian at court, and an alphabet (as yet undeciphered) has been developed for it. In religion, the Nubians are adding their own gods, notably the lion god, Apedemek. In art, Nubian motifs are becoming more important, with African animals playing a larger part, and in architecture, the kings are being buried under distinctive Nubian-style pyramids – centuries after the last pyramid was built in Egypt.
The conquests of Alexander the Great have reshaped the map of the Middle East, and Greek-speaking kingdoms, founded by Alexander's generals, now cover the regionclick to view Middle East 200BC
Egypt is now ruled by monarchs descended from one of Alexander the Great's generalsclick to view Egypt 200BC
Trade caravans bring precious spices across the desert from southern Arabiaclick to view Arabia 200BC
Trade routes across the Sahara desert are being pioneered, while, to the south, Bantu farmers continue their swift expansion across the continentclick to view Africa 200BC
The Red Sea trade is increasingly important as the international maritime trade between India and the west grows. Nubia’s trade goods are ivory, leopard skins, slaves, ostrich feathers, ebony and gold. The sources of this trade, hunting and mining, and the trade itself, are under the direct control of the king, and the kingdom is reaching a height of prosperity.
The Middle East is now divided between the Roman and Parthian empiresclick to view Middle East 30BC
Egyptian independence has come to an end with the death of its famous queen, Cleopatraclick to view Egypt 30BC
Arabian civilization reaches a height of prosperityclick to view Arabia 30BC
North Africa is now part of the Roman empire, while in central Africa the Bantu expansion continuesclick to view Africa 30BC
The kingdom of Nubia has retained its independence from Rome, despite a couple of Roman incursions into the country under the early Roman emperors. By now, relations are good, and trade is flourishing.
The kingdom grew in power and wealth, and Nubia reached a peak of prosperity under king Netekamani (12 BC – AD 12). By now, however, its economy is probably in decline. Its international trade, based on the Red Sea routes, is losing out to the rising power of Aksum. At home, deforestation, due in part to the large iron industry's demands for wood fuel, is reducing soil fertility and undermining settled agriculture; semi-nomadic cattle herders are becoming more populous and spreading over a wider area. Also, the growing shortage of trees is affecting the iron industry itself.
One small part of the region, Judaea, has given birth to the new religion of Christianity, but has also seen the dispersal of the Jewish people from their homelandclick to view Middle East 200AD
Egypt is a province of the Roman empireclick to view Egypt 200AD
The civilization of southern Arabia is in declineclick to view Arabia 200AD
All of North Africa is now part of the Roman empire, while to the south the Bantu migration continuesclick to view Africa 200AD
The centuries-old kingdom of Nubia has been shattered by a strong invasion from the Axumite kingdom of Ethiopia; it has fragmented into three parts, Nobatia, Maqurrah and Alwah.
In Ethiopia, the kingdom of Aksum has become a powerful state. It has also become a Christian one, converted by monks from the Byzantine empire. Ethiopian Christianity is centred around monasteries, which will play an enormous part in the cultural and political life of the country. Shortly after this time, the Ethiopians briefly control the south-western parts of the Arabian peninsula, before being driven back across the Red Sea by the Persians.
Aksum, and its port Adulis, on the Red Sea coast, are flourishing centres of trade; at this time Aksum apparently dominated the maritime trade coming up the Red Sea from India and the East.
The Middle East is divided between the Eastern Roman empire and the Persian empireclick to view Middle East 500AD
Egypt is a province of the Eastern Roman Empireclick to view Egypt 500AD
The civilization of southern Arabia has declined, along with the great desert trade routesclick to view Arabia 500AD
In West Africa the trade routes across the Sahara are expanding, while to the east the powerful kingdom of Ethiopia has emergedclick to view Africa 500AD
click to view West Africa 500AD
The Nubian states had all become Christian by the early 7th century. The two Nubian kingdoms (Nobatia was conquered by Maqurrah sometime in the 7th century) are home to a lively Christian civilization of towns and villages, monasteries, churches and palaces.
By the mid-8th century, Ethiopia is in decline. Her once flourishing trade is being strangled by the rising tide of Islamic commerce; the seas and coasts have become a hostile environment to this Christian people. It is also possible that over-grazing and soil erosion were reducing the prosperity of the central core of the kingdom.
As a result of these factors, the focus of Ethiopian society has shifted south, further into the central highlands. This development has increased the isolation of Ethiopian civilization.
The Middle East has been conquered by Arab armies in the name of a major new religion, Islam; these have created a vast empire called the "Caliphate"click to view Middle East 750AD
Egypt has become a province of the Islamic Caliphateclick to view Egypt 750AD
Arabia has become the springboard for dramatic conquests under the banner of a new religion, Islamclick to view Arabia 750AD
In West Africa the trans-Saharan trade has led to the rise of the wealthy kingdoms of Ghanaclick to view Africa 750AD
click to view West Africa 750AD
Cattle-herding cultures are beginning to appearclick to view Central Africa 750AD
The Christian kingdoms in Nubia and Ethiopia have become increasingly isolated outposts of Christianity, entirely cut off from other Christian nations by Muslim territory. In Ethiopia, the inhabitants also face fierce and unrelenting pressure from the pagan peoples on their southern borders.
Within Ethiopia, a powerful landed aristocracy owns most of the land and controls the lives of the peasantry.
The Islamic Caliphate has begun to break up, but the religion of Islam continues to expand, both in the Middle East and beyondclick to view Middle East 979AD
Under the Fatimids, Egypt becomes the leading centre of Islamic civilizationclick to view Egypt 979AD
Arabia is home to Islamic sects seen as dangerous by the orthodox Muslimsclick to view Arabia 979AD
New kingdoms have emerged in West African, and the trans-Saharan trade has brought Muslim traders to the region, who are spreading their faithclick to view Africa 979AD
click to view West Africa 979AD
click to view Central Africa 979AD
In the 11th century Ethiopia experienced intense political instability. In one incident, a princess murdered all the royal family – except the infant king, who was smuggled out of harm’s way. Shortly after this shock, a new line of kings, the Zagwe, took power from the old Aksumite line. They have firmly established their power in the country. They are centralizing their authority by replacing traditional tribal rulers - who owed only a loose allegiance to the king - with royal governors appointed by themselves.
Economically, Ethiopia’s fortunes have risen. With economic revival in Egypt has come expansion for Ethiopia’s trade: the country is one of the major sources of frankincense and myrrh, two spices much in demand in the Muslim world, and it also exports slaves to the north.
The current king, Lalibela (c. 1200-1250), is famous for building a series of unique churches hewn out of solid rock near his capital (also now named Lalibela).
A strong Muslim state has developed to the south-east of Ethiopia, based on trading posts from which control over the local population has gradually been achieved.
Egypt is now under the dynasty of the renowned Muslim leader, Saladinclick to view Egypt 1215AD
The civilization of southern Arabia has declined, along with the great desert trade routesclick to view Arabia 1215AD
In West Africa the spread of trade routes to the south has led to the rise of the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo, while in East Africa a string of trading cities are emerging along the coastclick to view Africa 1215AD
The Islamic states of the Middle East are successfully fighting off the attacks of the European crusadersclick to view Middle East 1215AD
click to view West Africa 1215AD
click to view Central Africa 1215AD
In the early 14th century the Christian Nubian kingdom of Maqurrah was overwhelmed by the inflow of Arab tribes, ejected from Egypt by its Mamluqs rulers. The conversion of Dongola cathedral into a mosque (1317) symbolized this process. These tribes have continued migrating south and west, pushed on by the expanding power of the Mamluqs to the north.
Under the Zagwe kings, the Ethiopian empire expanded, its formidable army winning territory from the surrounding pagan tribes. Christian Ethiopian colonists were planted in the newly-conquered lands, and new monasteries founded in these areas, bringing with them Ethiopian culture. In 1270, however, the Zagwe line was replaced by the Solomonid dynasty.
A new, militant Muslim state, the sultanate of Adal, has become the centre of Muslim expansion in the region, spreading the faith amongst the Somali pastoral tribes. This period has seen a gradual escalation of fighting between the Muslims, and by now the two powers are in a state of near-constant warfare.
The Middle East has been ruled by a succession of conquerors from central Asia, most famously the Mongolsclick to view Middle East 1453AD
Benin and other new kingdoms are emerging in the forest regions of West Africa, and in southern Africa the civilization of Great Zimbabwe has appearedclick to view Africa 1453AD
Yemen has been a centre of trade and Islamic cultureclick to view Arabia 1453AD
Egypt is now ruled by a class of slave-soldiers, the Mamluqsclick to view Egypt 1453AD
click to view West Africa 1453AD
click to view Central Africa 1453AD
A pastoral people of the eastern savannah, the Funj, have conquered a large kingdom in the Sudan. At this time they are converting to Islam. The Ottoman empire has occupied northern Nubia as well as some of the Red Sea coast.
During the 16th century royal authority in Ethiopia was weakened by the growing regional power of governors, who are, by now, virtually independent princes within their domains. Then Adal, with a force armed with firearms acquired from the Turks, attacked the Christian kingdom, shattering what remained of its cohesion. The Ethiopian emperor appealed to the Portuguese, who sent a small army and, together, the Portuguese and Ethiopians managed to defeat Adal’s forces. The Ethiopians went on to recover most of the territory they had lost.
Meanwhile, the Oromo people were moving into the country from the south. They are cattle herders who, in search of new grazing lands, are taking over the areas no longer controlled effectively by either Christian or Muslim rulers. The southern halves of Ethiopia and Adal were soon overrun by the Oromo. With effective royal power now confined to an area around their capital of Gondar, the Ethiopia emperors can do little to stem the Oromo tide.
The Ottoman empire now dominates most of the Middle eastclick to view Middle East 1648AD
Egypt is now a part of the Ottoman empireclick to view Egypt 1648AD
The Ottoman empire is the dominant power within the Arabian peninsulaclick to view Arabia 1648AD
Large numbers of Africans are being taken to the Americas as slavesclick to view Africa 1648AD
click to view West Africa 1648AD
click to view Central Africa 1648AD
The Atlantic Slave Trade is at its height, and having a destructive impact on wide areas of the African interiorclick to view Africa 1789AD
The Middle East experiences political weakness in both the Ottoman empire and Iranclick to view Middle East 1789AD
The first Saudi kingdom has appeared in Arabiaclick to view Arabia 1789AD
Although officially a part of the Ottoman empire, Egypt is really ruled by the Mamluqsclick to view Egypt 1789AD
The Zulu conquests are causing turmoil over a large part of south and central Africaclick to view Africa 1837AD
Some Middle Eastern governments are taking steps to modernize their countriesclick to view Middle East 1837AD
The first Saudi kingdom has been crushed, but a second one has appearedclick to view Arabia 1837AD
Egypt is now semi-independent from the Ottoman empireclick to view Egypt 1837AD
European explorers have visited the interior of Africaclick to view Africa 1871AD
The Ottoman empire has tightened its grip on much of the Middle Eastclick to view Middle East 1871AD
The second Saudi kingdom has fallenclick to view Arabia 1871AD
The Suez Canal has been openedclick to view Egypt 1871AD
The British and French are increasingly active in the Middle Eastclick to view Middle East 1914AD
The European powers have divided almost the whole of Africa up between themclick to view Africa 1914AD
Egypt is now effectively a part of the British empireclick to view Egypt 1914AD
A third, much larger, Saudi kingdom has appearedclick to view Arabia 1914AD
The Cold War has had a major impact on the Middle Eastclick to view Middle East 1960AD
The European nations are starting to withdraw from the empires in Africaclick to view Africa 1960AD
Egypt is now ruled by President Nasserclick to view Egypt 1960AD
Oil is bringing vast new wealth to the Arabian kingdomsclick to view Arabia 1960AD
Arab-Israeli hostility has dominated Middle Eastern politicsclick to view Middle East 2005AD
All European powers have withdrawn from their empires in Africaclick to view Africa 2005AD
Egypt is now ruled by President Mubarakclick to view Egypt 2005AD
The region experienced a huge shock when Iraq invaded Kuwaitclick to view Arabia 2005AD
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