Africa 500 CE

A powerful new kingdom is arising in Ethiopia, while in West Africa trade routes across the Sahara are developing.

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What is happening in Africa in 500CE

North Africa

The Roman provinces of North Africa have shared in the troubles of the declining Roman empire. By this date the western portions of North Africa have fallen away from the empire, and are being occupied by Berber nomads from beyond the old imperial frontiers, as well as by a German tribe which has crossed over from Europe, the Vandals.

Egypt remains an important part of the Eastern Roman Empire. To its south, the centuries-old kingdom of Nubia has been shattered by a strong invasion from the Axumite kingdom of Ethiopia; it has fragmented into three smaller kingdoms. Meanwhile, Axum has become a powerful Christian state, converted by monks from the Byzantine empire. Axum, and its port Adulis, on the Red Sea coast, are flourishing centers of trade, and at this time seem to have controlled the maritime trade coming up the Red Sea from India and the East.

Sub-Saharan Africa

In West Africa, large chiefdoms are emerging on the southern fringes of the Sahara. This is probably the result of efforts by some chiefs to control the southern end of the trans-Saharan trade. Importing horses from the north allows some chiefs to form cavalry forces, and so to dominate surrounding villages more easily. Kingdoms are in the making.

By the time the Bantu migration has reached South Africa. At this latitude, the Bantu farmers reach the limits of tropical crops, and therefore can go no further.

Next map, Africa 750 CE

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The Late Roman Empire

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The Roman Empire in 500 CE

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