African Civilizations and Events During Classical Antiquity Period


Africa is a great continent that has a fascinating history. This history has come up after a long period through different eras, such as the classical period and the Medieval period. Throughout these periods, many significant civilizations and events occurred on the African continent. When we talk about the African civilizations, we refer to the ancient African Empires that formed a long time ago.

In this article, we will discuss what Africans were doing during the Greco-Roman period, especially in the classical antiquity era. Here, we will just mention but a few African civilizations and significant events that fall during the classical antiquity period.

Classical Antiquity Period

Before we go further, it is vital to understand the time frame in the classical antiquity era. The classical era is the period between the 8th century BC and the 6th century AD on the Mediterranean Sea comprising the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome. It is the time in which Greek and Roman societies prospered and had influence throughout the European region, the Northern part of Africa, and W. Asia. We can then proceed and talk about the civilizations and events which happened in the African region between the 8th century BC-6th century AD.

The Garamantes Civilization

The Garamantes civilization was one of the ancient African civilizations to have ever existed. They likely came from Iron Age Berber ethnic groups from the Saharan region. The earliest record of their existence dates to the 5th century BC. Much of what people know today about them comes from modern Romana and Greek foreign accounts.

The Garamantes came up as a big regional power in the middle of the 2nd century AD, forming an Empire. Their development and increase depended on an irrigation system called foggaras that backed an agricultural economy and a big number of people.

They developed a large town called Gatama that had a few numbers of people, probably 4000. The Garamantes took control of the surrounding ethnic groups and depended heavily on slaves for their success. Later in the 5th century, the state started to fall.


The Kingdom of Aksum

The earliest state in Eritrea and the northern region of Ethiopia, D’mt, dates from the 8th and 7th centuries BC. D’mt Empire traded via the Red Sea with the Mediterranean and Egypt offering frankincense. By the 5th-3rd centuries, the Kingdom had fallen and other states took its position.

Later, trade connections expanded from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean with Israel, Egypt, Greece, Phoenicia to the Black sea, Persia, and other regions.

Aksum, the 1st verifiable empire of great might to emerge in Eritrea and Ethiopia in the 1st century AD, became famous throughout those regions. By the 5th century BC, the area was very successful in exporting products such as ivory, spices, and elephants. It imported goods such as gold, silver, and olive oil. Axum produced brass and glass crystal for export.

Around the 6th century, Axum was mighty enough to Saba on the Arabian-peninsula to her Kingdom.

The Bantu Expansion

The Bantu spread is one of the significant events that happened during the antiquity period. The spread involved a movement of people in African history and the dwelling of the region. Bantu speakers, a division of the Niger-Congo family, started in the 2nd century BC to expand from the Cameroonian region to the Great Lakes area.

During the 1st century BC, the Bantu languages expanded from the Great Lakes region to the southern and eastern areas of the continent. By the 1st century AD, the spread reached the Great River Kei.

Other Civilizations and Significant Events

Apart from the aforementioned great African civilizations and significant events that happened during the classical antiquity period, there are other great ones. One of them was the civilization of the great Ghana Empire that was prospering in the western region of Africa during this period.

An interesting aspect of the classical antiquity period was the use of war elephants. They played a crucial role in various battles in the antiquity age. A war elephant was an elephant that a human-guided and trained for war. The elephant’s primary purpose was to charge the foe and instill fear. Their use reduced with the spread of guns in the early modern era.



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