As some of you know my youngest daughter recently asked if she could do a special study on some of the Ancient and Medieval kingdoms of Africa as part of her homeschooling studies. I readily agreed as I like the subject myself and she just finished a great course of study on archaeology. So this seemed like a natural extension of her previous study set.
Well, I got as much good material together as I could from our local library system, which admittedly has little decent material in the way of books on Africa (any part of Africa, especially African history). What I could get though I got. Most of the books – I wasn’t too impressed with except for a very excellent book on the early spread of Christianity throughout northern and eastern Africa called The Blessing of Africa, which I had previously read myself in my studies for the priesthood. (One day I intend to help found churches in Africa. Or refound is perhaps a better term since much of Africa was Christian until the Muslim invasions and slave trade.)
As I said many of the books were less than stellar but the video materials I got were quite good and since I’m here at the house alone today I thought I’d look at one of the videos on the Lost Kingdoms of Africa. I’ve watched two episodes so far, one very good one on the Nubians and Cushites and a truly excellent one on the Ethiopians and the Aksum Kingdom.
The guy who is the host or moderator is obviously a black Brit archaeologist (given the accent) who nevertheless tends to dress something like an American cowboy and definitely does not like desert environments. He’s got that cold blood of the Brits I guess. It’s very amusing to listen to him say over and over again, “Man, I have never been so hot!” He’s an eclectic character, and his manner of dress, speech and aversion to heat make me laugh. Nevertheless he is bright and a good host and the show explores some fascinating places and investigates some interesting history.
One thing in particular that I learned regarded Ezana the Ethiopian (Aezana of Aksum), who was educated by two Syrians who had become shipwrecked in Ethiopia. One of the Syrians was a Christian monk (Syria being the first Christian kingdom in the world – most of the entire Near East and much of Africa being Christian before the Muslim invasions) who converted Ezana and Ezana become the very first Christian Emperor of Ethiopia.
Considering his background, the size of his kingdom (which was quite impressive), the number of Near Eastern, Arabic, and Christian states it was in contact with, and given the novels I am writing I cannot help but think that Ezana was at least one chief aspect of what would later become the historical template for the Prester John myth.
Ezana converted to Christianity, expanded the empire considerably, instituted educational and religious reforms (similar to what Charlemagne and Alfred the Great would later do in France and England), imported people from all over the nearby world as advisors, and expanded trade. He was also the first to mint Christian coins, interesting since Syria was the first Christian kingdom, and he had been educated by a Syrian.
There is a character in my Other World novels, a man by the name of Erasto Qwara, and he is a primary character in the party of the Oro (Moonshadow), which is a rough analogue of the Byzantine Basilegate. The more I study Ezana though the more I think that some of Ezana’s attributes will be adopted into the character of Erasto.
Erasto, while recovering in Egypt from combat injuries decides to join the Oro to try and discover, almost precisely as the Basilegate is trying to do, why so many odd and unexplainable things are happening in our world.
Before that however Erasto has a vision, or a dream, or a mystical experience in which he is instructed to go to Alexandria and from there to Constantinople.
But while watching the video today on the Nubians I discovered that they had built a large, room-less and solid, very impressive mud-brick temple or ritual building (part of a large ritual complex at Kerma) called the Deffufa. It reminds me of nothing so much as the Ziggurats in the Near East, but it is far more oddly shaped.
Originally I had planned to have Erasto’s vison occur one night while he lay alongside the banks of the Nile, the vision echoing Abram’s vision of God when he called God a “Horror of Great Darkness.” But now I think that I will rewrite that scene to make it so that Erasto’s vision occurs while he sleeps one night alone on the top of the Deffufa, and that instead it will far more closely resemble Jacov’s vision of the Ladder or Stairway to Heaven.
Also, since later the entire Oro will have a very eerie experience with the obelisks at Karnak in which the obelisks ring like gongs and then produce weird music and a spooky voice I think I might also work in as a prelude something to do with the “Rock Gongs” of Cush and the cobras of the Split Egyptian Kingdom.
So, it seems my daughter’s homeschooling project has actually turned out to be of enormous benefit to the plot and historical research of my novels. I’m quite glad she chose this particular course of study.
Well, that’s enough research for one day so I’m going to go play Metal Gear. Have a good evening folks.
By the way, below is a brief character description of Erasto Qwara the Ethiopian, and his position in the Oro (Moonshadow).
Erasto Qwara – born in Axum, the third of six children, Erasto grew up following his family tradition of soldiering. At fifteen he became a Christian Soldier and rose quickly through the ranks, so that local officials were soon sending him as an escort and emissary to foreign lands, such as to the courts at Egypt. Smart, driven, and self-educated Erasto learned six African tongues and was soon able to read and write Koptic, Greek and Latin as well. Because of his linguistic skills and general education by the age of 19 Erasto was made commander of a unit formed to escort diplomatic missions throughout the Nubian kingdoms, along the coast of east Africa, into the tribute states of the Arabian Peninsula, into the Near East, and also into Egypt. The farther afield Erasto roamed the more types of people he encountered and he soon discovered that he loved to mix freely with people of different nations and races. Developing a personal interest in trade Erasto also was soon gaining experience as a trade representative in addition to his diplomatic and military skills. Born into a devout Christian family Erasto nevertheless had no interest at all in religious matters until traveling in Egypt he discovered an early copy of some of the works of the Philokalia written in Koptic. Reading it eagerly Erasto became a devout Christian and returning to Axum began to study under Aksumite Christian Masters. Erasto remained a solider but also developed a strong interest in interpreting scriptures from a Monophysitic point of view, and became such a skillful writer, fluent interpreter, and powerful debater on Christian doctrine that he soon earned the nickname, Qwara, the Cushite Christian (even though that was a misnomer). At the age of 25 Erasto was assigned to escort a trade and diplomatic mission to the Byzantine Empire by way of Egypt and the Mediterranean. At sea his ship, along with several others, was attacked by Sicilian pirates and many on his ship were killed. Erasto was severely injured in combat and had to return to Egypt, where as a result of his injuries he was retired, but allowed to retain the rank of Commander as a Christian Soldier. While recovering in Egypt he studied with Kopts in Alexandria to become a Christian Cleric and within two years was ordained. After ordination he was returning to Axum but stopped at Karnak where he met Addo and the other members of the Moonshadow.