n cultural and economic exchange. The Red Sea connected people on both coasts and produced a single cultural unit that included Ethiopia and Yemen, which over time diverged into different cultures. It is only in Ethiopia that proto-Ethiopian script developed and survives today in Ge’ez, Tigrean, and Amharic.
In the first century C.E. , the ancient city of Axum became a political, economic, and cultural center in the region. The Axumites dominated the Red Sea trade by the third century. By the fourth century they were one of only four nations in the world, along with Rome, Persia, and the Kushan Kingdom in northern India, to issue gold coinage.
In 333, Emperor ‘Ēzānā and his court adopted Christianity; this was the same year the Roman Emperor Constantine converted. The Axumites and the Romans became economic partners who controlled the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea trades, respectively.
Axum flourished through the sixth century, when Emperor Caleb conquered much of the Arabian peninsula. However, the Axumite Empire eventually declined as a result of the spread of Islam, resulting in a loss of control over the Red Sea as well as a depletion of natural resources in the region that left the environment unable to support the population. The political center shifted southward to the mountains of Lasta (now Lalibela).