Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Wolfgang HAHN, University of Vienna

The legends and the pictures which are displayed on the Aksumite coins are closely related to each other according to the habits of the other contemporary coinages. This is, of course, evident in the cases where the kings image is accompanied by a legend quoting his name and title, even running from one side of the coins to the other when the king is depicted on both sides. The degree of the peoples’ literacy did not matter because interpreters could always be found to read out the legends.
Starting from the conversion to Christianity (the date of which was not earlier than 360 AD) one side was more and more distinguished by elements of a developing Christian typology, proceeding from the sign of the cross which was modified into various highly symbolic forms. This implied the appearance of related legends which can be understood as slogans, first in Greek, later on in Geez. Their message, sources and wording, as well as their historical background is discussed in the paper.