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During the time of ancient Egypt’s glory – during the third and second millenia B.C. – the influence of Egyptian civilization was strong in the land to the south, the eastern or Egyptian Sudan, often called Nubia and known to the Egyptians as Kush. The
northern Nubians, darker skinned than the Egyptians who may have originally come from Asia and those further south were Negroes. Egypt traded with, fought with, and to some extent ruled over these peoples.
A Kushite civilization in Nubia, with its capital at Napata, flourished from the 11th century B.C; and at the same time Egypt entered into a long period of weakness and divided rule.
About 750 B.C. the Kushites began the conquest of Egypt, and in 715 established there a Kushite dynasty (misleadingly known as the Ethiopian Dynasty). But about 50 years later the Kushites were driver out of Egypt, after some tremendous battles, by invading Assyrians. The Kushite kings retired to their old capital at Napata, where they continued to rule until early in the 6th century B.C. They then transferred their capital to Meroe, 300 miles further south, perhaps because Meroe was situated in an area rich in iron ore.
The Kushite Kingdom of Meroe lasted for eight centuries, until about A.D. 320, when it was destroyed by the King of Axum, the rising power in Ethiopia. The Kushite civilization vanished completely. It was not until very recently that knowledge of it
has been compiled, from inscriptions in tombs and the ruins of Meroe and Napata.
The Meroitic writing has been partly deciphered, though the language is dead. The Kushites were great traders – from Red Sea ports to the east, and through Egypt where their relations with the Ptolemies in the last centuries B.C. were generally
friendly. The Kushites were skilled iron workers; and their armies gained strength from their horsed cavalry and their taming and use of the elephant. Meroe was a splendid city, with a magnificent palace and a beautifully decorated Temple of the
About 200 years after the destruction of Meroe the Nubian descendants of the Kushites were converted to Christianity by missionary monks from Egypt (where at that time Christianity was widespread). There then existed for many centuries
Christian kingdoms in Nubia, where the people appear to have led a comfortable life.
Good farmers and craftsmen, they were also greatly interested in learning. They developed a modified form of Greek writing suitable for their own language, and built
schools and libraries. After the Moslem conquest of Egypt in the 7th century (see chapter 4) the Nubian Christians continued on friendly terms with Egypt until about 1250, when their kingdoms were invaded by Moslem Arabs and African neighbours who had been
converted to Islam. By the 14th century this Nubian Christian civilization had faded out.
This short history has been compiled from the study of a number of works, including the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Encyclopedia Americana, Every-man’s Encyclopedia, W.L.Langer’s “Encyclopedia of World History”, other reference books such as Whitaker’s Almanack and The Statesman’s Year Book, “The Last Two Million Years” published by the Readers’ Digest, and “Discovering Africa’s Past” by Basil Davidson.