East of the city is a hilly mountain, on top of which is a television receiver. West of the northern part of Aksum Hotel is a rocky hill. Long identified as the cemetery of Aksumite kings in use for a long period of time before and after Christ. An example was found during archaeological excavations in 1965, locally identified as the tomb of Atsie Bazen. He reigned from about 8 BC to 9 AD.
Atsie Bazen’s tomb differes from all other tombs in Aksum. One unique feature is its artistry. All surrounding tombs are found in the rocky hillside behind. Seventeen steps lead down to a long anteroom, with three chambers adjoining opposite, to the south. Subsidiary or later are the four rock cut burial chambers either side of the staircase and the further chamber on the north side of the antechamber.
Slightly north and beside Atsie Bazen’s tomb are a group of seven tombs facing south, and a further four having a covered entrance. They are certainly royal tombs as a 6meter tall stelae stands beside them and behind Bazen’s tomb.
In sum, rock-cut tombs are characteristic features of the period before the birth of Christ. But, following the introduction of Christianity, many ecclesiastical buildings were constructed. There are now more than 36 carved churches adorned with vine-scrolls in Tigray.
Atsie Ezana Recreational Center (‘Ezana Gardens’
Ezana was an illustrious Aksumite king who reigned during the 4th century AD. He had military campaigns in all directions which were consistently victorious. He captured and enslaved the areas of Himyer, Reydan, Saba, Sarahien, Habeshyem, and Kassubege and its environs. This is known from the trilingual inscriptions engraved in Greek, Saba and Ge’ez.
His campaign against the Beja is particularly wellknown, as there are three near-identical engraved inscriptions describing his military expeditin there. Atsie Ezana Recreation Center is one of the modern centers in the city, now furnished with a variety of historical monuments collected from various areas of the town. These include engraved limestone inscriptions, a drainage channel, a throne base, pillary and capitals, and stelae fragments.
Ezana, called the ‘king of kings’, worshipped the old testament and believed in the New. In his day, he was the strongest and wisest of the Aksumite kings. Most engraved inscriptions tell of his powerful deeds. The following inscription written in Ethiopic script is an instance.
By the omnipotent king, God of heaven and earth in the name of the Lord. Son of Alamida, Besie Halen, King of Aksum, Yehim iyar, saba, Salhie, Reydan, Yebeja, Kassu king of kings, never defeated by any enemy, son of Alamida, God, who gave me power and grace, who is king of Heaven forever, no one shall wait on my way, for God stretches his hands on my back and front on my behalf.This expresses Ezana’s strong belief in Christianity.
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