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trade routes from an early period. However, the adoption of Christianity as the official government-sponsored religion of the Nubians took place in the mid-sixth century. John of Ephesus describes the conversion of the kingdom of Norbaria through a mission project sponsored by the Miaphysite supporter, the Byzantine empress Theodora. The other two Nubian kingdoms soon followed into the Christian community.

Ethiopian Christianity31

The traditions of the Ethiopian church usually begin with the arrival of two Palestinian Syriac (?) brothers, Frumentius and Aedesius, from Tyre who were shipwrecked on the Ethiopian coast. Perhaps they were enslaved, but they became important officials in the Ethiopian government at Axum. Desiring ordination commensurate with his responsibilities, Frumentius made his way to Alexandria where tradition has it that he was ordained bishop of Ethiopia by Athanasius. Later the Arian Byzantine emperor Constantius II attempted to replace Frumentius with an Arian bishop, but to no avail. Minted coins with Ethiopian kings and crosses prove that the royal family of Ethiopia became Christian during the fourth century.

After the Council of Chalcedon (451), the Ethiopian church joined the Copts in rejecting the decisions of the council. The subsequent persecution of Miaphysite clergy in northern Mesopotamia and Palestine resulted in a large number of refugee monks making the trek to Ethiopia where they supported mission efforts among the people. By the early sixth century, observers could affirm (probably an exaggerated claim) that Ethiopia was a Christian nation. The earliest translation work from Greek to Ethiopic (Ge'ez) probably took place during the fifth century.

Arabia, South Arabia, Soqotra and the Persian Gulf32 From the second century, there is record of Christians among the Arabic-speaking populations of the lands bordering the Roman empire. Once again, there is evidence of Christianity following the commercial connections between the Arabic population and the Syriac and Coptic merchants. By the fifth century, numerous Arabic Christian centres had developed at the edges of the desert and along the coastlines of the Arab peninsula, especially on the

31 E. Ullendorff, Ethiopiaand the Bible; R. Cowley, Ethiopian biblical interpretation; E. Haberland, Altes Christentum in Sud-Athiopien; Michael A. Knibb, Translating the Bible.

32 History of the martyrs ofNagran, ed. Esteves Pereira as Historia dos martyres do Nagran and Shahid as The martyrs ofNagrân; The book of the Himyarites, ed. Moberg; J. Ryckmans, La persecution des chrétiens himyarites.

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