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On the Ezana stone, the Axumite (modern day Ethiopia) king wrote in Ge'ez, Sabaean and Greek to describe his victory over the Kasu (Kushites) and Nuba (Nubians).

He mentions the black and red peoples, he also mentioned the Black and Red Noba

Here are some excerpts:

The Nuba and Kasu

By the might of the Lord of Heaven who in the sky and on earth holds power over all beings, Ezana, son of Ella Amida, Bisi Halen, king of Aksum, Himyar, Raydan, Saba, Salhin, Tsiyamo, Beja and of Kasu, king of kings, son of Ella Amida, never defeated by the enemy.

May the might of the Lord of Heaven, who has made me king, who reigns for all eternity, invincible, cause that no enemy can resist me, that no enemy may follow me!

By the might of the Lord of All I campaigned against the Noba when the Noba peoples revolted and boasted. `They will not dare to cross the Takaze' said the Noba people. When they had oppressed the Mangurto,

Hasa and Barya peoples, and when the blacks fought the red people and they broke their word for the second and third times

and put their neighbours to death without mercy, and pillaged our messengers and the envoys whom I sent to them to admonish them...

I arrived at the Kasu, fought them and took them prisoner at the confluence of the rivers Seda and Takaze (white and blue Nile)

The towns of the Kasu with walls of stone which the Noba had taken were Tabito(?), Fertoti; and the troops penetrated to the territory of the Red Noba and my peoples returned safe after taking prisoners and booty, and killing by the might of the Lord of Heaven. And I erected a throne at the confluence.

Who are the Red Noba, Who are the blacks who are fighting with the Red people?

I ask this question because most hieroglyphs show native Egyptians in reddish-brown skin more often than in black skin.

I want to know if this is a likely answer to the long standing controversy around the original phenotype of those who founded the Nile valley civilization.

What have modern historians said about the Red and Black Noba ethnic groups as described by His Majesty Emperor Ezana?

  • +1 History beta can cover the historical issues such as this which increase the amount of the knowledge over many issues. – Kentaro Tomono Feb 9 at 17:19
  • Can you add a link to your source for the translations that doesn't link to GMail? – sempaiscuba Feb 9 at 19:04
  • I am not familiar with the Ethiopian history, but judging from the sound. wouldn't Nova mean today's or people related to today's Nuva poeple? – Kentaro Tomono Feb 9 at 20:16
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    Looking at one description and trying to decipher the unknown names is quite hard. since, together with an apology, the Ethiopian history did not play a great role in terms of its impact on the history. I now regret I upvoted. – Kentaro Tomono Feb 9 at 20:59
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The short answer is that we really don't know with any certainty, and there is - as yet - no scholarly consensus on the subject.

The names given to ancient peoples (in this case from the early fourth century CE) often have little meaning in modern contexts. However, it does seem reasonable to associate the names 'Kasu' with Kushites and 'Nuba' with Nubians in this instance.


In this case, the state of research was summarised by Stuart Munro-Hay in his book Aksum: an African Civilisation of Late Antiquity (Edinburgh University Press, 1991), which - I suspect - was probably also the original source for the excepts from the text of the DAE 11 inscription you quote in the question.

He says:

We know from Ezana's 'monotheist' inscription (Ch. 11: 5 [‘The Aksumite Inscriptions’]) that the Aksumites recognised the Black (tsalim) and the Red (qayh) peoples, mentioning also the 'Red Noba'; but it is not clear where in these categories they fitted themselves. Littmann [Deutsche Aksum-Expedition] (1913) thought that the implication was of the 'red' people of the kingdom of Aksum in contrast to the 'black' Noba (and others), a differentiation which still applies today in the eyes of the northern Ethiopians. Both Drewes [Inscriptions de l'Éthiopie antique] (1962: 98) and Schneider [Les inscriptions d'Enda Čerqos] (1961: 61-2), whose particular study has been the pre-Aksumite inscriptions, have come to the conclusion that even in the time of the kingdom of D'MT this contrast was used. The expression 'the entire kingdom' was rendered in the geographical sense by the phrase `its east and its west', while the different characteristics of its population were illustrated by the words 'its red (people) and its black (people)'. If this is correct, and the two phrases are intentionally balanced, it might indicate a predominance of the 'red' or semiticised population in the eastern and central part of the kingdom, as would be expected given the South Arabian influences apparent from the material remains found there.

I have added links to the texts cited by Hay.

From this, we can see that it is by no means clear even whether the Aksumites considered themselves among the 'black' ('tsalim') or the 'red' ('qayh') peoples, let alone what that distinction meant when they applied it to the Nuba.


Given the above, it doesn't appear that we can really say anything meaningful about the peoples of Egypt to the north on the basis of this text. I certainly don't see what it can contribute to the 'long standing controversy around the original phenotype of those who founded the Nile valley civilization'.

  • Thanks for your wonderful answer. Encountering this text from Ezana's stone has made me rethink my views about the ancient Egyptians being a black skinned people, especially because even the Nubians existed as Reds and blacks. In modern Ethiopia, the Northern Ethiopians like the Tigray, Amhara etc. Can also be classified as "red people" because they look different from other peoples on the continent. So thats what this question was about. +1 – user20490 Feb 10 at 7:09
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We don’t really know for sure who the Noba were, and as far as I can tell Ezana is the only source to distinguish Red and Black Noba. A footnote in this article cites an interpretation that the Black Noba were from the south while Red Noba were from the north. You may want to check the original source on that. A different article has another relevant footnote which states that “Ezana classified a number of his own subjects and those along his border as ‘red’ or ‘black’”, citing certain pages in a book by Pankhurst.

(Disclaimer: I have zero expertise on the history of East Africa.)

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    Looking at the preview on Google Books, Pankhurst seems to cite Littman and Munro-Hay as his sources. – sempaiscuba Feb 9 at 22:43
  • The Noba are the Nobateans, the people of the Egyptian Nubtw, the Nubians of southern Egyptian and Northern Sudan. – user20490 Feb 10 at 11:29

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