Northern Africa 400: Emergence of Makuria
The collapse of the Kingdom of Kush in the 3rd and 4th centuries left a power vacuum in the upper Nile Valley that was eventually filled by the three Nubian kingdoms of Nobatia, Makuria, and Alodia. Although the northern kingdom of Nobatia was the oldest, having been established as early as Diocletian’s campaign of 298, it was the central kingdom of Makuria, formed c. 400, that would begin the takeover of the former Kushite heartland.
397 Alaric magister militum▲
In the wake of Stilicho’s campaign in Greece (397), Alaric and his Goths withdrew to Epirus, where they continued their pillaging. To appease him—and create a buffer against the Western Empire—the Eastern government of Eutropius appointed Alaric as magister militum per Illyricum, granting him military authority in Macedonia and Dacia. This seems to have satisfied the Goths, who would remain quiet until 401.
? Feb–31 Jul 398 Gildonic War▲
To deal with Gildo’s revolt in Africa, the Western Roman generalissimo Stilicho placed Mascezel—Gildo’s brother and bitter rival—in command of a number of the West’s best units and dispatched him from Pisa. Mascezel arrived in Africa in February 398 and by March had secured the capital of Carthage. Gildo rallied, meeting Mascezel’s 5,000 troops with some 7,000 of his own by the river Ardalio, near Theveste, but was decisively defeated when several of his units defected to his brother’s side. His cause lost, Gildo attempted to flee by sea to the East, but was captured and executed in late July.
400? Emergence of Makuria▲
During the 4th and 5th centuries, and especially following the fall of the Kingdom of Kush in c. 350, the Kushites became absorbed into the Nubian populations that had settled in the Nile Valley. This change was marked by the emergence of a new elite—known through burials in large tumuli—and eventually led to the formation of the Nubian state of Makuria in the Napata region by the early 5th century. Later that same century one of the first Makurian kings established a new capital further downstream by founding the fortress of Dongola near the third cataract.