Several factors went into making the Kingdom of Axum a great civilization. For starters, it was located along very important trade routes. By controlling the shorelines on both sides of the entrance to the Red Sea, the Axumites gained significant wealth through their own middlemen merchants and tolls charged to foreign traders. They were able to trade in luxury goods and gold with Egyptians, Greeks, Arabs, and Romans. It is also likely that Axumite traders traveled the Silk Road to India and China. This access to many lucrative foreign markets allowed Axum to become wealthy in its own right. The region also had significant gold and iron deposits. This wealth led to the minting of their own coinage. In fact, it was the first sub-Saharan nation to do so. Coins from Axum have been found in India and Europe, a testament to the kingdom's influence and reach.
The Axumites controlled a very fertile land. The highlands of Ethiopia and the surrounding region were well suited for growing staple crops and grains as well as raising cattle and other livestock. This helped feed a large local population and was also exported abroad.
Axum also had military power. In addition to a large army, Axum also had a well-equipped naval force. This allowed the Axumites to conquer land on the coastline of the Arabian Peninsula. Axum had numerous tribute kingdoms elsewhere, such as in Sudan and the Horn of Africa. This allowed Axum to have a great influence on neighboring peoples and rise in prestige throughout much of the known world.