Civilization Concept: The Ethiopians

The Ethiopians

Churches, Bartering, Skirmishing

7th Century to mid-16th Century
Difficulty: 3/3

Hi everyone, welcome to my third civ concept. Sorry I’m missing one of Seicing’s fancy AoE4 style flags for this one. I always think I’ll never do another one because of how much work they are but I always seem to find some new interesting concept to explore. This one went a little differently than I expected. In the course of my research, I also learned about the neighboring Medieval Nubian Kingdoms of Makuria, Nobadia, and Alodia, and realized there were a lot of really cool aspects about them that I really wanted to explore in a civ design. You could very well argue that they deserve a separate civ, but based on likelihood we would only ever get one civ from this region, I decided to combine references to these kingdoms, especially Makuria, into my Ethiopian civ design because they all deserve representation. I fully understand they were different peoples with different languages and cultures, but their shared Religion and remarkably consistent peaceful coexistence make it within the realm of plausibility that they could work together. For the civ name I settled on Ethiopians just because of the name recognition, lasting legacy, and more accessible language. As always, every unit, bonus, and unique feature has some basis in history that I have researched to the absolute best of my ability, and once again, there are no numbers on the bonuses because without balance testing numbers are useless. Feel free to ask ‘why did you do this’ for anything you see!

Background and Inspiration

A Cradle of History : Very few, if any places on Earth have as much human history as Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. Not only is Ethiopia one of the oldest countries in the world, but there is speculation that the very first humans originated from here. Contemporary Ethiopia has its roots in the Aksumite Kingdom, which in the third century AD was described as one of the four great empires on Earth, along with Rome, Persia, and China. After the decline of the kingdom of Axum, the region entered a ‘dark’ age about which not much is known. Legends abound about a mysterious, usurping, warrior queen known as Gudit who laid waste to the land, and was eventually supplanted by the Zagwe dynasty. Finally, the ‘Solomonic’ Dynasty that claimed descent from the original rulers of Axum and the biblical King Solomon regained power and led Ethiopia all the way up to the late 20th century, remaining one of the only African countries never fully colonized by an outside power.

An Island of Christianity: Although most people associate it more with Europe, Christianity took very strong root among the Kingdom of Axum and the neighboring Nubian kingdoms, with both regions falling under the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate in Alexandria. After the Arab conquests, these Christian kingdoms became isolated from the rest of the Christian world, but fiercely persisted. Makuria established itself as a front to the expansion of the Arab caliphates, famously defeating the Rashiduns twice and resulting in the ‘Baqt’, a nearly 700-year peace treaty, while Ethiopia clashed with the sultanates of the South/East African coast. They built many churches, including the incredible monolithic Lalibela Rock Churches, and every Ethiopian Church is consecrated by the storage of a Tabot, a replica of the ten commandments. This devotion resulted in the legend of a mythical ‘Prester John’ spreading among Europeans, said to be the leader of a powerful, isolated Christian nation that would eventually bring victory in the Crusades. This legend was one of the motivations of the Portuguese expeditions around Africa.

Empires of the Nile: After the fall of the Aksumite empire and the cessation of minting of coins, Ethiopia was unique in having had a barter-based economy lasting well into the post-medieval age, while the Nubians cultivated the banks of the Nile into a bountiful region. Ethiopia was defended by regiments of Chewa, the Ethiopian equivalent of a Feudal Lord/Knight. Soldiers used javelins and spears extensively, and the Ethiopians are also well known for their unique, sickle-like Shotel sword, which was used up into the modern period to various ceremonial and military degrees. Armor was known and used, but sparingly. In the neighboring Nubian kingdoms, it was their ‘pupil-smiter’ archers that were universally renowned for their skill and accuracy and kept the caliphates at bay.

Civilization Design and Concept

Concept: The tides of the Ethiopian civilization fall nicely within the timeframe of the game, with the Dark age aptly corresponding to the Ethiopian ‘Dark Age’ in a weakened post-Aksumite Empire, the Feudal age representing regrowth through the Zagwe dynasty, and the Castle and Imperial ages representing the expansion under the Solomonic Dynasty. Similar to Mali, Ethiopian units lack bulk initially and rely on hit and run tactics. Their lack of gold units and market based influence bonus reflect their barter economy. With relatively weaker units and no strong early eco bonus, players will have to use unique strategies such as the ‘Baqt’ treaty or new AoE ‘Wololo’ abilities to hold off enemy armies while building up their Church-oriented bonuses and aging up in a unique way. Their navy is nothing special but they have the ability to maintain a strong shoreline eco without needing total water control.

Language: In Dark age, the units should speak the original language of the Aksumite Empire: Ge’ez, which is still used today as a liturgical language (similar to Latin). In the Feudal age and beyond, they should speak Amharic. Other languages that could be used include Tigrinya and Nubian (for the archer unique unit especially)

Architecture: I’ve reserved the post below this for screenshots of architecture


  • Ethiopian units and technologies don’t cost gold, except for age-ups and Religious units and technologies (the food/wood cost, most likely of siege units, could be adjusted for balance).

  • Ethiopians cannot kill and gather from Boar (Ethiopian Orthodoxy follows Jewish Kosher diet)

  • Villagers drop off extra food at docks and saqiyas.

  • Ehiopians can enter into a ‘Baqt’ with any other player. At any point (with a cooldown), you can tribute that player gold to stop all combat for yourself and that player (including with other players in Team games). During this period, towers and keeps cannot be built outside of a radius around the TC. The gold cost could start off small and scale up the more you use it.

  • While mining stone and gold, a Monolith Church is automatically built on top of the mine as it depletes (will complete before mine is exhausted). This building is a combination of a landmark and a monastery and provides bonuses.

  • The Ethiopian Abuna unit can build and carry a Tabot. A Tabot cannot be built if there is no Church in which to store it. It has various AoE effects (see unique unit section) and must be placed in a Church or monastery to enable ability cool-down.

  • Ethiopians age up by researching one of two religious-themed technologies at a Monolith Church with a Tabot which only costs gold. Once researched, that church becomes a landmark.


  • Markets are available in the dark age and extend influence. All drop off buildings within influence can be tasked to automatically trade the resource for any other resource at barter rates (similar to trading resources through the market, but instead done automatically). Just like at a regular market, the rates get worse over time so you can’t just task all vills on one resource and forget. One goal is to differentiate the initial build order by encouraging sending the majority of villagers to gold or stone and use the influence bonus to trade for food, while building the initial Monolith church ASAP.

Unique Features


  • Saqiya (I): Ethiopian mills can be placed on water like a dock. In this case, they become Saqiyas and result in more food drop off.

  • Farms (I): Ethiopian farms should uniquely grow Teff.

  • Monolith Church (I): Built automatically on top of mines. Monolith Churches have unique names and can only be attacked by siege units. Villagers and monks can garrison inside of Monolith churches (but they gain no attack). Each Monolith Church built increases HP of all units and improves barter rates

Unit Roster

Unique Units

  • Abuna (I, Town Center): A unique religious unit present at the start of the game. Only one can exist at a time. If it dies, a new one is spawned automatically from the town center. The unit can perform all the regular functions of a monk and also build and carry Tabots to perform special activatable abilities. Beyond age 3, these abilities can also be activated with a standard relic.
    ******* AoE Conversion: Same as with a regular relic, but available in dark age :grinning:
    ******* AoE Heal: Rapidly heals all units within radius
    ******* AoE Celebration: All villagers in radius gain increased HP, attack, and movement speed.

  • Archer of the Eyes (II, Archery Range): A ‘glass-cannon’ archer with low HP and higher attack. Has two activatable abilities: one to debuff attack speed of any units it hits, the other to debuff movement speed. Very weak vs AoE damage and units that get up close.

  • Chewa (III, Barracks) : A less bulky man-at-arms that can throw a high damage javelin at short-to-medium range on a cooldown and also carries a Shotel for a small attack bonus vs cavalry (since one of the theoretical uses of Shotels was to hook people off horses).

  • Takula Rider (II, Stable) : A horseman unit that can throw a short-range javelin on cooldown. Strong charge attack but less HP and/or armor than horsemen.

  • Alodian Lancer (III Stable): Cheaper Lancer unit that starts off with less armor and attack than a standard one (similar to a Sofa), but gets increased armor and/or attack based on the number of Relics and Sacred Sites taken (up to a maximum)

Ships: Dhow, War Dhow, Explosive Dhow, Carrack.

Missing from Standard Roster: Archer, Horseman, Man-at-arms, Lancer/Knight, Ribauldequin, Culverin


  • Coffee Cultivation (II, Mill): All units gain slightly increased speed and training time

  • Master Stonecutters (III, Mining Camp): Monolith Church HP increased. Gold and stone mining speed (and hence Monolith build time) increased.

  • Chewa Garrisons (III, Barracks): Chewas garrisoned in outposts for a certain length of time gain increased attack speed for a period of time after ungarrisoning.

  • Sarawit (IV, Barracks): Melee infantry gain bonus damage vs siege weapons

  • Treaty Provisions (II, Church/Monastery): Baqt provides a small trickle of food and wood

  • Aggressive Negotiations (III, Church/Monastery): Military production speed and villager build speed greatly increased during Baqt

  • Fasting Rites (IV, Church): All units cost less food

  • Katamas (III, Keep): Destroyed buildings and palisade walls refund all of their wood cost (even if deleted)

  • Sewn Boats (II, Dock): Villager repair speed on boats increased and costs fewer resources

  • Shoreline Defenses (II, Dock): Docks can garrison more fishing ships. Towers and dock emplacements gain increased bonus damage vs ships.

Age-Up Technologies

Feudal: Defensive buff vs Economic buff

  • Ark of the Covenant
    • Monolith Churches provide increased armor to all units in radius
  • Illuminated Manuscripts
    • Monks garrisoned inside Monolith Churches gather gold and stone from remaining mine

Castle: Micro-focused, high-risk, high-reward bonus vs ‘standard’ lower risk eco bonus

  • Spiritual Wall Paintings
    • Monolith churches provide increased gather rates in radius (do not stack)
  • Kebra Nagast
    • Monks can now carry Tabots and use abilities. Abunas can use abilities twice before requiring a cooldown.

Imperial: Military Flexibility vs Increased Economy

  • Holy Pilgrimage
    • Monks can ‘pilgrimage’ (trade) between Monolith Churches and neutral or allied markets. While on pilgrimage, they gain a small AoE heal and gather rate boost. The trade rate can be nerfed to compensate.
  • The Legend of Prester John
    • Monolith Churches can produce Elite Royal Knights, Portuguese Arquebusiers, Elite Landsknechts or Culverins (cost could be adjusted for balance). Carrack cost decreased at docks.


  • Covenant Church
    (Based on the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, where the Ark of the Covenant is claimed to be kept (even though we all know it’s in a secret vault being looked after by ‘top men’).

Unit Art

Nubian and Ethiopian Archers from 16th century Portuguese codex:



Typical Ethiopian Cavalry Art

Abuna from AOE3


Wonder: Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion
(In its modern form)

Monolith Churches


Monastery examples (Based on Debre Damo Monastery)

The interspersed layers of rock and timber called ‘Monkey Head’ construction are typical of Axumite and later Ethiopian architecture

Axumite Fort Reconstruction


After initial feedback and thoughts, I added a unique lancer unit called ‘Alodian Lancer’ and removed the ‘Alodian horses’ tech since lacking a heavy cav unit might make the civ too vulnerable, especially in team games. This unit starts off weaker than a regular Knight/Lancer, similar to a Sofa but can get stronger with relics or sacred sites taken, like a Lithuanian Knight or Leitis in AoE2. The Royal Knights from the Imperial Age age-up are still available in case the relic/SS battle doesn’t go your way.

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This is sum good stuff.
Ethiopia was one of the civs I wanted to make a concept off, but haven’t had much time to continue my civ concept stuff. But It’s always great to see others continue the legacy, regardless of the “qualtiy”.
Yeah some put extra effort to make it look amazing with icons and all that, but that shouldn’t deter one to make something simple like this (not everyone has photoshop skill 100, let alone the time to do so, but all praise to those willing to put that extra effort)

When it comes to representing the “region” within the ethiopian concept, I think you are on to something there, as a quick look at the Malians are doing exactly that, representing other units from different regional cultures that dosn’t really have anything to do with the malians.
So it’s a good foresight when making the civ.

Personally, i’d just double down on the specific civ, because that would leave space open to make a new civ concept for the other civilization lol.

The Baqt treaty, although a very interesting and relevant feature for the Ethiopians, I think is a bit problematic.

Problematic due to the nature of this game, sure ideal for nomad. But if AOE4 ever have plan to actually finish their work on “diplomacy” feature like they have in AOE2 (Ability to give tribute to other players / make or break alliances within the game itself in a no-team setting)
But also that it easily becomes a “useless” feature that nobody will either try capitalize on, and in a 1v1 regular game just not used at all.

However I do think Baqt could be added in way by either through “forced” means, such as building a specific Feudal landmark will “trigger” Baqt that will last for X amount of time, and make the enemie unable to attack you for that period of time. However i realise this can be increadible broken and exploitative lol. So it needs to be balanced somehow. But it does force a intersetting setting for the gameplan for both sides.

Overall great concept and always a joy to learn more about more “niché” civs. Especially on the african continent.

Also Ethiopian food is delicious.

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Thanks for the comments!

I went back and forth so many times about separating the two civs, but in the time that I was willing to devote to this I just couldn’t come up with enough uniqueness to make two different civ designs that I was happy with, especially for Nubia, since I didn’t have a strong base concept/identity around which to base it like the Monolith Churches for Ethiopia. (The Baqt was always more of an ‘ability’ than an ‘identity’ and as you said would be potentially more problematic to implement)

You have no idea how much working on this concept made me crave Ethiopian food. I was literally looking up restaurants while I was making this and promised I would reward myself with going to the nearest one when I completed it.

well made, would be a cool civ

I’m going to follow the current to the causal ones…

I want the civilization of the Quitus Caras that of Puruhares and the Caranquis

Single Unit

They have a hero called Epiclachima, which grants bonuses in battle.


Looks good and the concept looks awesome overall but wouldn’t it be better if the Chewa was called the Shotel Warrior instead? Chewa is the name of a group of people from the southern portion of Africa, which Ethiopia isn’t located at as it’s located in East Africa.

Interesting idea. I’m interested in your unique soldier.

No, not really. Do we call a Man-at-arms ‘Sword Warrior’? It’s just lazy naming. Chewa may mean what you said, I don’t know, many languages have similar or identical words that mean different things. But it also was a term for what was essentially an Ethiopian Man-at-arms. I even posted a picture of it, and its easy to find references to this.

This isn’t like calling Man-At-Arms “Sword Warrior”. I was pointing out the use of a more accurate term and the name “Shotel Warrior” is used for the similar infantry unit in AoE2 and 3. However, we could call this unit “Shotelai” rather than “Shotel Warrior” because users of the Shotel were called “Shotelai”.

The civ is insulting for Ethiopian and Nubian cultures. It like putting Franks and Spanish together because they lived next to each other. Alodia, Baqt, Archer of the Eyes are Nubian, not Ethiopian.

It isn’t more accurate though. It’s more generic and inaccurate. Chewa was literally what the soldiers were called.

You mean like how they gave French civ Italian-inspired units? Or Malian civ Beninese-inspired units? Did you even read the justification and explanation for this? Because when I posted this on Reddit, an Ethiopian poster seemed very appreciative of all the research and didn’t seem particularly insulted. Guess what - many people in history fought for countries/cultures other than their own. The Nubians made up a significant part of Fatimid armies for example. But I suppose it’s easier to stand on your soapbox and virtue signal and be insulted on other people’s behalves than look at things with any nuance.

Did Ethiopians sign the peace “Baqt”? No.
Did Ethiopians used Nubian mercenaries “Archer of the eyes”? No.
Was Alodia part of Axum at any time? No.

Nubians and Ethiopians were distinct culturally, had different military, origin etc. There is literally NO justification to put them together.

Ethiopians didn’t even have good archers, other than “Maya” mercanaries.

How about their remarkably long peaceful relations? Their proven co-operation on religious matters relating to the Patriarch in Alexandria? Saying conclusively ‘They did not have anything to do with each other’ is as wrong as saying conclusively ‘they worked together extensively’. Relations between Makuria/Alodia and Ethiopia are not documented well enough to prove either. Hell, people barely even know anything about the time between the fall of the Axumite empire and the start of the Solomonic Dynasty. Is it that farfetched to imagine a scenario where a people under attack from a queen bent on destroying their religion would ask for aid from a neighboring Christian Kingdom? I would gladly have separated into two different civs if I felt it was plausible, but the chances are very low we would get two civs from this region. So to me the biggest justification of combining them is that if I didn’t, one of them would have no representation at all.


  • The Axumite Empire engaged in a series of invasions that culminated in the capture of the Nubian capital of Meroë in the middle of the 4th century AD, signaling the end of independent Nubian Pagan kingdoms. The Axumites then converted the Nubians to Christianity, establishing the authority of the Coptic Church in the area, and founded new Nubian Christian kingdoms, such as Nobatia, Alodia, and Makuria.

In theory, several of the Christian Nubian nations descend from the control of medieval Ethiopia when it was the Kingdom of Axum. In part, if they take out the Nubian Kingdom as a separate kingdom, maybe it will be their unique unit, but if they have the archers, the Ethiopians controlled this kingdom for several centuries, so in theory they could have the same type of archers.

On the other hand, regarding the ethnic composition of the medieval Ethiopian empire:

  • "Medieval Ethiopia was a highly militaristic nation based on a system of ethnic regiments known as ṣewa in Geʽez. This practice can be traced back to the beginning of the Aksumite period, when the men of newly subjugated tribes were forced to become soldiers for the king of Aksum, commanded by a tributary who was likely a local chief.The regiments were given a plot of land called a gult in exchange for their military service (Feudalism).

  • Merid Wolde Aregay suggests, based on Christopher Ehret’s linguistic theories, that the origin of Aksumite rule itself may have been through the subjugation of Agaw agriculturalists by Geʽez-speaking pastoralists. These regiments were instrumental in maintaining Aksumite sovereignty over the trade routes within its empire; however, due to the decentralized nature of the regiments, chiefs could easily rebel against the king. The regimental system continued through the Middle Ages, but by the Zagwe era they consisted of professional soldiers. In the Solomonic era, during the reign of Zara Yaqob, this professionalism was reflected in the Amharic term č̣äwa, as ṣewa carried a connotation of slavery which was no longer accurate."

So, levy Nubian archers could be part of the unique Ethiopian unit, unless they take out the Nubians at some future time. Although the Nubians are one of the least likely civs to get out first, as the Nubians were totally destroyed by various Islamic sultanates, derived from the Abbasi Caliphate, and have much less historical records than other Civs to let’s say, give them various unique technologies or bonuses. .

In fact, the sultanates that conquered Nubia were very careful to eliminate any reference to the Nubia of the past, destroying all temples and Landmarks. Like the Mongols who also have various ruins as Landmarks, various churches of which there are ancient records, ruins and plans could be considered as Landmarks, but in general assimilating it into a complex context would be difficult. Easy gives for a 1/3 difficulty Civ.

ABOUT THE CHEWA.- I think there is a confusion here due to “Homonymous” words, like “Baka” in Japanese which is an insult and “Vaca” in Spanish which is a… cow (moooo). Chewa is used to describe a language and population group, but it is also the English transliteration of a type of noble soldier from the Ethiopian kingdom, also called “ṣewa (ጼዋ)” in Ge’ ez and "* č̣äwa (ጨዋ)"* in Amharic.

ABOUT THE CONCEPT IN GENERAL.- I really liked your design. On some suggestions, the Sewn Boats technology can serve as a second Passive Marine Bonus bonus to be had for free from the first age. Take care of yourself.

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