The Rozwi Empire held sway in southeastern Africa, located south of the Zambezi River and centred on the stone city of Great Zimbabwe. It replaced the gold-trading empire of Mwene Mutapa from the 15th century. The Rozwi empire survived until the Mfecane of the 1830s, when overpopulation to the south drove the Nguni and Ndebele people northwards into Rozwi territory in search of more land.
In 1693 the Portuguese were defeated by the Rozwi chieftaincy of Changamire, whose power was based in Butua in the southwest. The Rozwi were formed from several Shona states that dominated the plateau of present-day Zimbabwe at the time. The Portuguese were driven off the central plateau and only retained a nominal presence at one of the fairs in the eastern highlands. The whole of present-day Zimbabwe was brought under the control of Changamire and became known as the Rozwi Empire. The Rozwi chiefs revived the tradition of building in stone and constructed impressive cities throughout the southwest. The economic power of the Rozwi Empire was based on cattle wealth, but gold mining continued, and gold was traded for luxury imports.
In the 1790s the whole southern African region began to experience a prolonged series of droughts. They weakened the Rozwi Empire, which allowed local chiefs and spirit mediums to begin seizing power. The gold fairs functioned only intermittently. Then in the early 19th century, the period of regional warfare and forced migrations known as the mfecane began. Following victories by the Zulu king Shaka in what is now eastern South Africa, the Ndwandwe, a Nguni-speaking people, were forcibly dispersed, and armed bands led by Ndwandwe chiefs migrated northward, invading the Rozwi Empire. The empire was devastated by the Ndwandwe armies of Nxaba and Zwangendaba. In the early 1830s the last Rozwi ruler was killed in his capital of Khame.
Empires that developed in the southern interior of the continent are not as well documented, and while they very likely did develop, as in the case of Great Zimbabwe, almost nothing is known about them.
However, with the declining power of the Western Roman Empire, and pressures from the north on the Mediterranean and the resulting decline in import of goods from India, Axum began to loose it's major trading status and the importance of Axum's ports (and even their existence) was soon forgotten.
The empire traded kola nuts, gold, ivory and slaves (eunuchs and young girls kidnapped in raids to the south of Kanem, a Kanuri specialty were much sought by North African Berbers) for horses, salt, copper and metal wares.
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