Segments in this Video

Cities: Introduction (03:44)


Civilizations between the 11th and 17th centuries experienced a golden age in Africa. Henry Gates Jr. examines how a city's growth leads to conflict on the continent. Merchants from Greece, Europe, China, and the Middle East traded in Azania, ports on the Swahili Coast.

Traveling To Azania (04:58)

Hippalus realized that traveling during specific months greatly reduced travel times on the Indian Ocean. A Dhow could make the 3000 mile journey in 25 days. The Swahili people adopted Islam and began to make it their own.

Kilwa (06:40)

Ibn Battuta described the beauty of Kilwa after he visited in 1331. Bertram Mapunda explains why the city was the most affluent on the Swahili coast. Sultan al-Hasan ibn Sulaiman added an extension to the Great Mosque and built the Palace of Husuni Kubwa.

Great Zimbabwe (05:56)

Miners extracted a ton of gold each year at its peak production. Its people constructed a large town and spoke Shona. The Great Enclosure is the largest pre-colonial structure in Sub-Saharan Africa; the bricks are piled on top of each other without mortar.

Valley of the Dry Bones (04:35)

Owning cattle became a sign of status and power amount the population. Zimbabwe also possessed a thriving Ivory trade; half of the gold and ivory income went to the rulers. A change in trade routes caused Great Zimbabwe to fall into decline.

Benin City (05:18)

The Benin bronzes decorated the altar at the Palace of the Oba and honored the previous king. Ewuare the Great came to power and turned the city-state into a large military fortress in the 15th century. The Oba inspired loyalty by patronizing the arts and keeping disgruntled citizens from leaving.

Warrior Kings (03:22)

The Oba commemorated his victories by honoring his opponents. Artisans did not recreate exact likenesses but an idealized portrait. The Portuguese arrived and were hired as mercenaries.

On the East Coast (03:36)

Kilwa minted its own gold coins. Francisco de Almeida bombed and captured the city. The Portuguese caused the decline of economic trading on the Swahili coast.

Portuguese Travel to Ethiopia (03:31)

The Ethiopians convinced the Portuguese their leader was Prester John, a legendary religious King who could help stop the spread of Islam. Ethiopia started seizing Muslim owned land.

Islam Fights Ethiopia (04:20)

The Adal Sultanate wanted control of the trade route to the south. Cristóvão da Gama fought with Gelawdewos against the Muslim Sultan; the Portuguese thought that Ethiopia would swear fealty to the Pope. A civil war erupted when Emperor Susenyos outlawed Ethiopian Orthodoxy.

Fasilides' Reign (05:24)

The new emperor reinstated Ethiopian Orthodoxy as the state religion and expelled the Jesuits. Fasilides established Gondar as a permanent capital of the country and erected Fasil Ghebbi. Experts describe the impact of cities like Kilwa, Zimbabwe, and Benin on the world.

Credits: Africa's Great Civilizations—Part 4: Cities (00:45)

Credits: Africa's Great Civilizations—Part 4: Cities

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Africa's Great Civilizations—Part 4: Cities

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Gates explores the power of Africa’s greatest ancient cities, including Kilwa, Great Zimbabwe and Benin City, whose wealth, art and industrious successes attracted new European interest and interaction along the continent’s east and west coasts.

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: BVL144353

Copyright date: ©2017

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