Ethiopian Empire

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Ethiopian Empire
የኢትዮጵያ ንጉሠ ነገሥት መንግሥተ
Mängəstä Ityop'p'ya
Ityopia tabetsih edewiha habe Igziabiher
ኢትዮጵያ ታበፅዕ እደዊሃ ሃበ አግዚአብሐር
"Ethiopia Stretches Her Hands unto God"
Ityopp'ya Hoy dess yibelish[1]
ኢትዮጵያ ሆይ
"Ethiopia, Be happy"
The Ethiopian Empire during the reign of Menelik II.
Capital Addis Ababa
Languages Ge'ez (official)
Amharic, Oromo, Somali, Tigrinya, Sidamo widely spoken
Religion Ethiopian Orthodox
Government Absolute monarchy[2]
 •  1137 Mara Takla Haymanot
 •  1930–1974 Haile Selassie I
Prime Minister
 •  1909–1927 Habte Giyorgis (first)
 •  1974 Mikael Imru (last)
Legislature Parliament[3]
 •  Upper house Senate
 •  Lower house Chamber of Deputies
Historical era Middle Ages / Cold War
 •  Established 1137
 •  Italo-Ethiopian War 1895–1896
 •  Treaty of Addis Ababa 23 October 1896
 •  Constitution adopted 16 July 1931
 •  Italian Invasion 3 October 1935–May 1936
 •  Sovereignty restored 5 May 1941
 •  Coup d'etat by Derg 12 September 1974
 •  Monarchy abolished 21 March 1975[4]
Currency Salt blocks
Maria Theresa thaler (18th–19th century)
Ethiopian birr (from 1894)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Zagwe dynasty
Italian East Africa
Italian East Africa
Today part of  Ethiopia

The Ethiopian Empire (Amharic: የኢትዮጵያ ንጉሠ ነገሥት መንግሥተ?, Mängəstä Ityop'p'ya), also known as Abyssinia (a Europeanized form of the Arabic Al-Habash),[5] spanned a geographical area covered by present-day Eritrea and the northern half of Ethiopia. It existed from approximately 1137 (beginning of Zagwe Dynasty) until 1974 when the monarchy was overthrown in a coup d'état.

Following the British occupation of Egypt in 1882, Ethiopia and Liberia were the only two African nations to remain independent during the Scramble for Africa by the European imperial powers in the late 19th century.

In 1974, Ethiopia was one of only two countries in the world to have the title of Emperor for its head of state (the other being Japan, which still has the Emperor as its nominal ruler). It was the second-to-last country in Africa to use the title of Emperor (the last being the Central African Empire, which was implemented between 1976 and 1979 by Emperor Bokassa I).

Ethiopian Dark Ages

After the conquest of Aksum by Queen Gudit or Yodit, a period began which some scholars refer to as the Ethiopian Dark Ages.[6] According to Ethiopian tradition, she ruled over the remains of the Aksumite Empire for 40 years before transmitting the crown to her descendants.[6] Very little is known about the queen or the state, if indeed there even was one she set up. What is evident however, is that her reign marked the end of Aksumite control in Ethiopia.

Zagwe Dynasty

The last of Queen Yodit's successors were overthrown by Mara Takla Haymanot. He founded the Zagwe dynasty in 1137,[6] and married a female descendant of the last Aksumite emperor to stake his claim as the legitimate heir to the long dead empire.[6] The Zagwe were of the Agaw people, whose power never extended much farther than their own ethnic heartland. The capital was at Adafa, not far from modern day Lalibela in the Lasta mountains.[7] The Zagwe continued the Christianity of Aksum and constructed many magnificent churches such as those at Lalibela. The dynasty would last until its overthrow by a new regime claiming descent from the old Aksumite kings.

Solomonic Dynasty

In 1270,[7] the Zagwe dynasty was overthrown by a king claiming lineage from the Aksumite emperors and, hence, Solomon. The thus-named Solomonic Dynasty was founded and ruled by the Habesha, from whom Abyssinia gets its name.

The Habesha reigned with only a few interruptions from 1270 until the late 20th century. It was under this dynasty that most of Ethiopia's modern history occurred. During this time, the empire conquered and incorporated virtually all the peoples within modern Ethiopia. They successfully fought off Italian, Arab and Turkish armies and made fruitful contacts with some European powers, especially the Portuguese, with whom they allied in battle against the Ottomans and Somali Adal Sultanate led by Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi during the Conquest of Abyssinia.

Scramble for Africa and modernization

Africa before 1884 Berlin Conference to divide Africa.
Ethiopia in 1911, following the conquests and treaties of Menelik II.

In 1868, following the imprisonment of several missionaries and representatives of the British government, Britain launched a punitive expedition into Ethiopia. The campaign was a success for Britain and the ruler of Ethiopia committed suicide. The 1880s were marked by the Scramble for Africa. Italy, seeking a colonial presence in Africa, invaded Ethiopia and following a successful conquest of some coastal regions, forced the Treaty of Wuchale upon Shewa (an autonomous kingdom within the Ethiopian Empire), creating the colony of Eritrea.

Due to significant differences between the Italian and Amharic translations of the Treaty of Wuchale, Italy believed they had subsumed Ethiopia as a client state. Ethiopia repudiated the treaty in 1893. Insulted, Italy declared war on Ethiopia in 1895. The First Italo-Ethiopian War resulted in the Battle of Adowa in 1896, in which Italy was decisively defeated. As a result, the Treaty of Addis Ababa was signed in October, which strictly delineated the borders of Eritrea and forced Italy to recognize the independence of Ethiopia.

Delegations from the United Kingdom and France — European powers whose colonial possessions lay next to Ethiopia — soon arrived in the Ethiopian capital to negotiate their own treaties with this newly-proven power.

Italian invasion and World War II

In 1935 Italian soldiers commanded by Marshal Emilio De Bono invaded Ethiopia in what is known as the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. The war lasted seven months before an Italian victory was declared. The invasion was condemned by the League of Nations, though not much was done to end the hostility.

During the conflict, Italy used mustard gas, ignoring the Geneva Protocol that it had signed seven years earlier. The Italian military dropped mustard gas in bombs, sprayed it from airplanes, and spread it in powdered form on the ground. 150,000 chemical casualties were reported, mostly from mustard gas. In the aftermath of the war Italy annexed Ethiopia, uniting it with Italy's other colonies in eastern Africa to form the new colony of Italian East Africa, and Vittorio Emanuele III adopted the title Emperor of Abyssinia.

On 10 June 1940, Italy declared war on the United Kingdom and France, as France was in the process of being conquered by Germany at the time and Benito Mussolini wished to expand Italy's colonial holdings. An Italian invasion of British Somaliland in August 1940 was successful, but the war turned against Italy afterward. Haile Selassie returned to Ethiopia from England to help rally the resistance. The British began their own invasion in January 1941, and the last organized Italian resistance in Italian East Africa surrendered in November 1941. The British restored Ethiopia's independence.


In 1974, a pro-Soviet Marxist-Leninist military junta, the "Derg", led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, deposed Haile Selassie and established a one-party communist state. Haile Selassie was imprisoned and died in unclear circumstances, the most likely known rumour being that he was suffocated with an ether-soaked pillow.

See also


  2. Nathaniel T. Kenney, "Ethiopian Adventure", National Geographic, 127 (1965), p. 555.
  3. CONSTITUTION OF ETHIOPIA, 4 November 1955, Article 76 (source: Constitutions of Nations: Volume I, Africa by Amos Jenkins Peaslee)
  4. "Ethiopia Ends 3,000 Year Monarchy", Milwaukee Sentinel, 22 March 1975, p. 3.; "Ethiopia ends old monarchy", The Day, 22 March 1975, p. 7.; Henc Van Maarseveen and Ger van der Tang, Written Constitutions: A Computerized Comparative Study (BRILL, 1978) p. 47.; The World Factbook 1987; – Ethiopia
  5. E. A. Wallis Budge (1 August 2014). A History of Ethiopia: Volume I: Nubia and Abyssinia. Routledge. p. 7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Adekumobi, p. 10
  7. 7.0 7.1 Pankhurst, p. 45
  • Adekumobi, Saheed A. (2007). The History of Ethiopia. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 219 Pages. ISBN 0-313-32273-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Pankhurst, Richard (2001). The Ethiopians: A History. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 299 Pages. ISBN 0-631-22493-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Shillington, Kevin (2004). Encyclopedia of African History, Vol. 1. London: Routledge. pp. 1912 Pages. ISBN 1-57958-245-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

  • "Ethiopia" and "Abyssinia" in the Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th ed. (1911)
  •  [ "Abyssinia" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Collier's New Encyclopedia. 1921.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>