Ethiopian Empire

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Ethiopian Empire

የኢትዮጵያ ንጉሠ ነገሥት መንግሥተ (Amharic)
(Mängəstä Ityop'p'ya)
1270–1974
1936–1941: Government-in-exile
Motto: Ityopia tabetsih edewiha habe Igziabiher
ኢትዮጵያ ታበፅዕ እደዊሃ ሃበ እግዚአብሐር
"Ethiopia Stretches Her Hands unto God" (Psalm 68:31)
Anthem:  Ityopp'ya Hoy dess yibelish [1]
ኢትዮጵያ ሆይ ደስ ይበልሽ
"Ethiopia, Be happy"
Ethiopian Empire in 1952.svg
The Ethiopian Empire boundaries in 1952
Menelik II conquests map on world sphere.svg
The location of the Ethiopian Empire during the reign of Yohannes IV (dark orange) compared with modern day Ethiopia (orange)
CapitalUnspecified(1270–1635)
Gondar (1635–1855)
Magdala (1855–1868)
Mekelle (1871–1885)
Addis Ababa (1886–1974)
Common languages Ge'ez
Amharic
Religion
Christianity
Demonym(s) Endonym: ኢትዮጵያዊ (Ethiopian);

• • •

Exonym: Abyssinian (in non-native sources, derived from the Arabic name for the general region "Al-Habash" and the most widely prominent pan-ethnic group the Habesha)
Government Absolute monarchy [2]
Emperor  
 1270 (first)
Yekuno Amlak [3]
 1930–1974 (last)
Haile Selassie
Prime Minister  
 1909–1927 (first)
Habte Giyorgis
 1974 (last)
Mikael Imru
LegislatureParliament [4]
Senate
Chamber of Deputies
Historical era Middle Ages to Cold War
 Empire established
1270
1529-1543
1890
1895–1896
23 October 1896
16 July 1931
3 October 1935
5 May 1941
 Admitted to the UN
13 November 1945
  Coup d'état by Derg
12 September 1974
21 March 1975 [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]
Area
19501,221,900 km2 (471,800 sq mi)
19741,221,900 km2 (471,800 sq mi)
Population
 1950
19,575,000
 1974
35,074,000
Currency
ISO 3166 code ET
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Zagwe dynasty
Derg Flag of Ethiopia (1975-1987).svg
Imperial Government-in-Exile Flag of Ethiopia (1897-1936; 1941-1974).svg
Today part ofFlag of Ethiopia.svg  Ethiopia
Flag of Eritrea.svg  Eritrea

The Ethiopian Empire (Tigrinya : ንጉሠ ነገሥት መንግሥቲ ዘ ኢትዮጵያ, Amharic : የኢትዮጵያ ንጉሠ ነገሥት መንግሥተ, Mängəstä Ityop'p'ya), also known by the exonym Abyssinia (derived from the Arabic al-Habash ), or just simply Ethiopia ( /ˌθiˈpiə/ ; Ge'ez : ኢትዮጵያ, Amharic : ኢትዮጵያ, ʾĪtyōṗṗyā, Loudspeaker.svg listen  , Tigrinya: ኢትዮጵያ, Oromo: Itoophiyaa, Somali: Itoobiya, Afar: Itiyoophiyaa), [10] was a monarchy that spanned a geographical area in the current states of Ethiopia and Eritrea. It began with the establishment of the Solomonic dynasty by Yekuno Amlak from approximately 1270 and lasted until 1974, when Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown in a coup d'état by the Communist Derg. It was throughout much of its existence the most powerful state in the African Horn and managed to preserve and develop its ancient form of Christianity.

Contents

Founded in 1270 by the Amhara nobleman Yekuno Amlak, who claimed to descend from the last Aksumite king and ultimately the Biblical Menelik I and the Queen of Sheba, it replaced the Agaw kingdom of the Zagwe. While initially a rather small and politically unstable entity, the Empire managed to expand significantly under the rules of Amda Seyon I (1314–1344) and Yeshaq I (1414–1429), becoming the dominant force of the African Horn. Under the rule of Zara Yaqob (1434–1468) the realm saw great efforts of consolidation, although they proved to be not very long-lived: from the late 15th century the Empire entered a temporary decline. This decline culminated in the disastrous early 16th century Jihad of the Adalese Imam Ahmed Gran, who was only defeated in 1543 with the help of the Portuguese. Greatly weakened, much of the Empire's southern territory and vassals were lost due to the Oromo migrations. In the north, in what is now Eritrea, Ethiopia managed to repulse Ottoman invasion attempts, although losing its access to the Red Sea to them.

Reacting to these challenges, Ethiopia started to expand westwards, conquering the Lake Tana area and much of Beta Israel territory in Begemder. In the 1630s Emperor Fasilides founded the new capital of Gondar, marking the start for a new golden age known as "Gondarine period". It saw a relative peace, the successful integration of the Oromo and a flourishing of culture. With the deaths of Emperor Iyasu II (1755) and especially Iyoas I (1769) the realm eventually entered a period of decentralization, known as "Era of the Princes". The Shewa region factually seceded and constituted a kingdom of its own, while within the Empire, regional warlords contested for power, with the Emperor being barely more than a mere puppet.

Emperor Tewodros II (r. 1855–1868) put an end into that state, reunified the Empire and led it into the modern period before dying during the British Expedition to Abyssinia. His successor Yohannes IV engaged primarily in war and successfully fought the Egyptians and the Mahdists before dying against the latter in the Battle of Gallabat in 1889. Emperor Menelik II, now residing in the recently founded town of Addis Abeba, continued and concluded the policy of expansion of his predecessor, subjugating many people and kingdoms in what is now western, southern and eastern Ethiopia, like Kaffa, Wolaytta or Aussa. Thus, he gave Ethiopia the geographical extent it has today. In the north he was confronted with an expanding Italy. Decisively defeating it at the Battle of Adwa in 1896 with the aid of Russia and France, Menelik ensured Ethiopia's independence and confined Italy to Eritrea.

Later, after the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, the Italian Empire occupied Ethiopia and established the Italian East Africa colony in the region. After World War II, the Italians were driven out with the help of the British army. The country was one of the founding members of the United Nations, and in 1962 annexed Eritrea. However, the Ethiopian Civil War led to the independence of Eritrea and fall of the Empire in 1974.

By 1974, Ethiopia was one of only three countries in the world to have the title of Emperor for its head of state, together with Japan and Iran under the Pahlavi dynasty. It was the second-to-last country in Africa to use the title of Emperor; the only one later was the Central African Empire, which was implemented between 1976 and 1979 by Emperor Bokassa I.

History

D'mt and Kingdom of Aksum

A Kingdom of Aksum jar spout Axumite Jar Spout (2822628227).jpg
A Kingdom of Aksum jar spout

Ethiopia's human occupation began early, as evidenced by the findings[ which? ]. It is believed that the ancient Egyptians claimed that Punt, known as gold country, was in Ethiopia in 980 BC. According to the Kebra Nagast, Menelik I founded the Ethiopian empire in the 1st century BC, around when the Axumite Empire was established. In the 4th century, under King Ezana of Axum, the kingdom adopted Christianity as the state religion that evolved into the Orthodox Tewahedo (Ethiopian Orthodox and Eritrean Orthodox) denominational Church. It was thus one of the first Christian states. [11]

After the conquest of Aksum by Queen Gudit or Yodit, a period began which some scholars refer to as the Ethiopian Dark Ages. [11] According to Ethiopian tradition, she ruled over the remains of the Aksumite Empire for 40 years before transmitting the crown to her descendants. [11] In 1063 AD the Sultanate of Showa describes the passing of their overlord Badit daughter of Maya. [12]

Makhzumi and Zagwe dynasty

The earliest Muslim state in Ethiopia, the Makhzumi dynasty with its capital in Wahal, Hararghe region succeeds Queen Badit. [13] The Zagwe kingdom, another dynasty with its capital at Adafa, emerged not far from modern day Lalibela in the Lasta mountains. [14] The Zagwe continued the Orthodox Christianity of Aksum and constructed many rock-hewn churches such as the Church of Saint George in Lalibela. The dynasty would last until its overthrow by a new regime claiming descent from the old Aksumite kings.

Solomonic dynasty

Contemporary portrait of Yekuno Amlak, founder of the Ethiopian empire Yekuno Amlak.png
Contemporary portrait of Yekuno Amlak, founder of the Ethiopian empire

In 1270, the Zagwe dynasty was overthrown by a king claiming lineage from the Aksumite kings and, hence, from Solomon. [14] The eponymously named Solomonic dynasty was founded and ruled by the Abyssinians, from whom Abyssinia gets its name. The Abyssinians reigned with only a few interruptions from 1270 until the late 20th century. This dynasty governed large parts of Ethiopia through much of its modern history. During this time, the empire conquered and annexed various kingdoms into its realm. The dynasty also successfully fought off Ottoman, Egyptian, and Italian, forces and made fruitful contacts with some European powers.

Adal Sultanate invasion

In 1529, the Adal Sultanate's forces led by Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi invaded the Ethiopian Empire in what is known as the Abyssinian–Adal war. The Adal occupation lasted fourteen years. During the conflict, the Adal Sultanate employed cannons provided by the Ottoman Empire. In the aftermath of the war, Adal annexed Ethiopia, uniting it with territories in what is now Somalia. In 1543, with the help of the Portuguese Empire, the Solomonic dynasty was restored.

Abyssinian King Yagbea-Sion and his forces (left) battling the Sultan of Adal and his troops (Le Livre des Merveilles, 15th century) YagbeaSionBattlingAdaSultan.JPG
Abyssinian King Yagbea-Sion and his forces (left) battling the Sultan of Adal and his troops (Le Livre des Merveilles, 15th century)

Early modern period

In 1543, Emperor Gelawdewos beat Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi armies and Ahmad himself was killed at the Battle of Wayna Daga, close to Wegera. This victory allowed the Empire to reconquer progressively the Ethiopian Highlands. [15] In 1559 Gelawdewos was killed attempting to invade Adal Sultanate, and his severed head was paraded in Adal's capital Harar. [16]

Dawit II of Ethiopia (Lebna Dengel), Emperor of Ethiopia (n@gusa Nagast) and member of the Solomonic dynasty Cristofano dell'Altissimo, Portrait of Lebna-Dengel. c. 1552-1568.jpg
Dawit II of Ethiopia (Lebna Dengel), Emperor of Ethiopia (nəgusä Nagast) and member of the Solomonic dynasty

The Ottoman Empire, distated by the defeat of its ally Gragn, made another attempt at conquering Ethiopia, from 1557, establishing Habesh Eyalet, the province of Abyssinia, by conquering Massawa, the Empire's main port and seizing Suakin from the allied Funj Sultanate in what is now Sudan. In 1573 Harar attempted to invade Ethiopia again however Sarsa Dengel successfully defended the Ethiopian frontier. [17]

The Ottomans were checked by Emperor Sarsa Dengel victory and sacking of Arqiqo in 1589, thus containing them on a narrow coast line strip. The Afar Sultanate maintained the remaining Ethiopian port on the Red Sea, at Baylul. [18]

Oromo migrations through the same period, occurred with the movement of a large pastoral population from the southeastern provinces of the Empire. A contemporary account was recorded by the monk Abba Bahrey, from the Gamo region. Subsequently, the empire organization changed progressively, with faraway provinces taking more independence. A remote province such as Bale is last recorded paying tribute to the imperial throne during Yaqob reign (1590-1607). [19]

Fasilides Palace Fasilides Palace 02.jpg
Fasilides Palace

By 1607, Oromos were also major players in the imperial politics, when Susenyos I, raised by a clan through gudifacha (or adoption), took power. He was helped by fellow Luba age-group generals Mecha, Yilma and Densa, who were rewarded by Rist feudal lands, in the present-day Gojjam districts of the same name. [20] Susenyos reign was also marked by his short-lived conversion to Catholicism, which ignited a major civil war. His son Fasilides I reverted the move.

The reign of Iyasu I the Great (1682-1706) was a major period of consolidation. It also saw the dispatching of embassies to Louis XIV's France and to Dutch India. During the reign of Iyasu II (1730-1755), the Empire was strong enough to undertake a war on the Sennar Sultanate, where the emperor leading its army to Sennar itself, was afterwards forced to reatreat upon defeat along the Setit river. Iyasu II also conferred the dignity of Kantibai of the Habab (northern Eritrea) after homage by a new dynasty. [21]

The Wallo and Yejju clans rise to power culminated in 1755, when Emperor Iyoas I ascended to the imperial throne in Gondar. They would be one of the major factions contending for imperial power during the ensuing Zemene Mesafint, starting from 1769, when Mikael Sehul, Ras of Tigray killed Iyoas I and replaced him with Yohannes II.

The Early Modern period was one of intense cultural and artistic creation. Notable philosophers from that area are Zera Yacob and Walda Heywat. The city of Gondar became the capital in 1636, with several fortified castles built in the town and in its surrounding areas.

Princes' Era

Emperor Tewodros II's rise to the throne marked the end of the Zemene Mesafint. Tewodros II.jpg
Emperor Tewodros II's rise to the throne marked the end of the Zemene Mesafint .

From 1769 to 1855, the Ethiopian empire passed through a period known as the Princes Era (in Amharic Zemene Mesafint). This was a period of Ethiopian history with numerous conflicts between the various ras (equivalent to the English dukes) and the emperor, who had only limited power and only dominated the area around the contemporary capital of Gondar. Both the development of society and culture stagnated in this period. Religious conflict, both within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and between them and the Muslims were often used as a pretext for mutual strife. The Princes Era ended with the reign of the Emperor Tewodros II.

Reign of Emperor Tewodros II and scramble for Africa

In 1868, following the imprisonment of several missionaries and representatives of the British government, the British engaged in the punitive Expedition to Abyssinia. This campaign was a success for Britain and the Ethiopian emperor committed suicide.

From 1874 to 1876, the Empire, under Yohannes IV, won the Ethiopian-Egyptian War, decisively beating the invading forces at the Battle of Gundet, in Hamasien province.

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 empire), creating the colony of Eritrea.

Menelik II observes the battle of Adwa against the Italian invasion army in 1896. Le Petit Journal, 1898. Menelik - Adoua-2 (cropped).jpg
Menelik II observes the battle of Adwa against the Italian invasion army in 1896. Le Petit Journal , 1898.

Due to significant differences between the Italian and Amharic translations of the treaty, 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 1896 Battle of Adwa, in which Italy was decisively defeated, as the Ethiopians were numerically superior, better equipment and support by Russia and France. 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.

Beginning in the 1880s, under the reign of the Emperor Menelik II, the empire's forces set off from the central province of Shoa to incorporate through conquest inhabited lands to the west, east and south of its realm. [22] The territories that were annexed included those of the western Oromo (non Shoan Oromo), Sidama, Gurage, Wolayta, [23] and Dizi. [24] Among the imperial troops was Ras Gobena's Shewan Oromo militia. Many of the lands that they annexed had never been under the empire's rule, with the newly incorporated territories resulting in the modern borders of Ethiopia. [25]

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

The Emperor's palace, 1934 ETH-BIB-Kaiserpalast, "der grosse Gibi" aus der Luft-Abessinienflug 1934-LBS MH02-22-0222.tif
The Emperor's palace, 1934

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

During the conflict, Ethiopian troops committed several war crimes, including the use of Dum-Dum bullets (in violation of the Hague Conventions) and began mutilating captured soldiers (often with castration) since the first weeks of war.{{sfn|Antonicelli|1975|p=79}] In response, Italy used sulfur mustard in chemical warfare, 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 Victor Emmanuel III of Italy 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. The Italian conquest 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 with the help of Ethiopian freedom fighters, and the last organized Italian resistance in Italian East Africa surrendered in November 1941, ending Italian rule.

Fall of monarchy

Haile Selassie was the last Emperor of the Ethiopian Empire. Haile Selassie (1969).jpg
Haile Selassie was the last Emperor of the Ethiopian Empire.

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, a rumor being that he was suffocated with an ether-soaked pillow. [26]

Society

According to Bahrey, [27] there were ten social groups in the feudal Ethiopia of his time, i.e. at the end of the 16th century. These social groups consisted of the monks; the debtera; lay officials (including judges); men at arms giving personal protection to the wives of dignitaries and to princesses; the shimaglle, who were the lords and hereditary landowners; their farm labourers or serfs; traders; artisans; wandering singers; and the soldiers, who were called chewa. According to modern thinking, some of these categories are not true classes. But at least the shimaglle, the serfs, the chewa, the artisans and the traders constitute definite classes. Power was vested in the Emperor and those aristocrats he appointed to execute his power, and the power enforcing instrument consisted of a class of soldiers, the chewa. [28]

Military

From the reign of Amde Tseyon, Chewa regiments, or legions, formed the backbone of the Empire military forces. The Ge’ez term for these regiments is ṣewa (ጼዋ) while the Amharic term is č̣äwa (ጨዋ). The normal size of a regiment was several thousand men. [29] Each regiment was allocated a fief (Gult), to ensure its upkeep ensured by the land revenue. [30]

In 1445, following the Battle of Gomit, the chronicles record that Emperor Zara Yacoq started garrisoning the provinces with Chewa regiments.

Name of regiment [31] RegionTranslation
Bäṣär waǧät Serae, Dawaro, Menz, Gamo Enemy of the waǧät
Ǧan amora Dobe’a, Tselemt, Gedem Eagle of the majesty
č̣äwa Bale Bale
č̣äwa Maya Bahir Negash
Bäṣur amora Gamo Spear of the eagle
Bäṣär šotäl Damot Spear of the foe

Major divisions of the military were :

One of the Chewa regiments, known as the Abe Lahm in Geez, or the Weregenu, in Oromo, lasted, and participated to the Battle of Adwa, only to be phased out in the 1920s. [33]

The modern army was created under Ras Tafari Makonnen, in 1917, with the formation of the Kebur Zabagna, the imperial guard.

See also

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Slavery in Ethiopia existed for centuries. The practice formed an integral part of Ethiopian society, from its earliest days and ended in 1942. Slaves were traditionally drawn from the Nilotic groups inhabiting Ethiopia's southern hinterland as well as Omotic groups. War captives were another source of slaves, though the perception, treatment and duties of these prisoners was markedly different. Although religious law banned Christian slave masters from taking part in the slave trade, many Muslim Oromo slave traders took part in the Arab slave trade. Slaves usually served as concubines, bodyguards, servants and treasurers.

Ethiopian historiography Historiography of Ethiopia

Ethiopian historiography embodies the ancient, medieval, early modern and modern disciplines of recording the history of Ethiopia, including both native and foreign sources. The roots of Ethiopian historical writing can be traced back to the ancient Kingdom of Aksum. These early texts were written in either the Ethiopian Ge'ez script or the Greek alphabet, and included a variety of mediums such as manuscripts and epigraphic inscriptions on monumental stelae and obelisks documenting contemporary events. The writing of history became an established genre in Ethiopian literature during the early Solomonic dynasty (1270–1974). In this period, written histories were usually in the form of royal biographies and dynastic chronicles, supplemented by hagiographic literature and universal histories in the form of annals. Christian mythology became a linchpin of medieval Ethiopian historiography due to works such as the Orthodox Kebra Nagast. This reinforced the genealogical traditions of Ethiopia's Solomonic dynasty rulers, which asserted that they were descendants of Solomon, the legendary King of Israel.

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Bibliography

Further reading