History of Ethiopia

One of the oldest countries in Africa,[1] the Ethiopian civilization emergence dates back over thousands of years. Due to migration and imperial expansion, it grew to include many other primarily Afro-Asiatic-speaking communities, including AmharaOromosSomalisTigrayAfarsSidamaGurageAgaw and Harari, among others.[citation needed]

Obelisk of Axum, a pre-Christian stele of Kingdom of Aksum dated in the 4th-century

Dʿmt kingdom (980 BCE – 400 BCE) at its height

One of the early kingdoms to rise to power in the territory was the kingdom of D’mt in the 10th century BC, which established its capital at Yeha. In the first century AD the Aksumite Kingdom rose to power in the Tigray Region with its capital at Aksum and grew into a major power on the Red Sea, subjugating Yemen and Meroe. In the early fourth century, during the reign of EzanaChristianity was declared the state religion. Ezana’s reign is also when the Aksumites first identified themselves as “Ethiopians“, and not long after, Philostorgius became the first foreign author to call the Aksumites Ethiopians.[2] The Aksumite empire fell into decline with the rise of Islam in the Arabian peninsula, which slowly shifted trade away from the Christian Aksum.[citation needed] It eventually became isolated, its economy slumped and Aksum’s commercial domination of the region ended.[3] The Aksumites gave way to the Zagwe dynasty, who established a new capital at Lalibela before giving way to the Solomonic dynasty in the 13th century. During the early Solomonic period, Ethiopia went through military reforms and imperial expansion that allowed it to dominate the Horn of Africa. Portuguese missionaries arrived at this time.[citation needed]

In 1529, the Adal Sultanate attempted to conquer Abyssinia and met initial success; the Adal were supplied by the Ottomans while Abyssinia received Portuguese reinforcements. By 1543, Abyssinia had recaptured lost territory but the war had weakened both sides. The Oromo people were able to expand into the highlands, conquering both the Adal Sultanate and Abyssinia. The Portuguese presence also increased, while the Ottomans began to push into what is now Eritrea, creating the Habesh Eyalet. The Portuguese brought modern weapons and baroque architecture to Ethiopia, and in 1622 converted the emperor Susenyos I to Catholicism, sparking a civil war which ended in his abdication and expulsion of all Catholics from Ethiopia. A new capital was established at Gondar in 1632, and a period of peace and prosperity ensued until the country was split apart by warlords in the 18th century during the Zemene Mesafint.[citation needed]

Ethiopia was reunified in 1855 under Tewodros II, beginning its modern history and his reign was followed by Yohannes IV who was killed in action in 1889. Under Menelik II Ethiopia started its transformation to well organized technological advancement and the structure that the country has now. Ethiopia also expanded to the south and east, through the conquest of the western OromoSidamaGurage, Wolayta and other groups, resulting in the borders of modern Ethiopia. Ethiopia defeated an Egyptian invasion in 1876 and an Italian invasion in 1896 which killed 17,000 Ethiopians,[4] and came to be recognized as a legitimate state by European powers. A more rapid modernisation took place under Menelik II and Haile Selassie. Italy launched a second invasion in 1935. From 1935 to 1941, Ethiopia was under Italian occupation as part of Italian East Africa. The Allies managed to drive the Italians out of the country in 1941, and Haile Selassie was returned to the throne from his 5 years exiled in Britain. Ethiopia and Eritrea united in a federation, but when Haile Selassie ended the federation in 1961 and made Eritrea a province of Ethiopia, the 30-year Eritrean War of Independence broke out. Eritrea regained its independence after a referendum in 1993.[citation needed]

Haile Selassie was overthrown in 1974 and the militaristic Derg regime came to power. In 1977 Somalia invaded, trying to annex the Ogaden region, but were pushed back by Ethiopian, Soviet, and Cuban forces. In 1977 and 1978 the government tortured or killed hundreds of thousands of suspected enemies in the Red Terror. Ethiopia experienced famine in 1984 that killed one million people and civil war that resulted in the fall of the Derg in 1991. This resulted in the establishment of the Federal Democratic Republic under Meles Zenawi. Ethiopia remains highly impoverished, although its economy has become one of the world’s fastest-growing.[5] Civil conflict in the country, including the Metekel conflict and the Tigray War, are still ongoing.

Further reading


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