A Concise Guide to The Ethiopian History

Ethiopian history - axum church

Ethiopian history has immense stories and myths that made it colorful and meaningful. Ethiopia is a more than 3000 years country, and its first history is predicted to be 3500-2000 BC where the ancient Egyptians traded with the people in the land of punt, the place near Eritrea and somalin coast. Soon Geez, a base for Amharic and Arabic was created in the present land of Ethiopia. The history went from the Axumite empire to the present day.

Here is a short Ethiopian history.

The Beginning…3.2 Million Years Before Ethiopian History

Ethiopia is known to be the origin of humans according to the evolution theory that suggests that we humans evolved to be humans from apes and because the fossil called Chororapithecus Abyssinicus with its estimated time of existence to be from 12.7 million years ago being the oldest fossil ever found in human history was found in Ethiopia and because there were findings of other fossils like Lucy that were found in Ethiopia this name seems to be more or less fitting.

1000 BC Ethiopian History

Ethiopian history dates back to the ancient times starting from the Afro-Asiatic speaking people that later created their first civilization known as punt letter becoming Damat which had its capital at Yeha in Tigray at 1000BC and then comes Axum which reigned from 400BC to 10thcentury AD, and at 365BC the emperor was converted to Christianity than at the time of king Kaleb made it empire’s religion.

The vast territory of this empire included Far East Yemen beyond the red sea which can say a lot about how powerful of an empire they were. As any civilization known to man, their trade was active with other civilizations like Egypt, the Roman Empire, and India. Their decline started as the Rashidun Caliphate took over the Red Sea which pushed Aksum into economic isolation. Which then forced them to go farther inland to them for protection.

By moving the capital to a new location, currently unknown but believed to be known as Ku’bar. And started to regain the territory lost in the north by the south. But it is Sayed that they were defeated by a queen named Yodit who also burned churches, even though her existence is questionable or unacceptable to some historians.

gondar castle

1137-1270 Ethiopian History – Zagwe Dynasty

Although they believe their downfall comes from inside, from the people of Agaw starting the Zagwe dynasty which started its era from king Mara Takla Haymanot in 1137 who married the daughter and killed the last king of Aksum who was a Solomonic dynasty made Zagwae dynasty a Solomonic one.

The famous king of this era was King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, who is believed to be the one to take credit for the 11 rock-hewn monolithic churches in Lalibela. the Zagwe kings are believed to embrace Eritrea and Tigray to the north, southwards to Waag , Lasta and Wollo also westwards to the Lake Tana unlike the coming kings of Ethiopia, from the Agaw laws for the order of succession was that of brother succeeding brother asking, then its decline came with King Yekuno Amlak of the Abyssinian ending the zagwe era by defeating King Za-Ilmaknun of zagwae.

1270 Ethiopian History- Solomonic Dynasty

Yekuno Amlak claiming to descent from Solomon he reinitiated the Solomonic dynasty to Ethiopia. Lasting until 1974, until it was ended by a coup d’état and deposition of the emperor Haile Selassie.

During this time most of Tigray’s rock churches were founded and Christianity spread throughout much of the country, creating gloriously illuminated manuscripts. The empire confronted a series of powerful Muslim sultanates or Sheikhdoms in the South and East with its major centers in the northern Shewa and Wollo regions of Amhara, where a range of peoples had adopted Islam.

1529-42 Ethiopian History- Ahmed Gragn

The Christian empire and the Adal Sultanate existed in a precarious state of equilibrium for most of the 15thcentury, Yet successful military commander Ahmed Ibn Ibrahim Al Ghazi (“left-handed” Ahmed Gran) took power in Harar during the latter decade of the sixteenth century.

Which became the Capital of the Sultanate in 1520AD. Acquiring a religious leader’s position, he called for an effective jihad to break the power of Christians.

After a major victory in 1529 AD, his forces devastated the kingdom for more than a decade, destroying much of the historical, architectural, cultural, and material resources of medieval Ethiopia.

In 1541, the introduction of a Portuguese army to help Emperor Galawdewos prompted Emir Ahmed to ask for the protection of the Ottoman empire after a partial setback, the Portuguese enabled Galawdewos to gain a victory near Lake Tana in February 1543, when Emir Ahmed was slaughtered.

The jihad fell with his passing, as did the influence of Adal. Subsequently, they made every effort to try to persuade Ethiopia to reject its monophysical version of Christianity and to convert it to Roma Catholicism.

1629 Ethiopian history – Catholicism

The consequent disputes, which reached the level of civil war, lasted until the Jesuits as well as all the Roman Catholics were removed in 1632. It has also led to the weakness of the Solomonic empire to the inability to stem the advances of the peoples of Oromo from the south.

Conflicts between both the successes of the jihad and the crash of just the Sultanates and the Sidama kingdoms opened the way for the Oromo pastoral confederations in the Ganale area to extend north to Bali and Fatajar.

Originally, the strikes seemed to have been mostly plundering raids, but when the vulnerability of the opposition became clear.

The Oromo then started to settle in the regions they had invaded, their initial alliance fractured, and, as they settled, the confederations started to disintegrate. 

To the East, In the latter sixteenth century they defeated Adal’s power while Harar’s walls held the city inviolate. Oromo advances continued north, the west, and southwest.

Faced with the growing threat of Oromo, the weakening empire reestablished its base farther north, in Gondar, north of Lake Tana. It has become a new city and the hub of another robust flourishing of Christian art and culture Oromos involvement to the Gondor politics was high in this time(the end of the 17th century), Their rise was symbolized by the marriage of the Emperor Bakaffa to an Oromo, This medieval period was called Zemene Mesafint, then imperial power collapsed, the princes of Amhara, Tigrean and Oromo fought to control Gondar and the emperors.

culture of ethiopia -

1800 and later Ethiopian History

The 6 princesses in 1800 were a good example of the need for control. Tewodros II of Qwara temporarily ended this time of madness, who briefly restored some imperial power with victories over regional nobles, but he was later defeated by the British invasion, because of internal affairs not being good for him he had to take their own lives rather than giving up.

Yohannis IV was crowned emperor 1872 and his success story mostly lies on defending Ethiopia of the foreign attacks like that of Egypt and Italy even though he was winning the war against Mohammed Ahmed of Mahdis dervish army at the battle of Metema in 1889 he was killed by one lucky shot that changed the course of the war to them.

The king of Shewa Menilik II succeeded Yohannis IV, who in turn tried to expand the territory of his empire to every direction from Shewa, This expansion came to be with the arrival of the colonial powers to the region, then comes the big win for black peoples and for us Ethiopians the 1896 AD Battle of adwa but its historical significance isn’t only because of the win over white peoples but rather because Menilik couldn’t go through with it till Eretria.

He also founded Addis Ababa as the capital city of Ethiopia the starting point of modernization. Then he was succeeded by his grandson Lij Yasu whose father was Negus Michael, who converted his religion to Christianity from Muslim by Yohannis IV.

His reign came to an end in three years of time because of his link to Germany and the ottoman empire at the time of FWW which was concerned with the English which made them help with the coup made by the shoan Amhara nobles in 1916. He was later replaced by Empress Zewditu with Ras Tafari as Crown Prince and Regent.

1930 Ethiopian History

In 1930 by taking the name of Haile Selassie after the death of empress zewditu he came to power with a centralized autocracy, but from 1935 to 1941 the 5-year colonization of Ethiopia interrupted his process, this second-time war of the Italians were with much more advanced war machines and war strategies but because the people of Ethiopia never really give up their freedom and country for no foreigner making the 5 years not to last long also the emperor’s diplomatic work English came to the aid and helped us get rid of the Italians once and for all.

Italian Invasion of Ethiopia -

Britain tried to control and occupy Ethiopia in 1941 and for that Haile Selassie tried to look for another ally to the aid a powerful one like America, in 1962 Ethiopia took control over Eretria once again but this ignited the Eritrean struggle for independence led by the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF).

1955 Ethiopian History

The 1955 constitution is one of the frameworks the modern state he imagined but because he didn’t work on the effort to change the land policy or to rearrange the power hierarchy, rather he was working on international affairs like provided Organization of African Unity (OAU), and the UN

1975 Ethiopian History – Famine

The weakness of this era started to create a crisis throughout the country from the student revolution to the famine of wollo and Tigray with fatality of 200,000 (1972-74) which led to its abolishment in 1975. Which introduced the social politics to Ethiopia with its harsh, unjust and brutal government with the help of USSR until its downfall in a soviet union which led to the Derg regime to stand alone which helped the opposing parties a chance to win the war, some of this parties are Tigrai Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).

1989 Ethiopian History – Change of Government

After a series of defeats at the hands of the TPLF and the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), an organization it had set up in 1989, he fled in May 1991 to Zimbabwe where he still resides. In 2006, after a long trial, Mengistu was found guilty of genocide in absentia, and he and a number of other leading members of the Derg were given death sentences. None have been carried out. The surviving members of the Derg were released in 2011, having been held in jail for 20 years.

A week after Mengistu’s flight, the EPRDF took over Addis Ababa and brought an end to 17 years of communist authoritarianism and military dictatorship.

In our existence Ethopian history plays the role of telling the past that created the path for our presence and gives you the tools to predict what the future might come with and it gives you a clear image of your ancestors story and how you’re present become to be like this

But even though this is what history really stands for this tool is not pure but rather intervened by personal, political, social, cultural and religious factors and that makes it harder for anyone to know what really happened but seeing the writer’s point of view from his personal, political, social, cultural and religion gain and loss we try to see the story from every angle to find out the reality of it.

When we come to Ethiopian history this problems will be encountered the most and because there aren’t too many historians that tell the story of the opposing teams to the crown at the time some people take this stories to their personal, political, social, cultural and religion advantage and tell what is good for them.

In order to get a good picture of Ethiopian history its best to consider the facts and their truth of every actor that played a role on every part of the Ethiopian history and that takes a lot of resources which isn’t given to it yet and as time goes by this resources might be even more costly which again will be a challenge to be faced so before things get even messier we need to solve this problem and get a clearer image of Ethiopian history.

cover: “Ethiopian Orthodox Church” by Rod Waddington is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

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