Aug 19, 2018

A Quick History Of Ethiopia

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Hey! Welcome to "A Quick History Of"! This will probably just be a series of posts where I discuss the history of a modern country, starting with Ethiopia. Before I get into this I want to get a few things out of the way, to help avoid confusion.

 

A) When I'm talking about the "History Of Ethiopia", I don't mean as much the entire modern country as the history of the Habesh; northern and central Ethiopians who speak semitic languages, as they're the poplation who historically called their country "Ethiopia". Modern Ethiopia is a relatively new country born out of Menelik II's conquests farther East and South, but historically, these territories were largely not actually Ethiopian. As a result I'll be ignoring alot of stuff. Just be aware.

 

B) I refuse to use the term "Galla" to refer to Oromo people. I hear that the term is a slur akin to the "N" word (with a hard r for extra impact), and I certainly would not appreciate it if people continuously referred to African Americans as "N"s (especially with the hard r), so I'll return the courtesy.

 

C) I won't be using the term "Abyssinia" in this post. Ethiopians have never called their state "Abyssinia" (unless when talking to Europeans who called them that), and the word is a Romanticization of the term "Habesh", essentially denoting "Land of the Habesh". I hold a similar attitude to Persia and the Iranians.

 

D)

 

Alright, now that I've gotten that out of the way, it's time to get on with the post.

 

Ancient Era - D'mt:

The first known civilization to arise in modern Ethiopia was the kingdom of D'mt, which rose around 1000bc. The civilization was in modern Eritrea, and Northern Ethiopia, and little is actually known about it as far as I know. This is largely due to the lack of sources that survive to this day, and the lack of archaeologists interested in researching the kingdom.

 

"D'mtians" likely were Semitic in culture, and this has lead some older (biased) theorists to believe that it was founded by immigrants from Southern Arabia. Of course, this is not necessarily true, and it's plausible that the two groups simply did alot of trade, especially given the proximity of the Arabian Peninsula to the Horn, explaining the cultural similarity.

D'mt fell around 500bc, leaving behind numerous city states.

 

Ancient Era - Aksum:

Among the city states left behind was the city of Aksum, who began to expand around the 4th century BC, especially after prospering in the Red Sea trade. Aksum would expand into an Empire from the modern Tigray region in Ethiopia Northwards to modern Eritrea, Northeast to Djibouti, probably into parts of modern Somalia, and into parts of modern Sudan and South Sudan.

 

Some notable things about the Axum empire include being one of the first civilizations on earth to convert to Christianity, founding a tradition in Ethiopia that carries on to this day. This was done under Emperor Ezana, around 325ad, coincidentally around the same time that Constantine of Rome converted. Christianity had long been gaining influence in Axum, and some of the nobility was already converted, but this only bolstered that.

 

Axum would fall some time around 900-1100ad, to a queen named Yodit.

 

Ancient-Medieval Era - Yodit:

The reign of Queen Yodit is what probably ended the Ancient era for Ethiopia, and began the medieval Era, but, despite her extreme importance, the exact origins of the woman are not known. Was she a Jew from the Beta Israel communities? Or a Pagan from farther South? What was her life story like? There are lots of competing local traditions, but what's clear is that she was born at a time when the Axum empire was already in decline, losing much of its territories outside of Ethiopia and Eritrea, along with major contact with Europe (though, we do have evidence to support Byzantine contact with Medieval Ethiopia following the rule of Yodit).

Yodit lead armies to conquer and destroy the remains of the Axum empire, and established her own short lived dynasty, which was toppled around 1137 by a man named Mara Taklahaimanot.

 

Medieval Era - Zagwe:

The Zagwe dynasty rose to power around 1137, (although some argue that Yodit founded this dynasty, I don't like this idea) by a man named Mara Taklahaimanot. The Zagwe dynasty actually likely rose out of modern Eritrea, and lasted until 1270 when it was overthrown by Yenuko Amlak. It probably controlled all of the modern Ethiopian highlands, and the region of Tigray, had it's capitol at the city of Lalibela. It was actually under the Zagwe dynasty that the famous Churches of Lalibela were built - multiple churches carved directly out of rock.

 

Medieval Era- Solomonic:

The Solomonic dynasty was founded in 1270, when, as said earlier, Yenuko Amlak overthrew the last Zagwe king. The Solomonic Dynasty would expand Ethiopia, eventually into it's modern form under Menelik II, but I'm jumping ahead of myself. The Solomonic dynasty claimed descent from the leaders of the Axum empire, though I can't confirm or deny whether or not this is true. They would, however, incorporate the regions of Tigray, Gojjam, Begemer, Shewa, and Wallo into their empire during the medieval era, gaining and then losing control of Somali kingdoms such as Ifat and Adal repeatedly.

It was actually under the Solomonic Dynasty that Ethiopia would, re establish major contact with a Europen country, Portugal, who had "found" Ethiopia around 1490, while searching for the mythical land of Prester John, said to be somewhere in Africa (or India?). This contact would prove useful as only a few years later, in 1523, the "Adalians" from the Adal sultanate in modern Somalia would attack Ethiopia, and nearly conquer it. Galawdewos, the then reigning Emperor, atleast in my opinion, was a poor general, and was constantly crushed by the forces of General Imam Ahmed, leading him to call on the help of the Portuguese before being killed in combat. The Portuguese responded by sending 400 men under a man named Christovao De Gama, to assist the Ethiopians, now lead by Dawit, who was a far more successful general. The Portuguese and Ethiopians won multiple consecutive battles, both together and seperated, eventually defeating Adal.

 

Medieval Era - Gonder:

Following this conflict, Ethiopia's bonds with foreign powers became stronger and stronger, until they lead to some problems. Under Emperor Susenyos, Ethiopia eventually converted to Catholicism, in 1622, which would lead to problems and constant rebellions. See, Ethiopians worshiped Ethiopian Orthodoxy, not Catholicism, and, to vastly oversimplify the complicated political situation at the time, this was a problem, as shortly after his conversion, there were attempts to forcefully convert Ethiopian Orthodox Christians to Catholicism. Susenyos would step down from the throne to his son, Fasilides, who would, in response to the entire crisis, basically close Ethiopia's borders in a time known as the Gonder period in 1636, remove the traces of Catholicism in Ethiopia, and founded the city of Gonder, which, as the name "Gonder period" would imply, was, indeed, the capitol of Ethiopia during this time period. The time period resulted in the building of multiple magnificent castles, the writing of many books, and the creation of multiple works of art, but, at a cost. Ethiopia was cut off from the rest of the world in a time that was probably the most essential to be connected to said world. It was left completely in the dark as the Industrial era began.

 

Medieval Era - Zemene Mesafint:

 

 

Aug 19, 2018

I'll finish up the post later. I've done alot of writing already and got quite tired out. The finished post will ideally contain maps, and go up to the early modern era for Ethiopia.

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