Ethiopia Early History

Ethiopia Early History


According to agooddir, the findings of fossil hominids from Ethiopia they are to be counted among the oldest and most important. Among the discoveries we should mention: the first fragment of hominid femur (site of Maka, 4-3.5 million years), the remains of the first Australopithecus afarensis (including the skeleton called Lucy by its discoverer, Don Johanson), dated around 2.8-2.7 million years (site of Hadar), and one of the first known settlements (Gomborè), dated around 1.7 -1.6 million years. The abundant lithic industries found document in detail both the ancient Olduvaian interval (sites of Omo and Hadar, 2.6-2.3 million years) – final Acheulean (200,000 years) and the middle Paleolithic, represented by the Stillbayano (site of Gademotta, with the oldest developed Levalloisian industry and technique known in Africa, dated to 181,000-149,000 years) and from the Magosian. The findings of Homo habilis and Homo erectus are significant ; among the latter, the Man of Bodo, late representative of the species, dated to about 125,000 years.


From antiquity to the 19th century

By the Greek writers the Ethiopians are often confused with the Indians and only during the Ptolemaic domination in Egypt the knowledge of Ethiopia become more precise. In Roman times (25 BC) C. Petronius, prefect of Egypt, barely contained an invasion of Ethiopians. Their main centers were then Napata (➔ # 10132;) and Meroe (➔ # 10132;). The first historical information on Ethiopia real date back to the formation of the Kingdom of Aksum, which starting from the 4th century. BC spread over the northern regions of the country, where immigrant populations from southern Arabia had long since settled (from the name of one of the major immigrant South Arabian lineages, the Ḥabashāt, derives that of Abyssinia, while the word Ethiopia is of Greek origin). Towards the middle of the 4th century. AD Christianity was introduced with the official adhesion of King Ezanà. In 525, under King Kālēb, Yemen was conquered, but in 572 the Persians drove the Aksumites out of the Arabian peninsula.

As a consequence of the rise of Islam and the affirmation of Muslim rule over the Red Sea, the Aksumite Kingdom moved its center towards the Ethiopia central. Here we find the Zāguē dynasty, to which, around 1270, Iecuno Amlac took power, founding the new dynasty of the Solomonids and transferring the seat of government to the Scioa. His successors faced a long struggle with the Muslims, who had founded a kingdom under the Walasmaa ‘dynasty. In 1529 the imām Aḥmad ibn Ibrāhīm, called Gragn (the Left-handed), reached the Tigris and Eritrea, but the Portuguese helped the Ethiopians to defeat the invader and Gragn was killed (1543). In 1578 the Turks who had tried to settle on the Ethiopian Plateau were rejected. The next threat was represented by the Oromo, invaders from the South who penetrated widely into Ethiopia acquiring ever greater power; in the first half of the seventeenth century the capital was moved to Gondar. With the decline of monarchical authority, the various Oromo leaders became, between the end of the 18th and the first half of the 19th century, arbitrators of the situation in the center of Ethiopia.

The negus and the Italian colony

After the reigns of Sahla Sellassiè, negus dello Scioa, and Kāsā (Theodore II, 1855-68), Ethiopia it passed under the power of the Tigrinya Tacla Ghiorghis (John IV), who had to fight the attempts of usurpation by Menelik, ruler of Scioa. On his death in 1889 Menelik, who in the meantime had also conquered Harar, proclaimed himself negus neghesti (“king of kings”), reducing all of Ethiopia under his power. With Italy, which had occupied Massawa (1882), he made the treaty of Uccialli, which recognized the Italian settlement on the Eritrean plateau. But disputes over the interpretation of the treaty led to the conflict between Italy and Ethiopia, who after the victory of Adua (1896) obtained the recognition of full sovereignty and independence. Thanks to the treaties with Great Britain, France and Italy, Menelik was able to expand the borders of his kingdom and consolidate his power. In 1923 Ethiopia, where Zauditù reigned, daughter of Menelik, regent Tafarì Maconnen, was admitted to the League of Nations.

When Zauditodied in 1930, Tafarì Maconnen proclaimed himself negus neghesti with the name of Ḫāyla Sellāsyē I (➔ # 10132;) and set up a vast program of reforms, introducing the first Constitution in 1931. In 1935 Italy invaded Ethiopia, forcing Ḫāyla Sellāsyē to flee abroad; despite fierce resistance throughout the country, Fr. Badoglio’s armies arrived in Addis Ababa in 1936 and a few days later the empire was proclaimed. The period of Italian administration was characterized by huge public works, especially roads, while the plan to settle a million settlers failed. In 1941 the rapid defeat of the Italian forces throughout East Africa by the British forces allowed Ḫāyla Sellāsyē to return to Addis Ababa.

However, it was able to recover the borders of 1935 only after the withdrawal of the English in 1954; the UN established a federation between Ethiopia and Eritrea, but in 1962 the Ethiopia absorbed Eritrea, causing a long secessionist war in that region. Ally of the USA, Ethiopia he remained pro-Western, even though he joined (1955) the movement of non-aligned countries ; he also worked for a policy of conciliation and unity between African countries and in 1963 the Organization for African Unity (OAU) was founded in Addis Ababa, which later became the African Union (➔ # 10132;). Inside, despite the launch of a new Constitution with a Chamber elected as early as 1955, a feudal structure persisted, based on the privileges of the Crown, the aristocracy and the Coptic Church; new problems were caused by the insertion of the Ethiopia in the capitalist market, leading to growing instability and finally to a crisis of the Ḫāyla Selassiè regime, which also contributed to the costs of the war in Eritrea and the famine of 1972-73.

Ethiopia Early History