The history of Ethiopia is very fascinating to say the least. It is actually one of the oldest countries in the world with the earliest evidence of its existence going back as far as 1000 BC. It is the second most populous country in Africa with a population of over 78 million. Ethiopia is situated in the Horn of Africa and is landlocked by five countries including Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, and Djibouti.
The history of Ethiopia is considered very, very important by historians around the world as the country is considered the place where humans evolved. The oldest remains of human ancestors were found in the Awash Valley in Ethiopia. These remains were at least five million years old at the time of discovery.
An important thing which distinguishes Ethiopia from a lot of other countries is that it has possibly the longest recorded history in the world today. This makes it easier for historians to trace the history of Ethiopia. The country has been mentioned often by historians in the past – the writings of the very famous Greek historian Herodotus and the Old Testament’s mention of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Jerusalem to meet King Solomon are considered the most important references to Ethiopia in recorded history. In fact, legend has it that the founder of the Ethiopian Empire – King Menelik – was born to the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon.
During the fourth century, a lot of missionaries from Egypt and Syria reached Ethiopia and started spreading Christianity. Eventually, it became the state religion. For nearly three centuries, Ethiopia remained a predominantly Christian state. During the seventh century, Islam spread in the region very fast and Moslems migrated in large numbers to Ethiopia – marking the event of the very first Hijra in Islam history. The country is also home to Harar – the fourth holiest Muslim city in the world today. To date, Ethiopia has a considerable number of Moslems who form a sizeable minority.
From the 1700s, Ethiopia was not under the control of any central power. This was called the ‘Era of Princes’ in the history of Ethiopia as the country was under the control of a number of local princes who just fought with each other over total supremacy. Things started to change in 1869, when Emperor Tewodros, followed by Emperor Yohannes, unified the country by bringing a lot of princely states together.
The period from 1889 to 1913 is very important in the history of Ethiopia as this was the time when Ethiopian emperors fought against the encroachment of the Europeans. Italy, in particular, was very determined to bring Ethiopia under its control. This led to the famous Battle of Adwa in which Ethiopia defeated the Italian forces. This was a significant achievement as it was the first victory of an African country over a European country.
However, the African supremacy did not last long as the country was invaded by Benito Mussolini in 1936 and remained under their control till 1941. After a bloody battle in which the Ethiopian patriotic resistance forces and the British forces defeated the Italians, Haile Selassie, who was the emperor back then, entered Addis Ababa and regained power.
Emperor Haile Selassie, who is considered one of the greatest emperors of in the history of Ethiopia, made a big mistake upon regaining power. He annexed the Italian colony of Eritrea with Ethiopia. This led to an outbreak of a major guerilla warfare in which the Muslims fought against the Christians. What followed was a dark period of inflation, corruption, famines, and countrywide unrest which led to the Ethiopian revolution in 1974.
Following the revolution, Emperor Haile was murdered and a socialist government was formed by a council of soldiers called the Derg. It was during this period that the history of Ethiopia took a violent turn, as the Derg started killing hundreds of thousands of people in a large scale purge called ‘red terror’. It was also during this time that the country faced two of the most destructive famines ever known to mankind – the 1984-1985 Famine. During these two years, more than a million people died. Eventually, this led to the collapse of the Derg and a transitional government was formed in 1991. Eritrea soon got separated from Ethiopia after a long war.
Today, Ethiopia remains a federal parliamentary republic with the Prime Minister as the head of the government. The main problem that plagues the country of Ethiopia today is the rise of radical Islamism. The government, however, is vociferously fighting the problem with the help of the U.S. forces.
The history of Ethiopia, as you can see, is must-read for anyone who is interested in history.