The Ethiopian Empire, also known as Abyssinia, in what is now Ethiopia and Eritrea existed from approximately 1270
(beginning of Solomonid Dynasty) until 1974 when the monarchy was overthrown in a coup d'etat. Earlier the Aksumite Empire
had flourished in the region, stretching from about the fourth century B.C.E. through until the tenth century C.E.
The Zagwe Dynasty then ruled until 1270, when it was overthrown by the Solomonic dynasty.
Ethiopia is one of the oldest states in the world,
and the only native African nation to successfully resist the Scramble for Africa by the colonial powers
during the nineteenth century only briefly succumbing to Italian occupation from 1935 until it was liberated during World War II.
In 1896, the Ethiopians inflicted a defeat on the invading Italian army, whose acquisition of territory was confined to Eritrea,
to which they added Italian Somaliland. Home of an ancient African Christian Church and with a continuous civilization and cultural
traditions stretching back millennia, Ethiopia (mentioned some 50 times in the Bible) became, for enslaved Africans and their
descendants in the USA a symbol of black pride and dignity.
In the twentieth century, the last emperor of Ethiopia took on special significance for many people of African descent as the Messiah who would lead them to freedom from oppression. Against the European-North-American stereotype that Africa has had no civilizations of its own, and required a supervising, helping hand from the colonial powers to progress and develop, here was at least one example of an ancient nation-state that, although not in its current constitutional form, pre-dates many European states. It was, however, pride in his lineage and his autocratic bent that led to the last emperor’s downfall. He had moved towards constitutional monarchy but his apparent indifference to the suffering caused by famine between 1972 and 1974 resulted in a Marxist-coup. Human settlement in Ethiopia is very ancient with earliest ancestors to the human species discovered. Together with Eritrea and the southeastern part of the Red Sea coast of Sudan, it is considered the most likely location of the land known to the ancient Egyptians as Punt whose first mention dates to the twenty-fifth century B.C.E. The beginnings of a state were evident in the area that would become Abyssinia by 980 B.C.E., which also serves as its legendary date of establishment. This date may have more to do with dynastic lineage than the actual establishment of a state.
Zagwe Dynasty The Zagwe dynasty ruled Ethiopia from the end of the Kingdom of Axum at an uncertain date in the ninth or tenth century to 1270, when Yekuno Amlak defeated and killed the last Zagwe king in battle. The name of the dynasty is thought to come from the Ge'ez phrase Ze-Agaw, meaning "of Agaw" and refer to the Agaw people. Its best-known king was Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, who is given credit for the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. What is now Eritrea was conquered by the Umayyads in 710 but traditionally Ethiopia was considered to be exempt from Muslim attack because of the hospitality that Muslims had enjoyed there during the life-time of Muhammad. This may well have enabled the kingdom to survive as a Christian state surrounded by Muslim polities. David Buxton has stated that the area under the direct rule of the Zagwe kings "probably embraced the highlands of modern Eritrea and the whole of Tigrai, extending southwards to Waag, Lasta and Damot (Wallo province) and thence westwards towards Lake Tana (Beghemdir)." Unlike the practice of later rulers of Ethiopia, Taddesse Tamrat argues that under the Zagwe dynasty the order of succession was that of brother succeeding brother as king, based on the Agaw laws of inheritance. History The number of kings of the Zagwe dynasty is uncertain: Ethiopian King Lists provide from five to 16 names belonging to this dynasty, who ruled for a total of either 133 or 333 years (other possibilities include 137 years, 250 years, and 373 years). All agree that the founding king was Mara Takla Haymanot, son-in-law of the last king of Axum, Dil Na'od. However the name of the last king of this dynasty is lost—the surviving chronicles and oral traditions give his name as Za-Ilmaknun, which is clearly a pseudonym (Taddesse Tamrat translates it as "The Unknown, the hidden one"), employed soon after his reign by the victorious Solomonic dynasty in an act of damnatio memoriae. Taddesse Tamrat believes that this last ruler was actually Yetbarak. The Ethiopian historian Taddesse Tamrat follows the theories of Carlo Conti Rossini concerning this group of rulers. Conti Rossini believed that the shorter length of this dynasty was the more likely one, as it fit his theory that a letter received by the Patriarch of Alexandria John V from an unnamed Ethiopian monarch, requesting a new abuna because the current office holder was too old, was from Mara Takla Haymanot, who wanted the abuna replaced because he would not endorse the new dynasty.
The Ethiopian Empire
Yekuno Amlak I
Haile Selassie I