Which country has Ethiopia colonized

The history of Ethiopia

Lucy's skeleton, found in 1974, proves that human history begins in Ethiopia.

The more than two thousand year history of Ethiopia goes back to ancient times. In ancient times and in the Middle Ages, the empire of Axum and the empire Abyssinia formed powerful dynasties.

Ethiopia was the only African state that never belonged to a European colonial power. After the Second World War, the legendary Emperor Haile Selassie modernized the country previously occupied by fascist Italy and led Ethiopia to independence. The socialist military coup of 1974 ushered in one of the most repressive dictatorships in Africa, which was crushed by a civil war in 1991. Political and economic reforms led Ethiopia into a republic with 14 regions.


The country was already settled around 3.5 million years ago. In Ethiopia, remains of these pre-humans (Australopithecus afarensis) were found in the Afar Depression, which document the development of the ape into humans.

The land of antiquity

Ethiopia is one of the oldest states in the world and is the only continuously independent country in Africa that currently still exists. The current name of the country comes from an ancient Greek region name that once included Abyssinia, the historical regions of Nubia, Sudan and parts of Libya: "Αιθιοπία", from αίθαλο / aíthalo, "the sun-tanned" and οψ / ops, "the face".

The legend of the Queen of Sheba also belongs to the ancient times. According to Ethiopian tradition, it was Menelik I, the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, who founded the Ethiopian Empire. In fact, the Ḥbšt tribe, who lived in the 1st millennium BC, founded Emigrated from southern Arabia, the Ethiopian Empire. Its capital, Axum, soon gained dominance over southern Arabia.

Empire of Axum

Axum and the Axumite Empire were first mentioned by Claudius Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD. At that time, Axum controlled access to the Red Sea with its port of Adulis, which enabled expansion into southern Arabia and flourished trade relations with India, Arabia and the Mediterranean countries.

In the 3rd century, the Axumite rulers had coins minted based on the Roman model. Under King Enzana, who converted to Christianity in the 4th century, the Christian faith became the state religion of Ethiopia. This made Axum the religious center of the country.

In the 7th century Islam became increasingly important in this region, which largely isolated the Ethiopian Christians. The old trade routes were also blocked, which eventually led to the decline of the Axum Empire in the 9th century. Due to the isolation from the outside world, large parts of the axumite culture could still be preserved.

Empire of Abyssinia

In the 10th century the Axumite Empire was replaced by the dynasty of the Christian Solomonids, who saw themselves as direct descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The empire of Amhara came into being and Amharic was declared the official language of the country.

Contacts with the European continent resulted in a lively exchange of ideas with the Italian trading cities under Emperor David I. In 1493 the Portuguese came into contact with Ethiopia, both to secure rule in the Indian Ocean and to spread the Catholic faith. However, these attempts at conversion failed miserably. Nevertheless, in the 16th century, with Portuguese support, Ethiopia was able to assert itself against the Ottomans coming across the Red Sea and thus the renewed advance of Islam.

In the period that followed, the Ethiopian Empire gradually disintegrated into smaller principalities. So the partial kingdoms of Amhara, Tigray and Shewa emerged. As a result, Ethiopia faced the first confrontations with European nations in the course of colonialism.

Italian colonization attempts 1887 to 1941

At the end of the 19th century, starting from Eritrea, Ethiopia became a sought-after destination for the Italian colonial power. After several failed attempts at conquest, the Italian colonial efforts were finally averted at the Battle of Adwa on March 1, 1896, despite the clear Italian superiority.

In the Treaty of Addis Ababa, Italy gave up its colonization goals and had to accept the independence of the Ethiopian Empire. However, the province of Eritrea became an Italian colony and the entire coastal areas of the Ethiopian Empire were lost to Great Britain, France and Italy by the 20th century. Nevertheless, Menelik II was able to negotiate free access for Ethiopia to the port of Djibouti after the territory of the Republic of Djibouti had been declared a French colony.

In 1930 Haile Selassie came to power as the 225th Emperor of Ethiopia. He enforced the abolition of slavery and reformed his country, especially the law and education. In 1936, Italian troops reoccupied the country that was liberated from the Italian occupiers by the British during World War II.

In the period from 1952 to 1974, Ethiopia was shaken by periods of drought, domestic political crises and border conflicts with neighboring countries, especially with the federal state of Eritrea, and separatist movements in other regions (Tigre). In 1963 Addis Ababa became the seat of the OAU (Organization for African Unity), whose goal is the decolonization of Africa.

Socialist military dictatorship 1974-1991

In 1974 the domestic political unrest escalated into a military coup. As a result, the emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown.

In 1975 the monarchy was abolished, the church expropriated, opposition forces persecuted and imprisoned. The former empire becomes a socialist people's republic. Under the new chairman of the Provisional Military Administrative Council Mengistu Haile Mariam, there was an open war with Somalia over the province of Ogaden in 1977. With the help of the Soviet Union, Ethiopia emerged victorious the following year.

At the end of the 1970s, pressure increased from resistance groups in Eritrea and the Tigre province. In addition, there was one of the worst famine disasters in Ethiopia in 1983, in which up to a million people died of starvation as a result of civil war and drought-related crop failures.

In 1987 the Derg rule in Ethiopia was formally ended and the new constitution of the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was introduced. Mengistu Haile Mariam was elected President by Parliament in the 1987 elections.

Democratization from 1991

In 1991 troops of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) and the Tigre People's Liberation Front (TPLF) marched into Addis Ababa and brought down the communist Mengistu regime. After around 30 years, the bitter civil war ended and Eritrea gained its independence in 1993.

A transitional government is set up under Meles Zenawi, which tries with international help to rebuild the devastated country. With the new constitution of 1994, the entire state system was reorganized, democratized and the provinces were granted extensive autonomies.

In 1998, border disputes and economic tensions again led to the war over the exact course of the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Until July 2008 soldiers of the "United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea" (UNMEE) ensured an uncertain and fragile peace, whereby an independent border commission was supposed to resolve the disagreements. Ethiopia refused to recognize the disputed region around Badme as an area assigned to Eritrea. Despite the long-term democratic opening, Ethiopia has so far remained a politically unstable state.

Go together in small tour groups on the traces of the history of Ethiopia: