Talk:Battle of Adwa

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Casualties[edit]

The casualty count on this site is off. Actually more Ethiopians were killed and wounded in this battle then Italian and Askari forces. It wasn't a easy victory at all as some people would like to believe. As a matter of fact the Ethiopians almost had to retreat even though they heavily outnumbered the Italian force. There are many articles that agree on this. Here is at least one link with a article that mentions this to be true: http://www.historynet.com/magazines/military_history/3028431.html?page=3&c=y

It may not have been "easy victory", but it was unquestionably a DECISIVE victory in which Ethiopian commanders showed superior tactical ability despite being at a technological disadvantage. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 149.68.36.47 (talk) 18:43, 27 June 2008 (UTC)

You're wrong on two points there: the Ethiopians had an inferior tactical ability, yet a superior technological ability. The Ethiopians were fighting with firearms & artillery that was the equal -- if not better -- of most contemporary Europian armies -- some of which were provided by the Italians. However, the Ethiopians fought in the traditional: a massed, uncoordinated charge at enemy lines. Had the Italians & Eritreans been able to maintain their discipline, supported one another, & held their positions (as their opponents did in the medieval Battle of Shimbra Kure, and the 19th century Battle of Dabarki) the Ethiopian assault would have broken against the Italian lines like waves on a rocky point. However, the Italians were disorganized -- & demoralized. The soldiers under Menelik masticated the isolated Italian units that stood.
Nevertheless, Menelik demonstrated superior strategic thinking in the entire war: he was able to supply a sizeable field army against the Italians, something that they doubted he could do, and the maneuvering of his troops following the Italian evacuation of Mekelle was masterful. The Italians most lethal mistake was their own racism, thinking that the Ethiopians were inferior to them; underestimating one's enemy is often fatal. -- llywrch (talk) 04:22, 28 June 2008 (UTC)

The number of casualties doesn't match with the war's main article.

The number of casualties does not match with the one on the page about Oreste Baratieri.

I was about to say the same. I'll put "citation needed" next to the figures.
Yom 22:20, 13 May 2006 (UTC)
I checked 3 different books at hand about the Italian casualties from this battle, & none matched this "5,900" figure; their numbers ranged from a low of 6,000 Italians & Askaris killed to a high of 8,500 killed or wounded. I then sorted through the history of the article, & found that an anon editor at IP 81.208.60.196 added this figure last year on 8 December. Unless readers want a discussion of these different figures, I'll just restore the original "10,000" to the article. (I suspect there is an official statement of the number of Italian dead & wounded somewhere, so a discussion of these differing numbers would probably be a waste of time.) -- llywrch 04:13, 9 June 2006 (UTC)
If you have some trustworthy numbers, could you fix First Italo-Abyssinian War as well? Thank you GhePeU 12:00, 9 June 2006 (UTC)
Hmmm... I have some trustworthy numbers for this battle from Encyclopaedia Aethiopica which puts Italian dead at 7,000 (including askaris), 1,500 wounded and 3,000 prisoners, with Ethiopian dead at 4,000-6,000, but with 8,000 wounded. Perhaps the casualties listed are referring to the less specific meaning of casualty meaning both wounded and dead? If no one objects, I'll replace the figures in the article with these figures. I'll add them now since I don't think there'll be any. — ዮም (Yom) | contribsTalk 02:55, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Hmmm, I just realized that the figures given by Pétridès and Pankhurst don't match what E.A. gives as the average of fighting men (Various estimates put the number of its fighting men at over 100,000, 80,000 of them with firearms. By one account their composition was as follows:...). Does anyone have an idea as to how to reconcile these figures? — ዮም (Yom) | contribsTalk 03:03, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Well, the numbers Pankhurst provides don't match themselves either. ;-) He furnishes a wide range of estimates, from a low of 80,000 (which my gut feeling is too low) to a high of 150,000 (which apparently includes every male subject over the age of 15 with anything resembling a weapon who trotted over to the field of battle once it was clearly an Ethiopian victory). That is why I gave a range, listing the high estimate & the low estimate, & providing the source; while I think the numbers could be reconciled after a lot of careful analysis, that drifts too far into the realm of original research. Best just to furnish an impression of the magnitude of the size of the army, where the information can be found, & leave the question for the reader to solve. -- llywrch 20:40, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
That's fair. I still think that the troop breakdowns given by Pankhurst and Pétridès are useful, though and shouldn't be removed. What do you think about casualties, by the way? — ዮም (Yom) | contribsTalk 20:46, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
I'm worried that the troop breakdowns break the flow of the narrative; I'd rather move them to the footnotes, if possible. Is there an FA for a battle that breaks down the units? That would serve as an example of how to make this work. As for the casualties, I've seen the numbers you supplied reported elsewhere -- but my notes are at home & I won't be able to consult them for a day or two. (I can provide a source for the one item someone tagged as "Citation needed": a large percentage of the Italian troops were conscripts, demoralized or otherwise unsatisfactory. I guess the Italians went to war with the army they had & not the one they wanted.) -- llywrch 21:31, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Not sure whether any land battle FAs give detailed orders of battle (Battle of Jutland, on the other hand, is quite exhaustive in this regard); but the obvious solution would be to have the description of the opposing forces in a separate section between the background and the actual battle narrative. It's not that important here—this wasn't a set-piece battle with extensive positioning of units that needs to be described—but the extra material does help fill out the article. Kirill Lokshin 21:38, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
That was me who put "citation needed." It was added by Biustr without a citation and I hadn't heard the claim before, so I added it just in case. Either way, the reason I wanted to keep the divisions somewhere is becaues there's an excellent map of the topography, troop positions, and movements the day of the battle in Encyclopaedia Aethiopica (cited as copywrighted by "Evengia Sokolinskaia 2002, after Pétridès 1963") that I was planning on asking for permission to scan and add to this article (and maybe color?), as it would be a very good image to include (btw, Llywrch, there's another even better one of Ahmed Gragn that's even better that we should ask permission to use). — ዮም (Yom) | contribsTalk 21:48, 12 June 2006 (UTC)


Please provide reliable sources; an internet site won't do. The source for the casualties above is the very reliable Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, and, if you'd like, there are many other books that we can site for similar numbers. You simply want to separate the Askari deaths from Italian deaths, it seems, while increasing Ethiopian deaths. There was never almost a retreat due to the battle, however, that is a mischaracterization. Menilek almost withdrew his army from the region before any battle began because he couldn't get the Italians to engage him and he was running out of supplies. However, he was not going to retreat once the engagement had begun. — ዮም | (Yom) | TalkcontribsEthiopia 17:36, 15 September 2006 (UTC)


First of all the article on historynet.com is accurate and unbiased! All your sources are coming from the Ethiopia point of view NOT from a neutral source. I am familiar with Lewis, Prouty, Encyclopaedia Aethiopica etc. and let me tell you they don't come from a neutral point of view they are most definetly biased. They sympathize with Ethiopia! Also you are confusing the LEAD UP to the battle of Adowa with what actually happened DURING the battle. Leading up to the battle both sides supplies were running thin. Menelik was waiting for the Italian forces to attack but that was BEFORE the actual battle began. DURING the battle Meneliks forces almost had to retreat at one point! Thats a fact. Many articles have different casualty numbers then what is on this site. Yes please site your other sources (make sure unbiased) which you claim support the pages casualty number! Because this site (battle of Adowa)is supposed to be accurate which right now it is clearly NOT.

18 Sept. 2006 —Preceding unsigned comment added by 4.233.173.61 (talkcontribs)

According to Thomas Pakenham's The Scramble for Africa, the Ethiopian casualties were c. 7,000 killed and 10,000 wounded, and these heavy losses were a major reason for their decision not to invade the Italian lands.95.146.237.3 (talk) 20:21, 13 January 2010 (UTC)

Prisoners[edit]

The article claims that Italian prisoners were treated well by their Abyssinian captors, but I've come across several references which say the exact opposite. One particular reference stated that captured Italian soldiers were castrated before being released, if they were released at all. Rusty2005 21:53, 29 April 2006 (UTC)

Could you list your sources? Chris Proutky's account of the battle provides ample proof that the Italians POWs were treated well, but Ethiopian military customs of the time were gruesome & inevitably some soldiers during the rush following the victory committed attrocities; this has been documented to have happened with other armies in similar circumstances. (It's a rule of thumb that a POW's life is most at risk in the first minutes between his surrender & when he is securely interned behind the front lines. -- llywrch 17:57, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Byron Rogers, the Welsh writer, covered this subject in an extremely interesting article published by the Daily Telegraph, London, on 15 July 1998. His daughter had been set a school essay on the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1936 and asked Rogers what the Italians' motives for declaring war had been. "I said," Rogers wrote in his article,
"something about Mussolini's wish for a "place in the sun" and suggested that Italy's earlier colonial disaster must have given him something to avenge.
"She nodded and said: "I don't suppose all those castrations helped."
""What?"
"She passed me her text book: Modern World History by Tony McAleavy, published by the Cambridge University Press.
"This was not the sort of textbook I remembered reading at school..."
McAleavy's passage on Adowa, Rogers continues, appeared on p.58 of the book and did indeed refer to the castration of Italian prisoners after the battle. Rogers, sceptical - "Can you imagine the effect in 1896 on European public opinion had hundreds of eunuchs (there were 1600 prisoners in all) suddenly turned up in Italy?" - decided to trace the passage to its source. He contacted McAleavy - "That's just one sentence in a book I wrote four years ago... I must have read it somewhere." He rang the Italian military attache - "We can find no reference to this in the archives at Rome. My people are very keen to see this book." The Ethiopian embassy was not pleased either: "Are they accusing my people of doing this? Are they telling schoolgirls this?" Eventually, McAleavy called back to say he'd got his information from Richard Overy's The Road to War.
Overy, a professor at King's College London, seemed perplexed by Rogers's call. "Ah," he said, "I always was a bit worried about that one, but the chapter was actually written by my co-author... Leave it with me, I'll do some research."
Eventually Overy called back with three references. "One," Rogers continues, "referred to "nearly 2,000 Italian prisoners", but made no mention of castration. Another, a history of the Sudan, did not mention numbers, but said PoWs had been castrated. The third, written by an English Major-General on the eve of Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia, said vaguely: "Many of the prisoners were emasculated."
"I explained to Mr Overy, in some disbelief, that I had always thought historians checked their facts, which not one of these three appeared to have done.
""If I were you," he suggested, "I'd get in touch with Professor John Gooch of the University of Leeds. He is the great expert on the Italian army."
"When I spoke to Prof Gooch, he informed me that there had been castrations. Of the prisoners? "Oh no, during the battle," he replied. This would not have been altogether surprising, given the mass scrum with knives that must have ensued as 90,000 warriors hit the Italian lines. "Let me consult the figures," Prof Gooch continued. "Yes, here it is. There were 30 castrations in all."
"And the prisoners? "Well, that is the curious thing," he said. "They were treated so well that there were even stories in the Italian papers suggesting the Emperor may have provided them with women during their captivity."
"My daughter," Rogers ended his piece, "refuses point blank to drop history, for it is quite simply the most exotic world of gossip and hearsay she will ever envounter." Amen to that. Mikedash 10:06, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

Very interesting as you say - to see a widely accepted version of events tracked down to hearsay and rumour. The destruction of a European army by "natives" would have shaken a good many accepted tenets of the 1890s and it must have been a temptation in Italy and elsewhere to demonise the victors. However the mutilation of the captured askaris was real enough (a British journalist saw the evidence) and they were Italian soldiers too.Buistr 19:30, 15 September 2006 (UTC)

The unfortunate Eritreans, dispised by both sides. I had forgotten about them. The Ethiopians under Menelik saw them as traitors during this battle, & after obtaining an opinion from the Abuna, the head of the Ethiopian Church, thos captured were subjected to having a hand & a foot chopped off (This is from memory, but I'm fairly confident that they were permanently disfigured after the battle by the victors -- but not emasculated). Many undoubtedly died from from this. However, the Italians had an official policy of racism, which meant that the Italians treated them as second-calss citizens: under-educated, under-paid & discriminated against in their own homeland. Yet, despite this, they treated the Eritreans (& if my reading is correct) the Somalis better than other colonial powers. -- llywrch 21:39, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

True, but I suppose colonial empires seldom stressed equality between rulers and ruled. It may be a little harsh to say that the Italians despised "their" Eritrean askaris though. They seem to have been considered as the the most reliable component of the Regio Corpo di Truppe Coloniali with which Italy fought its subsequent African wars - they played a major role in the 1935-36 invasion of Abyssinia. Buistr 19:30, 15 September 2006 (UTC)

Assessment[edit]

Still needs a longer introduction (and ideally some images; are there any pictures of the leaders involved that could be used?) before it would be an A-Class. Kirill Lokshin 02:42, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

While I have some contemporary illustrations that I could scan & add (a couple of which underline the racist POV that this battle destroyed), I think that the best image for this battle would be a map. Think that the chance to move a B-class article to A-class would be enough of an incentive to lure another Wikipedian into creating one? -- llywrch 17:57, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Maybe. I don't know how many map creators we have hanging around that would be willing to work on this, though. Kirill Lokshin 21:29, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Give me the data on my talk page and I will try to fetch one. He mapped out First Punic War and he is now likely to provide acceptable results (had some conversation). Wandalstouring 20:33, 26 October 2006 (UTC)

The article first states that the Italian commander, General Oreste Baratieri, "knew the Ethiopian forces had been living off the land, and once the supplies of the local peasants were exhausted, Emperor Menelik's army would begin to melt away. However, the Italian government insisted that General Baratieri act." This implies that he both wished to wait them out, and had the capability to do so. Later in the article, however, it notes that he informed his officers that"...provisions would be exhausted in less than five days, and suggested retreating, perhaps as far back as Asmara. His subordinates argued forcefully for an attack." This both contradicts any implication or statement regarding waiting out the enemy's food supplies made earlier, and the assertion that the Italian government was what forced him to act, as it asserts instead that his subordinates were responsible for the attack going forth. As a reader of this article, the causes for the attack as well as the true state of affairs are not discernable to my eyes from that portion of the article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 75.136.102.75 (talk) 18:14, 13 December 2011 (UTC)

Name[edit]

Why is this at Battle of Adowa and not Battle of Adwa? The former gets 962 google hits, while the latter gets over 15,000. I'll wait before changing this, but I really don't see any reason that Adowa should be used (I have also moved Adowa->Adwa based on similar evidence of 300k vs. 80k google hits) — ዮም (Yom) | contribsTalk 04:35, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

I believe Adowa is the older, Victorian name, while Adwa is the newer name. Much like Awadh, which was called Oudh in Victorian times. Is it really necessary to change it though? They both point to the same page. Rusty2005 10:15, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Both are attempts at transliterating ዓድዋ, which would be properly transliterated "Adwa," and not "Adowa." I'm not sure which was used by the English (the Italians used Adua), but the former is the more commonly used form today, and didn't actually undergo a name change, so I'm not sure why we should keep an archaic spelling. New Orleans isn't at New Orléans or Nouvelle Orléans, e.g. My reason why I want to change it is because "Adowa," looks weird and isn't the usual spelling, which is in accordance with Wikipedia policy, which says the use the most common (in en.wikipedia.org's case, English) name for a title (and both "Battle of Adwa" and "Adwa" are more common than their "Adowa" counterparts). — ዮም (Yom) | contribsTalk 17:18, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Yom, the cities where the Battle of Stalingrad & the Battle of Leningrad changed their names, but we still use the names at the time these battles were fought; & I've been using the form that was most familiar to me. But I understand your point, & give me a day or two to check my sources: I am continually amazed at how many different ways Ethiopian names are transliterated in English. Not only does every expert or publisher have his or her own preferred method, but I've seen a few change their methods when they've changed their publishers! -- llywrch 17:57, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
I think we should go ahead and change the name to Adwa. As far as I can tell, in the local language there is no monophthong or syllable separating the "Ad" and the "wa", and it's more than likely that the "o" was put in to make it easier to pronounce in English. I forget what the technical term is for when an extra monophthong is added for ease of pronunciation, but that's what seems to have happened with this particular word. Rusty2005 18:32, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
In pronounciation there's a vowel sort of shorter than a schwa (ə or @). I would understand if Adwa was named something else in the past (e.g. like Fremona vs. Maigoga/Maygwagwa), but this isn't a slightly different case. Think Beijing vs. Peking or Mumbai vs. Bombay except much less extreme. It's more like using Kolkata vs. Calcutta in a fictional "Battle of Kolkata/Calcutta" if "Kolkata" were the more accepted term today (which Adwa is, even though Calcutta is still the prefered term in English). — ዮም (Yom) | contribsTalk 19:26, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

It's been a while since the last discussion. Would anyone object if I moved this page to Battle of Adwa and fixed all redirects? — ዮም | (Yom) | TalkcontribsEthiopia 03:53, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

I would move it to Adwa if I were you.. in my modern African history class we learned Adwa. I'm pretty sure I have never heard it referred to as the Battle of Adowa. Basser g 03:02, 14 February 2007 (UTC)

Taytu[edit]

Several years ago I read an article in Le Monde, citing, among other sources, the account of the battle provided by the Ethiopian court historian. While its accuracy may be questioned, it was quite interesting, since it provided an epic Ethiopian view of the events. As far as I remember, according to that account, during the assault that was to decide the battle, the Shebans wavered under the volleys of the Italian artillery. Then the Emperess Taytu ran among them, inciting them to fight on. The warriors then threw themselves forward, "because a man cannot flee when a woman is looking.". Some highlights, if properly sourced, could perhaps be included in the article in a separate paragraph, providing some cultural context. Note that I am writing this based only on memory, a notoriously deceitful device. Stammer 11:50, 16 June 2007 (UTC)

Here is the relevant reference -> Guèbrè Selassié, Cronique du Règne de Ménélik II roi des rois d'Ethiopie, traduite de l'amharique par Tesfa Sellassié ; publiée et annotée par Maurice De Coppet. - Paris : Maisonneuve Frères, 1930. - IX, 375 p. . Stammer 08:18, 19 June 2007 (UTC)
I just read this. Having read Chris Proutky's account of the Empress, I wouldn't doubt that she had done just that; she was probably Menelik's harshest critic for not pushing his victory & driving the Italians into the sea. I'll have to see if I can work this into the article. -- llywrch 23:19, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

A Negro Slap! This is the greatest proliteriat victory over imperialism over domination and determination of one race by another. And the streets must have overflowed, in Europe, how can monkeys black and comely.. How can a Negro slap! This article only seems to try say why Italians lost It is biased avoiding the other side of the coin why Africans won! Because no man however advanced an d wealthied has a right to determine anothers destiny. So what More Ethopians were Killed there were less Italians The terain did not favor them. THEY LOST! and Africans won. We have grown Up, In Africa knowing that all was not lost that on only one stood, and many died men fell on their knees or bellies, but one, Mengistu trounced. We would never drive them to the sea because two wrongs dont make a right. We were not turned imperialists by victory Otiato Guguyu —Preceding unsigned comment added by 212.49.87.201 (talk) 14:48, 28 August 2008 (UTC)

Adowa[edit]

This battle is famous in military history as Adowa. This is the first time I've seen it called "Adwa".
Varlaam (talk) 05:33, 13 May 2010 (UTC)

The most famous person in English to write about Ethiopia would be Evelyn Waugh. He writes:
"At Adowa, on March 1, Baratieri's army was annihilated"
Waugh in Abyssinia, Longmans, 1936, Penguin, 2000, p. 21

The references cited on the page generally refer to Adowa, since that's the name of this battle, not this revisionist Adwa nonsense.
It has been famous as Adowa for a century.

That's an intriguing statement; the "revisionist" form of the name was chosen because the nearby town is commonly transliterated as "Adwa", & no one at the time this article received its current name was that passionate over either form. But in response to your assertion, a survey of my reference works shows that "Adwa" is the only spelling used: Richard Pankhurst, The Ethiopians; Paul B. Henze, Layers of Time; Bahru Zewde, A history of modern Ethiopia, 1855-1991, 2nd edition; & Harold Marcus, The Life and Times of Menelik II. These four are amongst the most authoritative contemporary writers on Ethiopian history, so I believe they more than balance the authority of Evelyn Waugh. -- llywrch (talk) 06:18, 14 May 2010 (UTC)

Russian role at Adwa?[edit]

There have some comparatively recent edits to this article claiming Czarist Russia's role in the victory as an ally of Ethiopia and the presence of Russian advisors. The one reference given however does not record involvement on this scale. Is anyone aware of other sources that would support the contention that Russian tactical advice and material assistance were factors in the outcome of the battle? Buistr (talk) 18:52, 5 October 2010 (UTC)

Russia sold Menelik the mountain artillery used in this battle as well as trained the gunners; that's been amply documented, & I can provide sources for that. Maybe there were one or two Russian officers on the Emperor Menelik's personal staff who acted as observers, but that would be the limit to Russian involvement. They also sold Ethiopia guns & ammunition used in this war, but the Italians had also done that. (They didn't expect this materiel to be used on them, a lesson they learned before their next war with Ethiopia.) On that basis, I guess you could say the Italians were also allies of Ethiopia. However, I don't know what the recent edits actually say, because I've grown weary of struggling with jerks who want to push their fringe POVs thru arguments based on hair-splitting, & have begun to ignore them. Go ahead & revise the article if you'd like. -- llywrch (talk) 17:06, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Okay, I'm changing my mind on this: I just deleted a paragraph which only charitably could be described as a valid different opinion. The Italo-Abyssinian War was one of those rare occasions where the African combatant was better armed than the European one. One of Menelik's many acts of genius was to import massive amounts of materiel through the compliant authorities in French Somaliland; he repeatedly outmaneuvered skilled & capable Italian generals in the field, & foiled their final effort to defeat him. Any Russian input into the strategy Menelik relied on either in this battle or in the war in general was as substantial as a lone heckler from the stands in a football game. I'm more than a little disgusted that some yahoo wants to credit Russians with the success of perhaps the most influential military victory Africans enjoyed over Europeans since Hannibal went mano a mano with Rome. -- llywrch (talk) 22:57, 6 October 2010 (UTC)
Yes geographical distance alone made it seem unlikely that there was any serious Russian involvement in Menelik's victorious campaign and I had never previously read anything that suggested this was the case. As a member of the Triple Alliance Italy was a potential enemy of Russia and there was probably no great regret in Saint Petersburg at the destruction of an Italian army in Africa and political upheaval in Rome. However that is a long way from somehow having Amharic speaking military experts active on the spot - even if the Ethiopians had needed their advice.Buistr (talk) 09:51, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
Slightly off topic, but this idea that Adwa was the "first" or even "most influential" victory by an African army over a European one since 216 BC – while an increasingly common one – does ignore some quite significant, if less-well-remembered, events. What about the Arab conquest of Spain in the eighth century, for instance, or the victories of the Mamluks over the Crusaders? Mikedash (talk) 17:11, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
  • The Hannibal's army was not made up only of Africans. Secondly I would mention also the conquest of Sicily in the Middle Age.--Deguef (talk) 10:46, 6 December 2012 (UTC)

Eritrean allies?[edit]

The introductory listing of belligerents includes "Eritrean rebels" on the Ethiopian side, although there is no reference to such assistance in the text of the article. Could someone clarify this addition? The Italians did of course employ a brigade of Eritrean askaris in the battle and this is well documented. During the 1935-36 Italian invasion some Eritrean colonial troops deserted and either crossed over into British Kenya or joined with the Ethiopian forces - possibly the same happened in 1896 but some supporting detail or reference would be useful. Buistr (talk) 07:59, 27 August 2011 (UTC)

Peer review[edit]

I've listed this article for peer review because it has many of the qualities of a GA or FA. However, I would like independent review, especially on the POV. I would like a final review before submission as Good Article.

አቤል ዳዊት (talk) 18:58, 17 December 2012 (UTC)

If I were to revise this article, based on what I learned since writing the latest draft, one major change would be to better explain the Italian strategy for this battle--which wasn't as suicidal as it appears in retrospect. It did consist of more than some racist assumptions along the lines of "Africans are inferior to Europeans, so all we have to do is show up & shoot them & we win."

One important consideration is that, despite having superior weapons to the Italians, Ethiopian battle tactics were amazingly primitive: an Ethiopian Emperor would assemble as large of an army as he could muster (hosts of 100,000 were not unusual, even in the early years of the war against Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi), march them out to face his opponent, then release them in a massed, uncoordinated, & reckless charge, relying on individual bravery & weight of numbers to carry the victory. Against other African opponents, this was effective, but against an organized force that could dig & hold its ground this was ineffective. This is how Emperor Lebna Dengel lost at the Battle of Shimbra Kure -- Imam Ahmad told his men to hold their ground, they did & they won. This is how Tewodros II suffered a rare defeat in the 1848 Battle of Dabarki against a regiment of Sudanese troops -- the Sudanese were dug in & supported with cannons, & Tewodros' men were slaughtered in the first 30 minutes & the battle over. (That's another article needing to be written.) And despite Menelik's intelligence & motivation, he knew he could not create a modern, disciplined army in time to meet the Italian threat. This weakness was known to the Italians, who based their strategy on it: march out from their prepared positions, thus luring the Ethiopians out from theirs, then dig in & prepare to repel the massed assaults with a hail of bullets & artillery shells. Had the Italians succeeded at this, they might just have slaughtered the assembled Ethiopian forces, won the battle--& the war. Instead, due to bad luck (some of the Italian units either got lost due to bad maps & inaccurate intelligence) & that the Ethiopians were awake early to celebrate mass (if that's the proper term for Ethiopian Christianity), thus ready to engage the enemy.

The reason I don't rewrite this article to reflect this interpretation is, frankly, I don't know how much of this would be prohibited due to WP:NPOV: none of the sources take the time to explain the battle as I have done here. Some sympathize with the Italians; some take an anti-Colonialist attitude; none try to capture what was in the heads of the Italian generals at the fateful moment they decided to engage Menelik's army & issued their orders. At least as I remember now.--llywrch (talk) 19:57, 30 July 2013 (UTC)