Battle of Adwa

Coordinates: 14°1′8″N 38°58′24″E / 14.01889°N 38.97333°E / 14.01889; 38.97333 (Battle of Adwa)
Page semi-protected
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Battle of Adwa
Part of the First Italo-Ethiopian War

British illustration of "Dabormida's last rally"
Date1 March 1896; 127 years ago (1896-03-01)
Location14°1′8″N 38°58′24″E / 14.01889°N 38.97333°E / 14.01889; 38.97333 (Battle of Adwa)
Result Ethiopian victory
 Ethiopia  Italy
Commanders and leaders
Ethiopian Empire Menelik II
Ethiopian Empire Taytu Betul
Ethiopian Empire Ras Makonnen
Ethiopian Empire Tekle Haymanot
Ethiopian Empire Mikael of Wollo
Ethiopian Empire Mengesha Yohannes
Kingdom of Italy Oreste Baratieri
Kingdom of Italy Vittorio Dabormida 
Kingdom of Italy Giuseppe Arimondi 
Kingdom of Italy Matteo Albertone (POW)
73,000–100,000 14,519–17,770[1][2]
Casualties and losses
3,886–7,000 killed ~6,000 killed
3,865 captured
Battle of Adwa is located in Ethiopia
Battle of Adwa
Location within Ethiopia

The Battle of Adwa (Amharic: የዐድዋ ጦርነት; Tigrinya: ውግእ ዓድዋ; Italian: battaglia di Adua, also spelled Adowa) was the climactic battle of the First Italo-Ethiopian War. The Ethiopian forces defeated the Italian invading force on Sunday 1 March 1896, near the town of Adwa. The decisive victory thwarted the campaign of the Kingdom of Italy to expand its colonial empire in the Horn of Africa.[3] By the end of the 19th century, European powers had carved up almost all of Africa after the Berlin Conference; only Ethiopia and Liberia still maintained their independence.[4] Adwa became a pre-eminent symbol of pan-Africanism and secured Ethiopian sovereignty until the Second Italo-Ethiopian War forty years later.[5]


In 1889, the Italians signed the Treaty of Wuchale with the then King Menelik of Shewa. The treaty, signed after the Italian occupation of Eritrea, recognized Italy's claim over the coastal colony. In it, Italy also promised to provide financial assistance and military supplies. A dispute later arose over the interpretation of the two versions of the document. The Italian-language version of the disputed Article 17 of the treaty stated that the Emperor of Ethiopia was obliged to conduct all foreign affairs through Italian authorities, effectively making Ethiopia a protectorate of the Kingdom of Italy. The Amharic version of the article, however, stated that the Emperor could use the good offices of the Kingdom of Italy in his relations with foreign nations if he wished. However, the Italian diplomats claimed that the original Amharic text included the clause and that Menelik II knowingly signed a modified copy of the Treaty.[6]

The Italian government decided on a military solution to force Ethiopia to abide by the Italian version of the treaty. As a result, Italy and Ethiopia came into confrontation, in what was later to be known as the First Italo-Ethiopian War. In December 1894, Bahta Hagos led a rebellion against the Italians in Akele Guzai, in what was then Italian controlled Eritrea. Units of General Oreste Baratieri's army under Major Pietro Toselli crushed the rebellion and killed Bahta. The Italian army then occupied the Tigrayan capital, Adwa. In January 1895, Baratieri's army went on to defeat Ras Mengesha Yohannes in the Battle of Coatit, forcing Mengesha to retreat further south.

By late 1895, Italian forces had advanced deep into Ethiopian territory. On 7 December 1895, Ras Makonnen Wolde Mikael, Fitawrari Gebeyehu and Ras Mengesha Yohannes commanding a larger Ethiopian group of Menelik's vanguard annihilated a small Italian unit at the Battle of Amba Alagi. The Italians were then forced to withdraw to more defensible positions in Tigray Province, where the two main armies faced each other. By late February 1896, supplies on both sides were running low. General Oreste Baratieri, commander of the Italian forces, knew the Ethiopian forces had been living off the land, and once the supplies of the local peasants were exhausted, Emperor Menelik II's army would begin to melt away. However, the Italian government insisted that General Baratieri act.

The landscape of Adwa

On the evening of 29 February, Baratieri, about to be replaced by a new governor, General Baldissera, met with his generals Matteo Albertone, Giuseppe Arimondi, Vittorio Dabormida, and Giuseppe Ellena, concerning their next steps. He opened the meeting on a negative note, revealing to his brigadiers 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, insisting that to retreat at this point would only worsen the poor morale.[7] Dabormida exclaimed, "Italy would prefer the loss of two or three thousand men to a dishonorable retreat." Baratieri delayed making a decision for a few more hours, claiming that he needed to wait for some last-minute intelligence, but in the end announced that the attack would start the next morning at 9:00am.[8] His troops began their march to their starting positions shortly after midnight.

Order of battle

An 1890s Italian map of Adwa. A small arrow indicates that north is to the right.

Ethiopian forces

Estimates for the Ethiopian forces under Menelik range from a low of 73,000 to a high of over 100,000 outnumbering the Italians by an estimated five times.[10][11] The forces were divided among Emperor Menelik, Empress Taytu Betul, Ras Wale Betul, Ras Mengesha Atikem, Ras Mengesha Yohannes, Ras Alula Engida (Abba Nega), Ras Mikael of Wollo, Ras Makonnen Wolde Mikael,Fitawrari Habte Giyorgis, Fitawrari[nb 1] Gebeyyehu, and Negus[nb 2] Tekle Haymanot Tessemma.[12] In addition, the armies were followed by a similar number of camp followers who supplied the army, as had been done for centuries.[13] Most of the army consisted of riflemen, a significant percentage of whom were in Menelik's reserve; however, there were also a significant number of cavalry and infantry only armed with lances (those with lances were referred to as "lancer servants").[13] According to some Italian diplomats, the Ethiopians were supported by a regiment of Kuban Cossacks led by N. S. Leontiev, however, historian, Richard Caulk would assert that Leontiev did not in fact participate in the battle,[14] rather he visited Ethiopia first unofficially in January 1895, and then officially as a representative of Russia in August 1895, but then left later that year, returning only after the Battle of Adwa.[14][15]

Ethnic composition of the Ethiopian army

At the Battle of Adwa, Ethiopian fighters from all parts of the country rallied to the cause and took up positions on the battlefield that allowed them to come to each other's aid during combat. Armies who participated in the battle includes Tekle Haymanot's Amhara infantry and cavalry; Ras Mengesha’s Tigrayan army; Ras Mikael’s Oromo cavalry; Ras Makonnen's Harar army that composed of Amhara and Gurage infantry and Oromo cavalry; Wag-shum Gwangul's Agew and Amhara infantry from Wag and Lasta. Fitawrari Tekle led the Wellega Oromo cavalry while Ras Gugsa Olié's army was composed of Amharas from Semien and Quara. Empress Taytu Bitul led her own Begemder Amhara and Yejju fighters. The Fitawrari's army, normally the leader of the advanced guard, was commanded by Fitawrari Gebeyehu. The mehal sefari or central fighting unit mostly included Shewan Amhara infantry and Mecha-Tulama Oromo cavalry. The Ethiopian army at Adwa was, therefore, a mosaic of various ethnic groups and tribes that marched north for a common, national cause.[16][17][18]

Italian forces

Immediately before the battle of Adwa, the Italian army consisted of 29,700 Italians and 14,000 askaris. However, as Harold Marcus notes, "several thousand" soldiers were needed in support roles and to guard the lines of communication to the rear. He accordingly estimates that the Italian force at Adwa consisted of just 14,519 effective combat troops.[19] Where as, David L. Lewis estimates that the Italian army consisted of four brigades, totaling 17,770 troops with fifty-six artillery pieces.[20] One brigade under General Albertone was made up of Eritrean Ascari led by Italian officers.[21] The remaining three brigades were Italian units under Brigadiers Dabormida, Ellena and Arimondi. While these included elite Bersaglieri and Alpini units, a large proportion of the troops were inexperienced conscripts recently drafted from metropolitan regiments in Italy into newly formed "d'Africa" battalions for service in Africa. Additionally, a limited number of troops were from the Cacciatori d'Africa; units permanently serving in Africa and in part recruited from Italian settlers.[22][23]

According to historian Chris Prouty:

They [the Italians] had inadequate maps, old-model guns, poor communication equipment and inferior footgear for the rocky ground. (The newer Carcano Model 91 rifles were not issued because Baratieri, under constraints to be economical, wanted to use up the old cartridges.) Morale was low as the veterans were homesick and the newcomers were too inexperienced to have any esprit de corps. There was a shortage of mules and saddles.[24]

The Italian operational corps in Eritrea was under the command of General Oreste Baratieri. The chief of staff was Lieutenant Colonel Giacchino Valenzano.

  • Right column: (4,833 rifles / 18 cannons)[2] 2nd Infantry Brigade (Gen. Vittorio Dabormida);[25]
    • 3rd Africa Infantry Regiment,[26] (Col. Ottavio Ragni)
      • 5th Africa Infantry Battalion (Maj. Luigi Giordano)
      • 6th Africa Infantry Battalion (Maj. Leopoldo Prato)
      • 10th Africa Infantry Battalion (Maj. Gennaro De Fonseca)
    • 6th Africa Infantry Regiment (Col. Cesare Airaghi)
      • 3rd Africa Infantry Battalion (Maj. Luigi Branchi)
      • 13th Africa Infantry Battalion (Maj. Alberto Rayneri)
      • 14th Africa Infantry Battalion (Maj. Secondo Solaro)
    • Native Mobile Militia Battalion (Maj. Lodovico De Vito)
    • Native Company from the Asmara Chitet[27] (Cpt. Alberto Sermasi)
    • 2nd Artillery Brigade (Maj. Alberto Zola)
      • 5th Mountain Artillery Battery[28] (Cpt. Giuseppe Mottino)
      • 6th Mountain Artillery Battery[28] (Cpt. Giuseppe Regazzi)
      • 7th Mountain Artillery Battery[28] (Cpt. Vittorio Gisla)
  • Central column: (3,324 rifles / 12 cannons)[2] 1st Infantry Brigade (Gen. Giuseppe Arimondi);[25]
    • 1st Africa Bersaglieri Regiment[29] (Col. Francesco Stevani)
      • 1st Africa Bersaglieri Battalion (Maj. Matteo De Stefano)
      • 2nd Africa Bersaglieri Battalion (Maj. Lorenzo Compiano)
    • 1st Africa Infantry Regiment (Col. Ugo Brusati)
      • 2nd Africa Infantry Battalion (Maj. Flaciano Viancini)
      • 4th Africa Infantry Battalion (Maj. Luigi De Amicis)
      • 9th Africa Infantry Battalion (Maj. Giuseppe Baudoin)
    • 1st Company of the 5th Native Battalion (Cpt. Pietro Pavesi)
    • 8th Mountain Artillery Battery[28] (Cpt. Vincenzo Loffredo)
    • 11th Mountain Artillery Battery[28] (Cpt. Giocanni Franzini)
  • Left column: (4,339 rifles / 14 cannons)[2] Native Brigade (Gen. Matteo Albertone);[25]
    • 1st Native Battalion (Maj. Domenico Turitto)
    • 6th Native Battalion (Maj. Giuseppe Cossu)
    • 5th Native Battalion (Maj. Rodolfo Valli)
    • 8th Native Battalion (Maj. Giocanni Gamerra)
    • "Okulè Kusai" Native Irregular Company (Lt. Alessandro Sapelli)
    • 1st Artillery Brigade (Maj. Francesco De Rosa)
      • 1st Native Mountain Artillery Battery[30] (Cpt. Clemente Henry)
      • 2nd Section of the 2nd Native Mountain Artillery Battery[31] (Lt. Arnaldo Vibi)
      • 3rd Mountain Artillery Battery[30] (Cpt. Edoardo Bianchini)
      • 4th Mountain Artillery Battery[30] (Cpt. Umberto Masotto)
  • Reserve column: (3,032 rifles /12 cannons)[2] 3rd Infantry Brigade (Gen. Giuseppe Ellena);[25]
    • 4th Africa Infantry Regiment (Col. Giovanni Romero)
      • 7th Africa Infantry Battalion (Maj. Alberto Montecchi)
      • 8th Africa Infantry Battalion (Maj. Achille Violante)
      • 11th Africa Infantry Battalion (Maj. Sebastiano Manfredi)
      • 12th Africa Infantry Battalion (Maj. Rinaldo Amatucci)
    • 5th Africa Infantry Regiment (Col. Luigi Nava)
      • 15th Africa Infantry Battalion (Maj. Achille Ferraro)
      • 16th Africa Infantry Battalion (Maj. Bugenio Vandiol)
      • 1st Africa Alpini Battalion (Lt. Col. Davide Menini)
    • 3rd Native Battalion (Lt. Col. Giuseppe Galliano)
    • 1st Quick Fire Artillery Battery (Cpt. Giovanni Aragno)
    • 2nd Quick Fire Artillery Battery (Cpt. Domencio Mangia)
    • Sappers company

Budget restrictions and supply shortages meant that many of the rifles and artillery pieces issued to the Italian reinforcements sent to Africa were obsolete models, while clothing and other equipment was often substandard. The logistics and training of the recently arrived conscript contingents from Italy were inferior to the experienced colonial troops based in Eritrea.[32]


On the night of 29 February and the early morning of 1 March, three Italian brigades advanced separately towards Adwa over narrow mountain tracks, while a fourth remained camped.[33] David Levering Lewis states that the Italian battle plan called for three columns to march in parallel formation to the crests of three mountains – Dabormida commanding on the right, Albertone on the left, and Arimondi in the center – with a reserve under Ellena following behind Arimondi. The supporting crossfire each column could give the others made the 'soldiers as deadly as razored shears'. Albertone's brigade was to set the pace for the others. He was to position himself on the summit known as Kidane Mehret, which would give the Italians the high ground from which to meet the Ethiopians.[34] However, the three leading Italian brigades had become separated during their overnight march and by dawn were spread across several miles of very difficult terrain. Their sketchy maps caused Albertone to mistake one mountain for Kidane Meret, and when a scout pointed out his mistake, Albertone advanced directly into the Ethiopian positions.

Menelik II at the Battle of Adwa

Unbeknownst to General Baratieri, Emperor Menelik knew his troops had exhausted the ability of the local peasants to support them and had planned to break camp the next day (2 March). The Emperor had risen early to begin prayers for divine guidance when spies from Ras Alula, brought him news that the Italians were advancing. The Emperor summoned the separate armies of his nobles and with the Empress Taytu Betul beside him, ordered his forces forward. Negus Tekle Haymanot commanded the right wing with his troops from Gojjam, Ras Mengesha in the left with his troops from Tigray, Ras Makonnen leading the center with his troops, and Ras Mikael at the north side leading the Wollo Oromo cavalry. In the reserves on the hills just west of Adwa, were the Emperor Menelik and Empress Taitu, with the warriors of Ras Olié and Wagshum Guangul.[35][34] The Ethiopian forces positioned themselves on the hills overlooking the Adwa valley, in perfect position to receive the Italians, who were exposed and vulnerable to crossfire.[13]

Albertone's Ascari Brigade was the first to encounter the onrush of Ethiopians at 06:00AM, near Kidane Meret. The Ethiopian units closest to Albertone’s advanced position on the slopes of the Hill of Enda Kidane Meret first moved to the attack. The first group to engage with Albertone was the Tigray army under the command of Ras Mengesha and Ras Alula. They were immediately joined by troops under Negus Tekle Haymanot, Ras Makonnen and Ras Mikael while those of Wagshum Guangul and Ras Olié came up soon after, so a large proportion of the Ethiopian army was soon concentrated against Albertone’s isolated Ascari Brigade.[36] Initially the Italian artillery inflicted heavy casualties on the Ethiopian formations until a portion of the Ethiopians led by Balcha Safo deployed their quick-firing Hotchkiss guns on the lower side of Mount Abba Gerima. Albertone’s advantage in artillery fire was removed and his guns were silenced as his gunners were slaughtered by the Ethiopian artillery.[37][38] Albertone's heavily outnumbered Ascaris held their position for two hours until Albertone's surrender, and under Ethiopian pressure the survivors sought refuge with Arimondi's brigade. Arimondi's brigade beat back the armies of Harar, Tigray, Wollo, Gondar and Lasta who repeatedly charged the Italian positions for three hours with gradually fading strength until Menelik released his reserve of 25,000 Shewans and overran the Italian defenders. Arimondi’s brigade now broke and fled, the officers and a few ascari who remained with them were soon overwhelmed. Two companies of Bersaglieri who arrived at the same moment could not help and were cut down.[1]

Ethiopian painting commemorating the Battle of Adwa

General Baratieri, realizing that the battle was lost, ordered a general retreat. He tried to get the last uncommitted units of the Italian reserve column led by General Ellena to cover the retreat. But before they could form up, their lines were broken by a flood of fleeing Italian soldiers. The reserve had no chance to form a coherent defence and were overwhelmed within minutes.[39] By noon, the Italian center was completely broken and the Ethiopian cavalry from Shewa and Wollo then pursued the fleeing Italians relentlessly, as Berkeley records from eyewitness accounts, “the Abyssinians wild with enthusiasm then rushed in upon them, reckless of losses and death.” General Arimondi's mule ran away in the confusion and Arimondi as well as almost all his officers were cut down.[40]

Dabormida's Italian Brigade had moved to support Albertone but was unable to reach him in time. Cut off from the remainder of the Italian army, Dabormida was unaware that the other Italian troops had been annihilated as he had not received any communication from Baratieri. The Ethiopians who had just defeated Generals Arimondi’s and Ellena's brigades were now moving to encircle Dabormida's brigade from the rear. By 4:30PM Dabormida, still unaware of the rout of the rest of the army, now began a desperate attempt to break out of the encirclement and make a hasty retreat north. However, he inadvertently marched his command into a narrow valley where the Wollo Oromo cavalry under Ras Mikael virtually wiped out his brigade. Dabormida's remains were never found, although an old woman living in the area said that she had given water to a mortally wounded Italian officer, "a chief, a great man with spectacles and a watch, and golden stars".[41][42]

The retreating columns under Baratieri were harried for 9 miles before the Ethiopian cavalry gave up the pursuit, fires were then lit on the highest hilltops to signal local peasants to attack Italian and Ascari stragglers. Baratieri’s defeated army continued to retreat throughout the night, crossing the Belessa River and reaching Italian Eritrea by March 4th. Back at the battlefield the Ethiopians were celebrating, chanting "Mow, mow down the tender grass! The corn of Italy that was sown in Tigré has been reaped by Menelik, and he has given it to the birds!"[43]

Immediate aftermath

Two Italian survivors after the Battle of Adwa
Tomb of general Dabormida at Ado Scium Cohena, after the Battle of Adwa

George Berkeley records that the Italian casualties were approximately 6,100 men killed: 261 officers, 2,918 white NCOs and privates, 954 permanently missing, and about 2,000 ascari. Another 1,428 were wounded – 470 Italians (including 31 officers) and 958 ascari. With 1,865 Italians and 2,000 ascaris taken prisoner.[44][45] Richard Caulk estimates that the number of Italians killed were 300 officers, 4,600 Italian rank and 1,000 askari for a total of 5,900 dead. As well as and 1,000 of those who escaped wounded and at least 2,000 captured. Citing contemporary figures, Caulk records Ethiopian losses to be 3,886 killed and 6,000 wounded.[46] Whereas Berkeley estimates Ethiopian losses to be 7,000 killed and 10,000 wounded.[33][47] In their flight to Eritrea, the Italians left behind all of their artillery and 11,000 rifles, as well as most of their transport.[47] As Paul B. Henze notes, "Baratieri's army had been completely annihilated while Menelik's was intact as a fighting force and gained thousands of rifles and a great deal of equipment from the fleeing Italians."[48]

800 captured Eritrean Ascari, regarded as traitors by the Ethiopians, had their right hands and left feet amputated, some were even castrated.[49][50] Augustus Wylde records when he visited the battlefield months after the battle, the pile of severed hands and feet was still visible, "a rotting heap of ghastly remnants."[51] Further, many Ascari had not survived their punishment, Wylde writing how the neighborhood of Adwa "was full of their freshly dead bodies; they had generally crawled to the banks of the streams to quench their thirst, where many of them lingered unattended and exposed to the elements until death put an end to their sufferings."[52]

Despite some instances of abuse, the Italian prisoners were generally treated better by the Ethiopians. Among the prisoners was General Albertone, Chris Prouty notes that Albertone was given into the care of Azaj Zamanel, commander of Empress Taytu's personal army, and "had a tent to himself, a horse and servants".[53][54] However, around 70 Italian prisoners were massacred in retaliation for the death of Bashah Aboye, the officer responsible for the massacre was reportedly imprisoned by Menelik.[55][56]

Public opinion in Italy was outraged.[57] Chris Prouty offers a panoramic overview of the response in Italy to the news:

When news of the calamity reached Italy there were street demonstrations in most major cities. In Rome, to prevent these violent protests, the universities and theatres were closed. Police were called out to disperse rock-throwers in front of Prime Minister Crispi's residence. Crispi resigned on 9 March. Troops were called out to quell demonstrations in Naples. In Pavia, crowds built barricades on the railroad tracks to prevent a troop train from leaving the station. The Association of Women of Rome, Turin, Milan and Pavia called for the return of all military forces in Africa. Funeral masses were intoned for the known and unknown dead. Families began sending to the newspapers letters they had received before Adwa in which their menfolk described their poor living conditions and their fears at the size of the army they were going to face. King Umberto declared his birthday (14 March) a day of mourning. Italian communities in St. Petersburg, London, New York, Chicago, Buenos Aires and Jerusalem collected money for the families of the dead and for the Italian Red Cross.[58]


Italian prisoners of war waiting for repatriation, March 1897

Emperor Menelik decided not to follow up on his victory by attempting to drive the routed Italians out of their colony. The victorious Emperor limited his demands to little more than the abrogation of the Treaty of Wuchale. In the context of the prevailing balance of power, the emperor's crucial goal was to preserve Ethiopian independence. In addition, Ethiopia had just begun to emerge from a long and brutal famine; Harold Marcus reminds us that the army was restive over its long service in the field, short of rations, and the short rains which would bring all travel to a crawl would soon start to fall.[59] At the time, Menelik claimed a shortage of cavalry horses with which to harry the fleeing soldiers. Chris Prouty observes that "a failure of nerve on the part of Menelik has been alleged by both Italian and Ethiopian sources."[60] Lewis believes that it "was his farsighted certainty that total annihilation of Baratieri and a sweep into Eritrea would force the Italian people to turn a bungled colonial war into a national crusade"[61] that stayed his hand.

As a direct result of the battle, Italy signed the Treaty of Addis Ababa, recognizing Ethiopia as an independent state. Almost forty years later, on 3 October 1935, after the League of Nations's weak response to the Abyssinia Crisis, the Italians launched a new military campaign endorsed by Benito Mussolini, the Second Italo-Ethiopian War. This time the Italians employed vastly superior military technology such as tanks and aircraft, as well as chemical warfare, and the Ethiopian forces were defeated by May 1936. Following the war, Italy occupied Ethiopia for five years (1936–41), before eventually being driven out during World War II by British Empire forces and Ethiopian Arbegnoch guerillas.[62]


"The confrontation between Italy and Ethiopia at Adwa was a fundamental turning point in Ethiopian history," writes Henze.[63] On a similar note, the Ethiopian historian Bahru Zewde observed that "few events in the modern period have brought Ethiopia to the attention of the world as has the victory at Adwa".[64]

This defeat of a colonial power and the ensuing recognition of African sovereignty became rallying points for later African nationalists during their struggle for decolonization, as well as activists and leaders of the Pan-African movement.[5] As the Afrocentric scholar Molefe Asante explains,

After the victory over Italy in 1896, Ethiopia acquired a special importance in the eyes of Africans and black people all over the world alike, as the only surviving African State that successfully defeated a European colonial power in open battle. Italy's government who had viewed them as an inferior barbaric race were brought to their knees and subsequently forced to recognize the African nation of Ethiopia as an equal. After Adowa, Ethiopia became emblematic of African valor and resistance, the bastion of prestige and hope to thousands of Africans who were experiencing the full shock of European conquest and were beginning to search for an answer to the myth of African and black inferiority as well as invoking a strong sense of Pan-Africanism towards to people of African-american origins who had suffered equally appalling injustices at the time and many centuries before.[65]

On the other hand, many writers have pointed out how this battle was a humiliation for the Italian military. Italian historian Tripodi argued that some of the roots of the rise of Fascism in Italy went back to this defeat and to the perceived need to "avenge" the defeat that started to be present in the military and nationalistic groups of the Kingdom of Italy. The same Mussolini declared when Italian troops occupied Addis Ababa in May 1936: Adua è vendicata (Adwa has been avenged).

Indeed, one student of Ethiopia's History, Donald N. Levine, points out that for the Italians Adwa "became a national trauma which demagogic leaders strove to avenge. It also played no little part in motivating Italy's revanchist adventure in 1935". Levine also noted that the victory "gave encouragement to isolationist and conservative strains that were deeply rooted in Ethiopian culture, strengthening the hand of those who would strive to keep Ethiopia from adopting techniques imported from the modern West – resistances with which both Menelik and Haile Selassie would have to contend".[4]

Present-day celebrations of Adwa

Public holiday

The Adwa Victory Day is a public holiday in all regional states and charter cities across Ethiopia. All schools, banks, post offices and government offices are closed, with the exceptions of health facilities. Some taxi services and public transports choose not to operate on this day. Shops are normally open but most close earlier than usual.[66]

Public celebrations

The Victory of Adwa, being a public holiday, is commemorated in public spaces. In Addis Ababa, the Victory of Adwa is celebrated at Menelik Square with the presence of government officials, patriots, foreign diplomats and the general public. The Ethiopian Police Orchestra play various patriotic songs as they walk around Menelik Square.[67]

The public dress up in traditional Ethiopian patriotic attire. Men often wear Jodhpurs and various types of vest; they carry the Ethiopian flag and various patriotic banners and placards, as well as traditional Ethiopian shields and swords called Shotel. Women dress up in different patterns of handcrafted traditional Ethiopian clothing, known in Amharic as Habesha kemis. Some wear black gowns over all, while others put royal crowns on their heads. Women's styles of dress, like their male counterparts, imitate the traditional styles of Ethiopian patriotic women. Of particular note is the dominant presence of the Empress Taytu Betul during these celebrations.[66][67]

The beloved and influential wife of Emperor Menelik II, Empress Taytu Betul, played a significant role during the Battle of Adwa. Although often overlooked, thousands of women participated in the Battle of Adwa. Some were trained as nurses to attend to the wounded, and others mainly cooked and supplied food and water to the soldiers and comforted the wounded.[67]

In addition to Addis Ababa, other major cities in Ethiopia, including Bahir Dar, Debre Markos and the town of Adwa itself, where the battle took place, celebrate the Victory of Adwa in public ceremonies.[66]


Several images and symbols are used during the commemoration of the Victory of Adwa, including the tri-coloured green, gold and red Ethiopian flag, images of Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taytu Betul, as well as other prominent kings and war generals of the time including King Tekle Haymanot of Gojjam, King Michael of Wollo, Dejazmach Balcha Safo, Fitawrari Habte Giyorgis Dinagde, and Fitawrari Gebeyehu, among others. Surviving members of the Ethiopian patriotic battalions wear the various medals that they collected for their participation on different battlefields. Young people often wear T-shirts adorned by Emperor Menelik II, Empress Taytu, Emperor Haile Selassie and other notable members of the Ethiopian monarchy. Popular and patriotic songs are often played on amplifiers. Of particular note are Ejigayehu Shibabaw's ballad dedicated to the Battle of Adwa and Teddy Afro's popular song "Tikur Sew", which literally translates to "black man or black person" – a poetic reference to Emperor Menelik II's decisive African victory over Europeans, as well as the Emperor's darker skin complexion.[citation needed]

See also



  1. ^ Roughly equivalent to Commander of the Vanguard.
  2. ^ Roughly equivalent to King.


  1. ^ a b Mclachlan, Sean (20 September 2011). Armies of the Adowa Campaign 1896. Bloomsbury USA. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-84908-457-4.
  2. ^ a b c d e Abdussamad H. Ahmad and Richard Pankhurst (1998). Adwa Victory Centenary Conference, 26 February – 2 March 1996. Addis Ababa University. pp. 158–62.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  3. ^ Woldeyes, Yirga Gelaw (29 February 2020). "The battle of Adwa: an Ethiopian victory that ran against the current of colonialism". The Conversation. Archived from the original on 4 June 2021. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  4. ^ a b "The Battle of Adwa as a 'Historic' Event" Archived 5 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Ethiopian Review, 3 March 2009 (Retrieved 9 March 2009)
  5. ^ a b Professor Kinfe Abraham, "The Impact of the Adowa Victory on The Pan-African and Pan-Black Anti-Colonial Struggle," Address delivered to The Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University, 8 February 2006
  6. ^ Piero Pastoretto. "Battaglia di Adua" (in Italian). Archived from the original on 31 May 2006. Retrieved 4 June 2006.
  7. ^ Harold G. Marcus, The Life and Times of Menelik II: Ethiopia 1844–1913, 1975 (Lawrenceville: Red Sea Press, 1995), p. 170
  8. ^ David Levering Lewis, The Race for Fashoda (New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987), p. 116. ISBN 1-55584-058-2
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i McLachlan, Sean (2011). Armies of the Adowa Campaign 1896. Osprey Publishing. p. 42.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  10. ^ Mclachlan, Sean (20 September 2011). Armies of the Adowa Campaign 1896. Bloomsbury USA. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-84908-457-4.
  11. ^ Pankhurst has published one collection of these estimates, Economic History of Ethiopia (Addis Ababa: Haile Selassie University, 1968), pp. 555–57. See also Uhlig, Siegbert, ed. Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: A–C. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2003, p. 108.
  12. ^ Pétridès (as well as Pankhurst, with slight variations) break the troop numbers down (over 100,000 by their estimates) as follows: 35,000 infantry (25,000 riflemen and 10,000 spearmen) and 8,000 cavalry under Emperor Menelik; 5,000 infantry under Empress Taytu; 8,000 infantry (6,000 riflemen and 2,000 spearmen) under Ras Wale; 8,000 infantry (5,000 riflemen and 3,000 spearmen) under Ras Mengesha Atikem, 5,000 riflemen, 5,000 spearmen, and 3,000 cavalry under Ras Mengesha Yohannes and Ras Alula Engida; 6,000 riflemen, 5,000 spearmen, and 5,000 Oromo cavalry under Ras Mikael of Wollo; 15,000 Shewan riflemen under Ras Makonnen; 8,000 Amhara infantry under Fitawrari Gebeyyehu Gora; 5,000 riflemen, 5,000 spearmen, and 3,000 cavalry under Negus Tekle Haymanot of Gojjam, von Uhlig, Encyclopedia, p. 109.
  13. ^ a b c Uhlig, Siegbert, ed. Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: A–C (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2003), p. 108.
  14. ^ a b Richard Caulk, "Between the Jaws of Hyenas": A Diplomatic History of Ethiopia (1876–1896), p. 563
  15. ^ Raymond Jonas, "The Battle of Adwa" (Harvard University Press, 2011), pp. 648.
  16. ^ Paulos Milkias, Getachew Metaferia The Battle of Adwa: Reflections on Ethiopia's Historic Victory Against European Colonialism – Google Books" Archived 16 March 2023 at the Wayback Machine: 2005. p. 53.
  17. ^ Paulos Milkias, Getachew Metaferia The Battle of Adwa: Reflections on Ethiopia's Historic Victory Against European Colonialism – Google Books" Archived 16 March 2023 at the Wayback Machine: 2005. p. 77.
  18. ^ Molla Tikuye, The Rise and Fall of the Yajju Dynasty 1784–1980, p. 201.
  19. ^ Marcus, Menelik II, p. 173
  20. ^ Lewis, Fashoda, pp. 116f. He breaks down their numbers into 10,596 Italian officers and soldiers and 7,104 Eritrean askaris.
  21. ^ Thomas Pakenham, p. 481 The Scramble for Africa, ISBN 0-349-10449-2
  22. ^ George Fitz-Hardinge Berkley The Campaign of Adowa and the rise of Menelik, London: Constable 1901.
  23. ^ Raffaele Ruggeri, p. 82 Le Guerre Coloniali Italiane 1885/1900, Editrice Militare Italiana 1988
  24. ^ Prouty, Chris (1986). Empress Taytu and Menilek II. Trenton: The Red Sea Press. p. 155. ISBN 0-932415-11-3.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  25. ^ a b c d Voghera, Enrico (1896). Annuario militare del regno d'Italia: Anno 1896 (in Italian). Vol. 1. Rome: Giornale Militare. Archived from the original on 16 March 2023. Retrieved 21 September 2022.
  26. ^ Italian national units, formed for service in the colonies with personnel drawn from the regular infantry regiments of the Army.
  27. ^ Native feudal levy.
  28. ^ a b c d e Six light 75mm bronze rifled breach-loading mountain howitzers Mod.75B
  29. ^ Italian national units, formed for service in the colonies with personnel drawn from the regular Bersaglieri regiments of the Army.
  30. ^ a b c Six light 75mm bronze rifled breach-loading mountain howitzers Mod.75B.
  31. ^ Two light 75mm bronze rifled breach-loading mountain howitzers Mod.75B
  32. ^ Mclachlan, Sean (20 September 2011). Armies of the Adowa Campaign 1896. Bloomsbury USA. pp. 40–41. ISBN 978-1-84908-457-4.
  33. ^ a b Uhlig, Encyclopedia, p. 109.
  34. ^ a b Lewis, Fashoda, p. 117.
  35. ^ "Sean McLachlan,page 15 "Armies of the Adowa Campaign 1896: The Italian Disaster in Ethiopia"" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 May 2018. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  36. ^ Berkeley, George (1902). The Campaign of Adowa and the Rise of Menelik. University of California. p. 281.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  37. ^ Milkias, Paulos; Metaferia, Getachew (2005). The Battle of Adwa: Reflections on Ethiopia's Historic Victory Against. Algora. p. 286. ISBN 9780875864150.
  38. ^ Berkeley, George (1902). The Campaign of Adowa and the Rise of Menelik. University of California. p. 281.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  39. ^ Mclachlan, Sean (20 September 2011). Armies of the Adowa Campaign 1896. Bloomsbury USA. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-84908-457-4.
  40. ^ Milkias, Paulos (2005). The Battle of Adwa Reflections on Ethiopia's Historic Victory Against European Colonialism. Algora. pp. 60 and 62. ISBN 9780875864150.
  41. ^ George Fitz-Hardinge Berkeley, Campaign of Adowa (1902), quoted in Lewis, Fashoda, p. 118.
  42. ^ Milkias, Paulos (2005). The Battle of Adwa Reflections on Ethiopia's Historic Victory Against European Colonialism. Algora. pp. 60 and 62. ISBN 9780875864150.
  43. ^ Mclachlan, Sean (20 September 2011). Armies of the Adowa Campaign 1896. Bloomsbury USA. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-84908-457-4.
  44. ^ Berkeley, George. The Campaign of Adowa and the rise of Menelik. p. 345.
  45. ^ Mclachlan, Sean (20 September 2011). Armies of the Adowa Campaign 1896. Bloomsbury USA. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-84908-457-4.
  46. ^ Caulk, Richard (2002). "Between the Jaws of Hyenas": A Diplomatic History of Ethiopia (1876-1896). Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden. pp. 563, 566–567.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  47. ^ a b Pankhurst. The Ethiopians, pp. 191–92.
  48. ^ Henze, Layers of Layers of Time: A History of Ethiopia (New York: Palgrave, 2000), p. 170.
  49. ^ "Photo of some of the Eritrean Ascari mutilated". Archived from the original on 23 September 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  50. ^ McLachlan, Sean (20 September 2011). Armies of the Adowa Campaign 1896. Bloomsbury USA. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-84908-457-4.
  51. ^ Augustus B. Wylde, Modern Abyssinia (London: Methuen, 1901), p. 213
  52. ^ Wylde, Modern Abyssinia, p. 214
  53. ^ McLachlan, Sean (20 September 2011). Armies of the Adowa Campaign 1896. Bloomsbury USA. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-84908-457-4.
  54. ^ Prouty, Chris. Empress Taytu and Menilek II. Ravens Educational & Development Services. p. 169.
  55. ^ Ilg, Alfred (2000). Tafla, Bairu (ed.). Ethiopian records of the Menilek era: selected Amharic documents from the Nachlass of Alfred Ilg, 1884-1900. p. 460. ISBN 9783447042581. ISSN 0170-3196. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  56. ^ Richard Caulk, "Between the Jaws of Hyenas": A Diplomatic History of Ethiopia (1876–1896), p. 568
  57. ^ Giuseppe Maria Finaldi, Italian National Identity in the Scramble for Africa: Italy's African Wars in the Era of Nation-Building, 1870–1900 (2010)
  58. ^ Prouty, Empress Taytu, pp. 159f.
  59. ^ Marcus, Menelik II, p. 176.
  60. ^ Prouty, Empress T'aytu, p. 161.
  61. ^ Lewis, Fashoda, p. 120.
  62. ^ Roberts, A.D. (1975). The Cambridge History of Africa Vol 7. Cambridge University Press. p. 740. ISBN 0-521-22505-1.
  63. ^ Henze, Layers of Layers of Time, p.180.
  64. ^ Bahru Zewde, A History of Modern Ethiopia (London: James Currey, 1991), p. 81.
  65. ^ Molefe Asante, quoted in Rodney Worrell, Pan-africanism in Barbados, (New Academia Publishing: 2005) p. 16
  66. ^ a b c "Ethiopia Celebrates Victory of Adowa". Archived from the original on 8 May 2019. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  67. ^ a b c "Adwa victory 122 anniversary colorfully celebrated in Addis Ababa". 2 March 2018. Archived from the original on 6 March 2019. Retrieved 3 March 2019.


  • Berkeley, G.F.-H. (1902) The Campaign of Adowa and the Rise of Menelik, Westminster: A. Constable, 403 pp., OCLC 11834888
  • Brown, P.S. and Yirgu, F. (1996) The Battle of Adwa 1896, Chicago: Nyala Publishing, 160 pp., ISBN 978-0-9642068-1-6
  • Bulatovich, A.K. (nd) With the Armies of Menelik II: Journal of an Expedition from Ethiopia to Lake Rudolf, translated by Richard Seltzer, OCLC 454102384
  • Bulatovich, A.K. (2000) Ethiopia Through Russian Eyes: Country in Transition, 1896–1898, translated by Richard Seltzer, Lawrenceville, N.J. : Red Sea Press, ISBN 978-1-5690211-7-0
  • Henze, P.B. (2004) Layers of Time: A History of Ethiopia, London: Hurst & Co., ISBN 1-85065-522-7
  • Jonas, R.A. (2011) The Battle of Adwa: African Victory in the Age of Empire, Bellknap Press of Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0-6740-5274-1
  • Lewis, D.L. (1988) The Race to Fashoda: European Colonialism and African Resistance in the Scramble for Africa, 1st ed., London: Bloomsbury, ISBN 0-7475-0113-0
  • Marcus, H.G. (1995) The Life and Times of Menelik II: Ethiopia, 1844–1913, Lawrenceville, N.J.: Red Sea Press, ISBN 1-56902-010-8
  • Pankhurst, K.P. (1968) Economic History of Ethiopia, 1800–1935, Addis Ababa: Haile Sellassie I University Press, 772 pp., OCLC 65618
  • Pankhurst, K.P. (1998) The Ethiopians: A History, The Peoples of Africa Series, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, ISBN 0-631-22493-9
  • Rosenfeld, C.P. (1986) Empress Taytu and Menelik II: Ethiopia 1883–1910, London: Ravens Educational & Development Services, ISBN 0-947895-01-9
  • Uhlig, S. (ed.) (2003) Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, 1 (A–C), Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, ISBN 3-447-04746-1
  • Worrell, R. (2005) Pan-Africanism in Barbados: An Analysis of the Activities of the Major 20th-Century Pan-African Formations in Barbados, Washington, DC: New Academia Publishing, ISBN 0-9744934-6-5
  • Zewde, Bahru (1991) A History of Modern Ethiopia, 1855–1974, Eastern African Studies series, London: Currey, ISBN 0-85255-066-9
  • With the Armies of Menelik II, emperor of Ethiopia at

External links