First Italo-Ethiopian War

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First Italo-Ethiopian War
Part of the Scramble for Africa
Ethiopia Italia war-2.JPG
Clockwise from top left: Italian soldiers en route to Massawa; castle of Yohannes IV at Mek'ele;[1] Ethiopian cavalry at the Battle of Adwa; Italian prisoners are freed following the end of hostilities; Menelik II at Adwa; Ras Makonnen leading Ethiopian troops in the Battle of Amba Alagi
Date15 December 1894 – 23 October 1896
Location
Result Ethiopian victory
Belligerents

 Italy

Supported by:
 United Kingdom
 Germany
 Austria-Hungary
 Ethiopia
Supported by:
 Russia
 France
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Italy King Umberto I
Kingdom of Italy Francesco Crispi
Kingdom of Italy Antonio Starabba
Kingdom of Italy Oreste Baratieri
Kingdom of Italy Vittorio Dabormida 
Kingdom of Italy Giuseppe Arimondi 
Kingdom of Italy Matteo Albertone (POW)
Ethiopian Empire Emperor Menelik II
Ethiopian Empire Empress Taytu Betul
Ethiopian Empire Ras Alula Engida
Ethiopian Empire Ras Makonnen
Ethiopian Empire Ras Mikael
Ethiopian Empire Tekle Haymanot
Ethiopian Empire Bahta Hagos 
Strength
18,000[2]–25,000[3]

196,000[3]

  • 80–100,000 with firearms, rest with bows, spears and swords[nb 1]
Casualties and losses
15,000 dead[5] 10,000 dead[5]

The First Italo-Ethiopian War was fought between Italy and Ethiopia from 1895 to 1896. It originated from a disputed treaty which, the Italians claimed, turned the country into an Italian protectorate. Italy was supported by the two other triple alliance members Germany and Austria-Hungary. Much to their surprise, they found that Ethiopian ruler Menelik II, rather than being opposed by some of his traditional enemies, was supported by them, so the Italian army, invading Ethiopia from Italian Eritrea in 1893, faced a more united front than they expected. In addition, Ethiopia was supported by Russia, an Orthodox Christian nation like Ethiopia[clarification needed] with military advisers, army training, and the sale of weapons for Ethiopian forces during the war. Ethiopia was also supported diplomatically by the French in order to prevent Italy from becoming a colonial competitor.[6][7] Full-scale war broke out in 1895, with Italian troops having initial success until Ethiopian troops counterattacked Italian positions and besieged the Italian fort of Meqele, forcing its surrender. Italian defeat came about after the Battle of Adwa, where the Ethiopian army dealt the heavily outnumbered Italians a decisive blow and forced their retreat back into Eritrea. The Italians suffered about 7,000 killed with 3,000 taken prisoner (in addition, 1,200 Eritrean Ascari were killed while 800 were captured and later mutilated by the Ethiopians[8]); Ethiopian losses have been estimated around 4,000 killed.

This was not the first African victory over Western colonizers, but it was the first time such an indigenous African army put a definitive stop to a colonizing nation's efforts. According to one historian, "In an age of relentless European expansion, Ethiopia alone had successfully defended its independence (for a few decades more)."[9]

Background[edit]

The Khedive of Egypt Isma'il Pasha, better known as "Isma'il the Magnificent" had conquered Eritrea as part of his efforts to give Egypt an African empire.[10] Isma'il had tried to follow up that conquest with Ethiopia, but the Egyptian attempts to conquer that realm ended in humiliating defeat. After Egypt's bankruptcy in 1876 followed by the Ansar revolt under the leadership of the Mahdi in 1881, the Egyptian position in Eritrea was hopeless with the Egyptian forces cut off and unpaid for years. By 1884 the Egyptians began to pull out of both Sudan and Eritrea.[10]

Egypt had been very much in the French sphere of influence until 1882 when Britain occupied Egypt. A major goal of French foreign policy until 1904 was to diminish British power in Egypt and restore it to its place in the French sphere of influence, and in 1883 the French created the colony of French Somaliland which allowed for the establishment of a French naval base at Djibouti on the Red Sea.[10] The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 had turned the Horn of Africa into a very strategic region as a navy based in the Horn could interdict any shipping going up and down the Red Sea. By building naval bases on the Red Sea that could intercept British shipping in the Red Sea, the French hoped to reduce the value of the Suez Canal for the British, and thus lever them out of Egypt. A French historian in 1900 wrote: "The importance of Djibouti lies almost solely in the uniqueness of its geographic position, which makes it a port of transit and natural entrepôt for areas more infinitely more populated than its own territory...the rich provinces of central Ethiopia."[11] The British historian Harold Marcus noted that for the French: "Ethiopia represented the entrance to the Nile valley; if she could obtain hegemony over Ethiopia, her dream of a west to east French African empire would be closer to reality".[12] In response, Britain consistently supported Italian ambitions in the Horn of Africa as the best way of keeping the French out.[13]     

On 3 June 1884, the Hewett Treaty was signed between Britain, Egypt and Ethiopia that allowed the Ethiopians to occupy parts of Eritrea and allowed the Ethiopian goods to pass in and out of Massawa duty-free.[10] From the viewpoint of Britain, it was highly undesirable that the French replace the Egyptians in Eritrea as that would allow the French to have more naval bases on the Red Sea that could interfere with British shipping using the Suez Canal, and as the British did not want the financial burden of ruling Eritrea, they looked for another power to replace the Egyptians.[10] The Hewettt treaty seemed to suggest that Eritrea would fall into the Ethiopian sphere of influence as the Egyptians pulled out.[10] After initially encouraging the Emperor Yohannes IV to move into Eritrea to replace the Egyptians, London decided to have the Italians move into Eritrea.[10] In his history of Ethiopia, Augustus Wylde wrote: "England made use of King John [Emperor Yohannes] as long as he was of any service and then threw him over to the tender mercies of Italy...It is one of our worst bits of business out of the many we have been guilty of in Africa...one of the vilest bites of treachery".[10] After the French had unexpectedly made Tunis into their protectorate in 1881, outraging opinion in Italy over the so-called "Schiaffo di Tunisi" (the "slap of Tunis"), Italian foreign policy had been extremely anti-French, and from the British viewpoint the best way of ensuring the Eritrean ports on Red Sea stayed out of French hands was by having the staunchly anti-French Italians move in. In 1882, Italy had joined the Triple Alliance, allying herself with Austria and Germany against France.

On 5 February 1885 Italian troops landed at Massawa to replace the Egyptians.[10] The Italian government for its part was more than happy to embark upon an imperialist policy to distract its people from the failings in post Risorgimento Italy.[10] In 1861, the unification of Italy was supposed to mark the beginning of a glorious new era in Italian life, and many Italians were gravely disappointed to find that not much had changed in the new Kingdom of Italy with the vast majority of Italians still living in abject poverty. To compensate, a chauvinist mood was rampant amongst the upper classes in Italy with the newspaper Il Diritto writing in an editorial: "Italy must be ready. The year 1885 will decide her fate as a great power. It is necessary to feel the responsibility of the new era; to become again strong men afraid of nothing, with the sacred love of the fatherland, of all Italy, in our hearts".[10] On the Ethiopian side, the wars that the Emperor Yohannes had waged first against the invading Egyptians in the 1870s and then more so against the Sudanese Mahdiyya state in the 1880s had been presented by him to his subjects as holy wars in defense of Orthodox Christianity against Islam, reinforcing the Ethiopian belief that their country was a specially virtuous and holy land.[14] The struggle against the Ansar from Sudan complicated Yohannes's relations with the Italians, whom he sometimes asked to provide him with guns to fight the Ansar and other times he resisted the Italians and proposed a truce with the Ansar.[15]

On 18 January 1887, at a village named Saati, an advancing Italian Army detachment defeated the Ethiopians in a skirmish, but it ended with the numerically superior Ethiopians surrounding the Italians in Saati after they retreated in face of the enemy's numbers.[16] Some 500 Italian soldiers under Colonel de Christoforis together with 50 Eritrean auxiliaries were sent to support the besieged garrison at Saati.[16] At Dogali on his way to Saati, de Christoforis was ambushed by an Ethiopian force under Ras Alula, whose men armed with spears skillfully encircled the Italians who retreated to one hill and then to another higher hill.[16] After the Italians ran out of ammunition, Ras Alula ordered his men to charge and the Ethiopians swiftly overwhelmed the Italians in an action that featured bayonets against spears.[16] The Battle of Dogali ended with the Italians losing 23 officers and 407 other ranks killed.[16] As a result of the defeat at Dogali, the Italians abandoned Saati and retreated back to the Red Sea coast.[17] Italians newspapers called the battle a "massacre" and excoriated the Regio Esercito for not assigning de Chistoforis enough ammunition.[17] Having at encouraged first the Emperor Yohannes to move into Eritrea and then the Italians, London realized a war was brewing decided to try to mediate, largely out of the fear that the Italians might actually lose.[10]

The British consul in Zanzibar, Gerald Portal, was sent in 1887 to mediate between the Ethiopians and Italians before a war broke out.[10] Portal set sail on an Egyptian ship, the Narghileh, which he called a "small, dirty, greasy steamer bound for Jeddah, Suakin and Massawa, in which we very soon discovered that our travelling companions consisted of cockroaches and other smaller animals innumerable, a flock of sheep, a few cows, many cocks, hens, turkeys and geese, and a dozen of the evil-looking Greek adventurers who always appear like vultures around a dead carcass whenever there is a possibility of a campaign in North Africa."[18] Portal upon meeting the Emperor Yohannes on 4 December 1887 presented him with gifts and a letter from Queen Victoria urging him to settle with the Italians.[19] Portal reported: "What might have been possible in August or September was impossible in December, when the whole of the immense available forces in the country were already under arms; and that there now remains no hope of a satisfactory adjustment of the difficulties between Italy and Abyssinia [Ethiopia] until the question of the relative supremacy of these two nations has been decided by an appeal to the fortunes of war...No one who has once seen the nature of the gorges, ravines and mountain passes near the Abyssinian frontier can doubt for a moment that any advance by a civilised army in the face of the hostile Abyssinian hordes would be accomplished at the price of a fearful loss of life on both sides...The Abyssinians are savage and untrustworthy, but they are also redeemed by the possession of an unbounded courage, by a disregard of death, and by a national pride which leads them to look down on every human being who has not had the good fortune to be born an Abyssinian".[19] Portal ended by writing that the Italians were making a mistake in preparing to go war against Ethiopia: "It is the old, old story, contempt of a gallant enemy because his skin happens to be chocolate or brown or black, and because his men have not gone through orthodox courses of field-firing, battalion drill, or 'autumn maneuvers'".[19] 

The defeat at Dogali made the Italians cautious for a moment, but on 10 March 1889, the Emperor Yohannes died after being wounded in battle against the Ansar and on his deathbed admitted that Ras Mengesha, the supposed son of his brother, was actually his own son and asked that he succeed him.[17] The revelation that the emperor had slept with his brother's wife scandalized intensely Orthodox Ethiopia, and instead the Negus Menelik was proclaimed emperor on 26 March 1889.[17] Ras Mengesha, one of the most powerful Ethiopian noblemen, was unhappy about being by-passed in the succession and for a time allied himself with the Italians against the Emperor Menelik.[17] Under the feudal Ethiopian system, there was no standing army, and instead the nobility raised up armies on behalf of the Emperor. In December 1889, the Italians advanced inland again and took the cities of Asmara and Keren and in January 1890 took Adowa.[17] 

Treaty of Wuchale[edit]

On March 25, 1889, the Shewa ruler Menelik II, having conquered Tigray and Amhara, declared himself Emperor of Ethiopia (or "Abyssinia", as it was commonly called in Europe at the time). Barely a month later, on May 2, he signed the Treaty of Wuchale with the Italians, which apparently gave them control over Eritrea, the Red Sea coast to the northeast of Ethiopia, in return for recognition of Menelik's rule. Menelik II continued the policy of Tewodros II of integrating Ethiopia.

However, the bilingual treaty did not say the same thing in Italian and Amharic; the Italian version did not give the Ethiopians the "significant autonomy" written into the Amharic translation.[20] The former text established an Italian protectorate over Ethiopia, but the Amharic version merely stated that Menelik could contact foreign powers and conduct foreign affairs through Italy if he so chose. Italian diplomats, however, claimed that the original Amharic text included the clause and Menelik knowingly signed a modified copy of the Treaty.[21] In October 1889, the Italians informed all of the other European governments because of the Treaty of Wuchale that Ethiopia was now an Italian protectorate and therefore the other European nations could not conduct diplomatic relations with Ethiopia.[22] With the exceptions of the Ottoman Empire, which still maintained its claim to Eritrea, and Russia, which disliked the idea of an Orthodox nation being subjugated to a Roman Catholic nation, all of the European powers accepted the Italian claim to a protectorate.[23]

The Italian claim that Menelik was aware of Article XVII turning his nation into an Italian protectorate seems unlikely given that the Emperor Menelik sent letters to Queen Victoria and Emperor Wilhelm II in late 1889 and was informed in the replies in early 1890 that neither Britain nor Germany could have diplomatic relations with Ethiopia on the account of Article XVII of the Treaty of Wuchale, a revelation that came as a great shock to the Emperor.[24] Victoria's letter was polite whereas Wilhelm's letter was somewhat more rude, saying that King Umberto I was a great friend of Germany and Menelik's violation of the supposed Italian protectorate was a grave insult to Umberto, adding that he never wanted to hear from Menelik again.[25] Moreover, Menelik did not know Italian and only signed the Amharic text of the treaty, being assured that there were no differences between the Italian and Amharic texts before he signed.[26] The differences between the Italian and Amharic texts were due to the Italian minister in Addis Ababa, Count Pietro Antonelli, who had been instructed by his government to gain as much territory as possible in negotiating with the Emperor Menelik. However, knowing Menelik was now enthroned as the King of Kings and had a strong position, Antonelli was in the unenviable situation of negotiating a treaty that his own government might disallow. Therefore, he inserted the statement making Ethiopia give up its right to conduct its foreign affairs to Italy as a way of pleasing his superiors who might otherwise have fired him for only making small territorial gains.[27] Antonelli was fluent in Amharic and given that Menelik only signed the Amharic text he could not have been unaware that the Amharic version of Article XVII only stated that the King of Italy places the services of his diplomats at the disposal of the Emperor of Ethiopia to represent him abroad if he so wished.[28] When his subterfuge was exposed in 1890 with Menelik indignantly saying he would never sign away his country's independence to anybody, Antonelli who left Addis Ababa in mid 1890 resorted to racism, telling his superiors in Rome that as Menelik was a black man, he was thus intrinsically dishonest and it was only natural the Emperor would lie about the protectorate he supposedly willingly turned his nation into.[28]

Francesco Crispi, the Italian Prime Minister was an ultra-imperialist who believed the newly unified Italian state required "the grandeur of a second Roman empire".[17] Crispi believed that the Horn of Africa was the best place for the Italians to start building the new Roman empire.[17] The American journalist James Perry wrote that "Crispi was a fool, a bigot and a very dangerous man".[17] Because of the Ethiopian refusal to abide by the Italian version of the treaty and despite economic handicaps at home, the Italian government decided on a military solution to force Ethiopia to abide by the Italian version of the treaty. In doing so, they believed that they could exploit divisions within Ethiopia and rely on tactical and technological superiority to offset any inferiority in numbers. The efforts of Emperor Menelik, viewed as pro-French in London, to unify Ethiopia and thus bring control source of the Blue Nile under his rule was perceived in Whitehall as a threat to keeping Egypt in the British sphere of influence.[29] As Menelik become increasingly successful in unifying Ethiopia, London brought more pressure to bear on Rome for the Italians to move inland and conquer Ethiopia once and for all.[30]    

There was a broader, European background as well: the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria–Hungary, and Italy was under some stress, with Italy being courted by England. Two secret Anglo-Italian protocols in 1891, left most of Ethiopia in Italy's sphere of influence.[31] France, one of the members of the opposing Franco-Russian Alliance, had its own claims on Eritrea and was bargaining with Italy over giving up those claims in exchange for a more secure position in Tunisia. Meanwhile, Russia was supplying weapons and other aid to Ethiopia.[20] It had been trying to gain a foothold in Ethiopia,[32] and in 1894, after denouncing the Treaty of Wuchale in July, it received an Ethiopian mission in St. Petersburg and sent arms and ammunition to Ethiopia.[33] This support continued after the war ended.[34] The Russian travel writer Alexander Bulatovich who went to Ethiopia to serve as a Red Cross volunteer with the Emperor Menelik made a point of emphasizing in his books that the Ethiopians converted to Christianity before any of the Europeans ever did, described the Ethiopians as a deeply religious people like the Russians, and argued the Ethiopians did not have the "low cultural level" of the other African peoples, making them equal to the Europeans.[35] Germany and Austria supported their ally in the Triple Alliance Italy while France and Russia supported Ethiopia.

Opening campaigns[edit]

In 1893, judging that his power over Ethiopia was secure, Menelik repudiated the treaty; in response the Italians ramped up the pressure on his domain in a variety of ways, including the annexation of small territories bordering their original claim under the Treaty of Wuchale, and finally culminating with a military campaign and across the Mareb River into Tigray (on the border with Eritrea) in December 1894. The Italians expected disaffected potentates like Negus Tekle Haymanot of Gojjam, Ras Mengesha Yohannes, and the Sultan of Aussa to join them; instead, all of the ethnic Tigrayan or Amharic peoples flocked to the Emperor Menelik's side in a display of both nationalism and anti-Italian feeling, while other peoples of dubious loyalty (e.g. the Sultan of Aussa) were watched by Imperial garrisons.[36] In June 1894, Ras Mengesha and his generals had appeared in Addis Ababa carrying large stones which they dropped before the Emperor Menelik (a gesture that is a symbol of submission in Ethiopian culture).[17] In Ethiopia, the popular saying at the time was: "Of a black snake's bite, you may be cured, but from the bite of a white snake, you will never recover."[17] There was an overwhelming national unity in Ethiopia as various feuding noblemen rallied behind the emperor who insisted that Ethiopia, unlike the other African nations, would retain its freedom and not be subjected to Italy.[17] The ethnic rivalries between the Tigrians and the Amhara that the Italians were counting upon did not prove to be a factor as Menelik pointed out that the Italians held all black people, regardless of their ethnicity in contempt, noting the segregation policies in Eritrea applied to all black people.[17] Further, Menelik had spent much of the previous four years building up a supply of modern weapons and ammunition, acquired from the French, British, and the Italians themselves, as the European colonial powers sought to keep each other's North African aspirations in check. They also used the Ethiopians as a proxy army against the Sudanese Mahdists.

In December 1894, Bahta Hagos led a rebellion against the Italians in Akkele Guzay, claiming support of Mengesha. Units of General Oreste Baratieri's army under Major Pietro Toselli crushed the rebellion and killed Bahta at the Battle of Halai. The Italian army then occupied the Tigrian capital, Adwa. Baratieri suspected that Mengesha would invade Eritrea, and met him at the Battle of Coatit in January 1895. The victorious Italians chased the retreating Mengesha, capturing weapons and important documents proving his complicity with Menelik. The victory in this campaign, along with previous victories against the Sudanese Mahdists, led the Italians to underestimate the difficulties to overcome in a campaign against Menelik.[37] At this point, Emperor Menelik turned to France, offering a treaty of alliance; the French response was to abandon the Emperor in order to secure Italian approval of the Treaty of Bardo which would secure French control of Tunisia. Virtually alone, on 17 September 1895, Emperor Menelik issued a proclamation calling up the men of Shewa to join his army at Were Ilu.[38]

As the Italians were poised to enter Ethiopian territory, the Ethiopians mobilised en masse all over the country.[39] Helping it was the newly updated imperial fiscal and taxation system. As a result, a hastily mobilized army of 196,000 men gathered from all parts of Abyssinia, more than half of whom were armed with modern rifles, rallied at Addis Ababa in support of the Emperor and defense of their country.[3]

The only European ally of Ethiopia was Russia.[6][33][34] The Ethiopian emperor sent his first diplomatic mission to St. Petersburg in 1895. In June 1895, the newspapers in St. Petersburg wrote, "Along with the expedition, Menelik II sent his diplomatic mission to Russia, including his princes and his bishop". Many citizens of the capital came to meet the train that brought Prince Damto, General Genemier, Prince Belyakio, Bishop of Harer Gabraux Xavier and other members of the delegation to St. Petersburg. On the eve of war, an agreement providing military help for Ethiopia was concluded.[40][41]

The next clash came at Amba Alagi on 7 December 1895, when Ethiopian soldiers overran the Italian positions dug in on the natural fortress, and forced the Italians to retreat back to Eritrea.[citation needed] The remaining Italian troops under General Giuseppe Arimondi reached the unfinished Italian fort at Meqele. Arimondi left there a small garrison of approximately 1,150 askaris and 200 Italians, commanded by Major Giuseppe Galliano, and took the bulk of his troops to Adigrat, where Oreste Baratieri, the Italian commander, was concentrating the Italian Army.

The first Ethiopian troops reached Meqele in the following days. Ras Makonnen surrounded the fort at Meqele on 18 December, but the Italian commander adroitly used promises of a negotiated surrender to prevent the Ras from attacking the fort. By the first days of January, Emperor Menelik, accompanied by his Queen Taytu Betul, had led large forces into Tigray, and besieged the Italians for sixteen days (6–21 January 1896), making several unsuccessful attempts to carry the fort by storm, until the Italians surrendered with permission from the Italian Headquarters.[citation needed] Menelik allowed them to leave Meqele with their weapons, and even provided the defeated Italians mules and pack animals to rejoin Baratieri.[42] While some historians read this generous act as a sign that Emperor Menelik still hoped for a peaceful resolution to the war, Harold Marcus points out that this escort allowed him a tactical advantage: "Menelik craftily managed to establish himself in Hawzien, at Gendepata, near Adwa, where the mountain passes were not guarded by Italian fortifications."[43]

Heavily outnumbered, Baratieri refused to engage, knowing that due to their lack of infrastructure the Ethiopians could not keep large numbers of troops in the field much longer. However, Baratieri also never knew about the true numerical strength of the Ethiopian army that was to face his army, so he rather further fortified his positions in the Tigray. But the Italian government of Francesco Crispi was unable to accept being stymied by non-Europeans. The prime minister specifically ordered Baratieri to advance deep into enemy territory and bring about a battle.

Battle of Adwa[edit]

The decisive battle of the war was the Battle of Adwa on March 1, 1896, which took place in mountainous country north of the actual town of Adwa (or Adowa). The Italian army comprised four brigades totalling approximately 17,700 men, with fifty-six artillery pieces; the Ethiopian army comprised several brigades numbering between 73,000 and 120,000 men (80–100,000 with firearms: according to Pankhurst, the Ethiopians were armed with approximately 100,000 rifles of which about half were quick-firing),[4] with almost fifty artillery pieces.

General Baratieri planned to surprise the larger Ethiopian force with an early morning attack, expecting his enemy to be asleep. However, the Ethiopians had risen early for Church services and, upon learning of the Italian advance, promptly attacked. The Italian forces were hit by wave after wave of attacks, until Menelik released his reserve of 25,000 men, destroying an Italian brigade. Another brigade was cut off, and destroyed by a cavalry charge. The last two brigades were destroyed piecemeal. By noon, the Italian survivors were in full retreat.

While Menelik's victory was in a large part due to sheer force of numbers, his troops were well-armed because of his careful preparations. The Ethiopian army only had a feudal system of organization, but proved capable of properly executing the strategic plan drawn up in Menelik's headquarters. However, the Ethiopian army also had its problems. The first was the quality of its arms, as the Italian and British colonial authorities could sabotage the transportation of 30,000–60,000 modern Mosin–Nagant rifles and Berdan rifles from Russia into landlocked Ethiopia.[citation needed] Secondly, the Ethiopian army's feudal organization meant that nearly the entire force was composed of peasant militia. Russian military experts advising Menelik II suggested a full contact battle with Italians, to neutralize the Italian fire superiority, instead of engaging in a campaign of harassment designed to nullify problems with arms, training, and organization.[41][44]

Italian prisoners of war waiting for repatriation

Some Russian councilors of Menelik II and a team of fifty Russian volunteers participated in the battle, among them Nikolay Leontiev, an officer of the Kuban Cossack army.[45] Russian support for Ethiopia also led to a Russian Red Cross mission, which arrived in Addis Ababa some three months after Menelik's Adwa victory.[46]

The Italians suffered about 7,000 killed and 1,500 wounded in the battle and subsequent retreat back into Eritrea, with 3,000 taken prisoner; Ethiopian losses have been estimated around 4,000 killed and 8,000 wounded.[47][48] In addition, 2,000 Eritrean askaris were killed or captured. Italian prisoners were treated as well as possible under difficult circumstances, but 800 captured Askaris, regarded as traitors by the Ethiopians, had their right hands and left feet amputated.[49][50] Menelik, knowing that the war was very unpopular in Italy with the Italian Socialists in particular condemning the policy of the Crispi government, chose to be a magnanimous victor, making it clear that he saw a difference between the Italian people and Crispi. [51]

The National Unity Created By Menelik II[edit]

Menelik II was an excellent leader who was able to rally an entire nation together to fend off the Europeans. Drawing on the proud spirit of the Ethiopian people and their battle hardened warriors, Menelik was able to repel the Italians. Menelik was a brilliant leader who used his distinguished lineage to garner enough support to become Emperor despite not being next in line. Menelik brought together warriors not only from the far reaches of the empire, but also from warring peoples, like the Amhara and the Oromo, different religions, and cultures. At the deciding battle of the war, the Battle of Adwa, the army consisted of many different tribes and religions, united for a common purpose. The many factions were able to put away their differences and united to protect their empire. Even the son of Emperor Yohannes IV, who Menelik II took the throne from, fought under Menelik for the benefit of the Empire. Menelik did many important things to foster Ethiopian pride.

Menelik was a well respected ruler whose lineage could be traced back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. He used that status and its power to peacefully create alliances and to conquer those who opposed him. He was such a skillful negotiator that he was able to unify almost all of the Northern, Western, and Central territories peacefully. He made Ras Mengesha Yohannes, the prince of Tigray and along with the threat of the Italians, convinced him to join him. Melenik not only conquered large groups of people like the Oromo, Guarage, and Wolayta, he also managed to incorporate leaders from those groups into his own government, and war council. Whether conquered peacefully or militarily, almost all groups had a voice under Melenik.

From 1888-1892, one third of the Ethiopian population died from what would become known as The Great Famine. On the heels of this disaster, Menelik used his relationship with the Europeans to help modernize Ethiopia. The Europeans soon flooded the Ethiopian economy looking for business opportunities. Meanwhile, Menelik established the first national bank, a national currency, a postal system, railroads, modern roads, and electricity. The bank and currency unified the people economically and helped establish economic stability. The railways, roads, and postal system connected the people and tribes as a national as well as physically. Possibly his greatest achievement in creating a national identity was through the creation of Addis Ababa. This was an important psychological component in the establishment of a nation. It provided a metaphorical ‘head’ for the nation. It became permanent location for the entire country to look upon for support and for guidance.

Outcome and consequences[edit]

Menelik retired in good order to his capital, Addis Ababa, and waited for the fallout of the victory to hit Italy. Riots broke out in several Italian cities, and within two weeks, the Crispi government collapsed amidst Italian disenchantment with "foreign adventures".[52]

Menelik secured the Treaty of Addis Ababa in October, which delineated the borders of Eritrea and forced Italy to recognize the independence of Ethiopia. Delegations from the United Kingdom and France—whose colonial possessions lay next to Ethiopia—soon arrived in the Ethiopian capital to negotiate their own treaties with this newly proven power. Owing to Russia's diplomatic support of her fellow Orthodox nation, Russia's prestige greatly increased in Ethiopia. The adventuresome Seljan brothers, Mirko and Stjepan, who were actually Catholic Croats, were warmly welcomed when they arrived in Ethiopia in 1899 when they misinformed their hosts by saying they were Russians.[53] As France supported Ethiopia with weapons, French influence increased markedly.[54] One French diplomat in Addis Ababa, Prince Henri de Orleans wrote: "France gave rifles to this country and taking the hand of its Emperor like an elder sister has explained to him the old motto which has guided her across the centuries of greatness and glory: Honor and Country!".[55] In December 1896, a French diplomatic mission in Addis Ababa arrived and on 20 March 1897 signed a treaty that was described as "véritable traté d'alliance.[56] In turn, the increase in French influence in Ethiopia led to fears in London that the French would gain control of the Blue Nile and would be to "lever" the British out of Egypt.[57] To keep control of the Nile in Egypt, the British decided in March 1896 to advance down the Nile from Egypt into the Sudan to liquidate the Mahdiyya state.[58] On 12 March 1896, upon hearing of the Italian defeat at the Battle of Adwa, the Prime Minister Lord Salisbury, gave instructions for the British forces in Egypt to occupy the Sudan before the French could liquidate the Mahdiyya state, stating that no hostile power would be allowed to control the Nile.[59]

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ According to Pankhurst, the Ethiopians were armed with approximately 100,000 rifles of which about half were "fast firing.".[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ethiopian Treasures". ethiopiantreasures.co.uk. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  2. ^ Vandervort, Bruce. Wars of Imperial Conquest in Africa, 1830–1914. 1998, page 160
  3. ^ a b c First Italo-Abyssinian War: Battle of Adowa
  4. ^ a b Pankhurst, The Ethiopians, p. 190
  5. ^ a b The Battle of Adwa: Reflections on Ethiopia's Historic Victory Against European Colonialism. 2005, page 71.
  6. ^ a b Patman, Robert G. (2009). The Soviet Union in the Horn of Africa: The Diplomacy of Intervention and Disengagement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 27–30. ISBN 9780521102513.
  7. ^ "Menelik II". Gale. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  8. ^ Photo of some of the Eritrean Ascari mutilated
  9. ^ Jonas, Raymond (2011). The Battle of Adwa: African Victory in the Age of Empire. Harvard UP. p. 1. ISBN 9780674062795.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Perry, James Arrogant Armies, Edison: CastleBooks 2005 page 196.
  11. ^ Marcus, Harold "A Background to Direct British Diplomatic Involvement in Ethiopia, 1894-1896" pg. 121-132 from Journal of Ethiopian Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2 July 1963 page 123.
  12. ^ Marcus, Harold "A Background to Direct British Diplomatic Involvement in Ethiopia, 1894-1896" pg. 121-132 from Journal of Ethiopian Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2 July 1963 page 123.
  13. ^ Marcus, Harold "A Background to Direct British Diplomatic Involvement in Ethiopia, 1894-1896" pg. 121-132 from Journal of Ethiopian Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2 July 1963 page 122.
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