A little less than a thousand years before Christ, Ethiopians say, the Queen of Sheba came to visit King Solomon of the Jews. That much is in the Bible. But they go on to say that she had a son by him, named Menelik, who became king of Ethiopia, ruling from the city of Axum. He brought the Ark of the Covenant with him.
However much of that is true, we do know that it was just then that people crossed the Red Sea from Sheba in Arabia and founded what we know as Ethiopia. And Axum did become the seat of an empire, one that grew rich from trade going through the Red Sea between India and the Mediterranean. As for the Ark, they say it is still there in Axum.
Axum reached the height of its power between the years 300 and 600. In 330 King Ezana became an Orthodox Christian and made it the religion of Axum. In the 600s Axum held out against the Arab Empire and the spread of Islam. But right after that Ethiopia sank into a dark age for 500 years.
In 1137 the Zagwe kings came to power. One of them, Lalibela, built 11 churches cut right into the rock at his capital.
In 1270 Yekuno Amlak overthrew the Zagwe kings and made himself king. He said his family goes back to King Solomon, so his line of kings is called the Solomonid. It ruled Ethiopia till 1975.
In the 1500s the Portuguese tried to bring Ethiopia over to Roman Catholicism. In 1622 the emperor himself, Susenyos, became Catholic. That led to a civil war between Catholics and the Orthodox. When his son Fasilidas took over he shut the country off from Westerners. He moved the capital to Gondar. There he built his palace and a beautiful church.
In the late 1800s Menelik II brought in Western inventions and took over neighbouring countries to bring Ethiopia to its present size. In 1896 he defeated the Italians at the Battle of Adowa. It saved Ethiopia from becoming a European colony during the Scramble for Africa.
The Italians came back and won in 1936, with the help of poison gas, but were thrown out in 1941.
In 1975 Marxists called the Derg overthrew Haile Sellasie, the last emperor. They killed thousands in the Red Terror soon after. The country sank into civil war and famine. Over a million died. The Derg hung on to power with help from the Russians and Cubans. They were overthrown at last in 1991 by the freedom fighters of Tigray, who still rule the country.
Eritrea broke away at that time, but without agreeing on its border with Ethiopia. That led to war in 1998 in which 80,000 died. Peace was made in 2000 but still without a clear border.
In 2006 Ethiopia sent troops into Somalia to overthrow the Islamists there who threatend a holy war. In 2009 they completed pulling out their troops, but now they seem to be back there again.
– Abagond, 2009.