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Ethiopia

History

 

Ethiopia, situated near the Red Sea and split by the Great Africa Rift Valley, lies at Africa’s cradle of humanity. The Ethiopian Rift Valley is renowned for the discovery at Hadar of Lucy, also known in Ethiopia as Denkenesh, the 3.5 million years old skeleton of the best –known early Hominid, Australopithecus Afarensis. Lucy has sometimes been spoken of as the mother of the human race. Regarded by many as a historical and scenic wonder-land, Ethiopia is a country of great antiquity, beauty, and complexity.

  • To the ancient Egyptians, Ethiopia was the land of the Gods, the source of the life giving River Nile, and the Land of Punt, along the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden coast, to which Queen Hatshepsut and other pharoahs dispatched naval expeditions for priceless incense for their religious ceremonies as well as gold, silver and other precious metals.
  • To the ancient Greeks, including Homer, the country, which they named Ethiopia {in Greek, land of burnt faces} was a “far-off country”, frequently visited by the Gods, and inhabited by the “blameless Ethiopian “, who lived on the very edge of the World.
  • To the Jews of antiquity, Ethiopia was a kindred, though distant territory, referred to frequently in the Bible: the land from which Moses had taken a wife, a country of prophecy, which Psalms 67 proclaimed, would “soon stretch forth her hands to God”.

Ethiopia, from the beginning of the Christian Era, was the seat of the Axumite Empire, which was one of the most powerful states between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia. Ethiopia was one of the first countries in the World to have adopted Christianity. The Ethiopian Church was intimately linked with the Coptic Church. Ethiopia was the sole African country, south of the Sahara, to develop its own alphabet, written from left to right.

  • The Arabs, for their part, had a different and much closer image of the country. Habash, as they called it, was the territory to which the Prophet Mohammed’s grandfather Abdal Muttalib had often traveled on business. The country, which the Prophet had called ‘a land of righteousness’, played a unique role in the early history of Islam. It was the land that offered asylum in the early seventh century to several of the earliest and most important followers of the Prophet of Islam, who accordingly later instructed his followers to “leave the Abyssinians in peace”.
  • To Medieval European Christendom, in the age of the crusades, Ethiopia was the fabled land of Prester John, virtually the only significant Christian kingdom outside Europe ruled, they believed, by a mysterious priest-king, whom they saw as a great potential ally in their struggle again the Saracens.
  • To many others, Ethiopia was the land of the Queen of Sheba, who had traveled to Jerusalem to learn wisdom from King Solomon, as stated in the 1st Book of Kings. According to tradition, the Queen of Sheba gave birth to Menelik, a son by Solomon, from whom the latest Ethiopian ruling dynasty claimed descent. It is said that he brought with him the mystical Arc of the Covenant, housed in the holy city of Aksum to this day.


New images of Ethiopia emerged in the second half of the Nineteenth Century. This period witnessed the rise of the Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros, a figure unique in Africa, in that he challenged the might of Queen Victoria’s England, then the greatest power in the world.

Ethiopia gained far greater international renown when Menelik’s army defeated the Italians as the battle of Adwa in 1896. It was the greatest victory of an African over a European power Ethiopia, the only independent state in Africa, had in fact become a beacon of freedom for the black world. It was symbolic that several African countries emerging into independence in the 1950s and 1960s, chose to adopt green, yellow and red for their flags reminiscent of the Ethiopian tricolor.
Ethiopia is also, known for its international runners including the legendary Abebe Bikila, Haile Gebre Selassie, Derartu Tulu, Kenenissa, Tirunesh and many others.        

Last Updated (Sunday, 22 July 2012 18:07)

 
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