1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Abyssinia

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ABYSSINIA (officially Ethiopia), an inland country and empire of N.E. Africa lying, chiefly, between 5° and 15° N. and 35° and 42° E. It is bounded N. by Eritrea (Italian), W. by the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, S. by British East Africa, S.E. and E. by the British, Italian and French possessions in Somaliland and on the Red Sea. The coast lands held by European powers, which cut off Abyssinia from access to the sea, vary in width from 40 to 250 miles. The country approaches nearest to the ocean on its N.E. border, where the frontier is drawn about 40 m. from the coast of the Red Sea. Abyssinia is narrowest in the north, being here 230 m. across from east to west. It broadens out southward to a width of 900 m. along the line of 9° N., and resembles in shape a triangle with its apex to the north. It is divided into Abyssinia proper (i.e. Tigré, Amhara, Gojam, &c.), Shoa, Kaffa and Galla land—all these form a geographical unit—and central Somaliland with Harrar. To the S.W. Abyssinia also includes part of the low country of the Sobat tributary of the Nile. The area of the whole state is about 350,000 sq. m., of which Abyssinian Somaliland covers fully a third.

(1) Physical Features.—Between the valley of the Upper Nile and the low lands which skirt the south-western shores of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden is a region of elevated plateaus from which rise various mountain ranges. These tablelands and mountains constitute Abyssinia, Shoa, Kaffa and Galla land. On nearly every side the walls of the plateaus rise with considerable abruptness from the plains, constituting outer mountain chains. The Abyssinian highlands are thus a clearly marked orographic division. From Ras Kasar (18° N.) to Annesley Bay (15° N.) the eastern wall of the plateau runs parallel to the Red Sea. It then turns due S. and follows closely the line of 40° E. for some 400 m. About 9° N. there is a break in the wall, through which the river Hawash flows eastward. The main range at this point trends S.W., while south of the Hawash valley, which is some 3000 ft. below the level of the mountains, another massif rises in a direct line south. This second range sends a chain (the Harrar hills) eastward to the Gulf of Aden. The two chief eastern ranges maintain a parallel course S. by W., with a broad upland valley between—in which valley are a series of lakes—to about 3° N., the outer (eastern) spurs of the plateau still keeping along the line of 40° E. The southern escarpment of the plateau is highly irregular, but has a general direction N.W. and S.E. from 6° N. to 3° N. It overlooks the depression in which is Lake Rudolf and—east of that lake—southern Somaliland. The western wall of the plateau from 6° N. to 11° N. is well marked and precipitous. North of 11° N. the hills turn more to the east and fall more gradually to the plains at their base. On its northern face also the plateau falls in terraces to the level of the eastern Sudan. The eastern escarpment is the best defined of these outer ranges. It has a mean height of from 7000 to 8000 ft., and in many places rises almost perpendicularly from the plain. Narrow and deep clefts, through which descend mountain torrents to lose themselves in the sandy soil of the coast land, afford means of reaching the plateau, or the easier route through the Hawash valley may be chosen. On surmounting this rocky barrier the traveller finds that the encircling rampart rises little above the normal level of the plateau.

(2) The aspect of the highlands is most impressive. The northern portion, lying mainly between 10° and 15° N., consists of a huge mass of Archaean rocks with a mean height of from 7000 to 7500 ft. above the sea, and is flooded in a deep central depression by the waters of Lake Tsana. Above the plateau rise several irregular and generally ill-defined mountain ranges which attain altitudes of from 12,000 to over 15,000 ft. Many of the mountains are of weird and fantastic shape. Characteristic of the country are the enormous fissures which divide it, formed in the course of ages by the erosive action of water. They are in fact the valleys of the rivers which, rising on the uplands or mountain sides, have cut their way to the surrounding lowlands. Some of the valleys are of considerable width; in other cases the opposite walls of the gorges are but two or three hundred yards apart, and fall almost vertically thousands of feet, representing an erosion of hard rock of many millions of cubic feet. One result of the action of the water has been the formation of numerous isolated flat-topped hills or small plateaus, known as ambas, with nearly perpendicular sides. The highest peaks are found in the Simen (or Semien) and Gojam ranges. The Simen Mountains lie N.E. of Lake Tsana and culminate in the snow-covered peak of Daschan (Dajan), which has an altitude of 15,160 ft. A few miles east and north respectively of Dajan are Mounts Biuat and Abba Jared, whose summits are a few feet only below that of Dajan. In the Chok Mountains in Gojam Agsias Fatra attains a height of 13,600 ft.

Parallel with the eastern escarpment are the heights of Baila (12,500 ft.), Abuna Josef (13,780 ft.), and Kollo (14,100 ft.), the last-named being S.W. of Magdala. The valley between these hills and the eastern escarpment is one of the longest and most profound chasms in Abyssinia. Between Lake Tsana and the eastern hills are Mounts Guna (13,800 ft.) and Uara Sahia (13,000 ft.). The figures given are, however, approximate only. The southern portion of the highlands—the 10° N. roughly marks the division between north and south—has more open tableland than the northern portion and fewer lofty peaks. Though there are a few heights between 10,000 and 12,000 ft., the majority do not exceed 8000 ft. But the general character of the southern regions is the same as in the north—a much-broken hilly plateau.

Most of the Abyssinian uplands have a decided slope to the north-west, so that nearly all the large rivers find their way in that direction to the Nile. Such are the Takazzé in the north, the Abai in the centre, and the Sobat in the south, and through these three arteries is discharged about four-fifths of the entire drainage. The rest is carried off, almost due north by the Khor Baraka, which occasionally reaches the Red Sea south of Suakin; by the Hawash, which runs out in the saline lacustrine district near the head of Tajura Bay; by the Webi Shebeli (Wabi-Shebeyli) and Juba, which flow S.E. through Somaliland, though the Shebeli fails to reach the Indian Ocean; and by the Omo, the main feeder of the closed basin of Lake Rudolf.

The Takazzé, which is the true upper course of the Atbara, has its head-waters in the central tableland; and falls from about 7000 to 2500 ft. in the tremendous crevasse through which it sweeps round west, north and west again down to the western terraces, where it passes from Abyssinian to Sudan territory. During the rains the Takazzé (i.e. the “Terrible”) rises some 18 ft. above its normal level, and at this time forms an impassable barrier between the northern and central provinces. In its lower course the river is known by the Arab name Setit. The Setit is joined (14° 10′ N., 36° E.) by the Atbara, a river formed by several streams which rise in the mountains W. and N.W. of Lake Tsana. The Gash or Mareb is the most northerly of the Abyssinian rivers which flow towards the Nile valley. Its head-waters rise on the landward side of the eastern escarpment within 50 miles of Annesley Bay on the Red Sea. It reaches the Sudan plains near Kassala, beyond which place its waters are dissipated in the sandy soil. The Mareb is dry for a great part of the year, but like the Takazzé is subject to sudden freshets during the rains. Only the left bank of the upper course of the river is in Abyssinian territory, the Mareb here forming the boundary between Eritrea and Abyssinia.

(3) The Abai—that is, the upper course of the Blue Nile—has its source near Mount Denguiza in the Gojam highlands (about 11° N. and 37° E.), and first flows for 70 m. nearly due north to the south side of Lake Tsana. Tsana (q.v.), which stands from 2500 to 3000 ft. below the normal level of the plateau, has somewhat the aspect of a flooded crater. It has an area of about 1100 sq. m., and a depth in some parts of 250 ft. At the south-east corner the rim of the crater is, as it were, breached by a deep crevasse through which the Abai escapes, and here develops a great semicircular bend like that of the Takazzé, but in the reverse direction—east, south and north-west—down to the plains of Sennar, where it takes the name of Bahr-el-Azrak or Blue Nile. The Abai has many tributaries. Of these the Bashilo rises near Magdala and drains eastern Amhara; the Jamma rises near Ankober and drains northern Shoa; the Muger rises near Adis Ababa and drains south-western Shoa; the Didessa, the largest of the Abai’s affluents, rises in the Kaffa hills and has a generally S. to N. course; the Yabus runs near the western edge of the plateau escarpment. All these are perennial rivers. The right-hand tributaries, rising mostly on the western sides of the plateau, have steep slopes and are generally torrential in character. The Bolassa, however, is perennial, and the Rahad and Dinder are important rivers in flood-time.

In the mountains and plateaus of Kaffa and Galla in the south-west of Abyssinia rise the Baro, Gelo, Akobo and other of the chief affluents of the Sobat tributary of the Nile. The Akobo, in about 7° 50′ N. and 33° E., joins the Pibor, which in about 81/2° N. and 33° 20′ E. unites with the Baro, the river below the confluence taking the name of Sobat. These rivers descend from the mountains in great falls, and like the other Abyssinian streams are unnavigable in their upper courses. The Baro on reaching the plain becomes, however, a navigable stream affording an open waterway to the Nile. The Baro, Pibor and Akobo form for 250 m. the W. and S.W. frontiers of Abyssinia (see Nile, Sobat and Sudan.)

The chief river of Abyssinia flowing east is the Hawash (Awash, Awasi), which rises in the Shoan uplands and makes a semicircular bend first S.E. and then N.E. It reaches the Afar (Danakil) lowlands through a broad breach in the eastern escarpment of the plateau, beyond which it is joined on its left bank by its chief affluent, the Germama (Kasam), and then trends round in the direction of Tajura Bay. Here the Hawash is a copious stream nearly 200 ft. wide and 4 ft. deep, even in the dry season, and during the floods rising 50 or 60 ft. above low-water mark, thus inundating the plains for many miles along both its banks. Yet it fails to reach the coast, and after a winding course of about 500 m. passes (in its lower reaches) through a series of badds (lagoons) to Lake Aussa, some 60 or 70 m. from the head of Tajura Bay. In this lake the river is lost. This remarkable phenomenon is explained by the position of Aussa in the centre of a saline lacustrine depression several hundred feet below sea-level. While most of the other lagoons are highly saline, with thick incrustations of salt round their margins, Aussa remains fresh throughout the year, owing to the great body of water discharged into it by the Hawash.

Another lacustrine region extends from the Shoa heights south-west to the Samburu (Lake Rudolf) depression. In this chain of lovely upland lakes, some fresh, some brackish, some completely closed, others connected by short channels, the chief links in their order from north to south are:—Zwai, communicating southwards with Hara and Lamina, all in the Arusi Galla territory; then Abai with an outlet to a smaller tarn in the romantic Baroda and Gamo districts, skirted on the west sides by grassy slopes and wooded ranges from 6000 to nearly 9000 ft. high; lastly, in the Asille country, Lake Stefanie, the Chuwaha of the natives, completely closed and falling to a level of about 1800 ft. above the sea. To the same system obviously belongs the neighbouring Lake Rudolf (q.v.), which is larger than all the rest put together. This lake receives at its northern end the waters of the Omo, which rises in the Shoa highlands and is a perennial river with many affluents. In its course of some 370 m. it has a total fall of about 6000 ft. (from 7600 at its source to 1600 at lake-level), and is consequently a very rapid stream, being broken by the Kokobi and other falls, and navigable only for a short distance above its mouth. The chief rivers of Somaliland (q.v.), the Webi Shebeli and the Juba (q.v.), have their rise on the south-eastern slopes of the Abyssinian escarpment, and the greater part of their course is through territory belonging to Abyssinia. There are numerous hot springs in Abyssinia, and earthquakes, though of no great severity, are not uncommon.

(4) Geology.—The East African tableland is continued into Abyssinia. Since the visit of W. T. Blanford in 1870 the geology has received little attention from travellers. The following formations are represented:—

Sedimentary and Metamorphic.
Recent. Coral, alluvium, sand.
Tertiary. (?) Limestones Harrar.
Jurassic. Antalo Limestones.
Triassic (?). Adigrat Sandstones.
Archaean. Gneisses, schists, slaty rocks.
Recent. Aden Volcanic Series.
Tertiary, Cretaceous (?). Magdala group.
Jurassic. Ashangi group.

Archaean.—The metamorphic rocks compose the main mass of the tableland, and are exposed in every deep valley in Tigré and along the valley of the Blue Nile. Mica schists form the prevalent rocks. Hornblende schists also occur and a compact felspathic rock in the Suris defile. The foliae of the schists strike north and south.

Triassic (?).—In the region of Adigrat the metamorphic rocks are invariably overlain by white and brown sandstones, unfossiliferous, and attaining a maximum thickness of 1000 feet. They are overlain by the fossiliferous limestones of the Antalo group. Around Chelga and Adigrat coal-bearing beds occur, which Blanford suggests may be of the same age as the coal-bearing strata of India. The Adigrat Sandstone possibly represents some portion of the Karroo formation of South Africa.

Jurassic.—The fossiliferous limestones of Antalo are generally horizontal, but are in places much disturbed when interstratified with trap rocks. The fossils are all characteristic Oolite forms and include species of Hemicidaris, Pholadomya, Ceromya, Trigonia and Alaria.

Igneous Rocks.—Above a height of 8000 ft. the country consists of bedded traps belonging to two distinct and unconformable groups. The lower (Ashangi group) consists of basalts and dolerites often amygdaloidal. Their relation to the Antalo limestones is uncertain, but Blanford considers them to be not later in age than the Oolite. The upper (Magdala group) contains much trachytic rock of considerable thickness, lying perfectly horizontally, and giving rise to a series of terraced ridges characteristic of central Abyssinia. They are interbedded with unfossiliferous sandstones and shales. Of more recent date (probably Tertiary) are some igneous rocks, rich in alkalis, occurring in certain localities in southern Abyssinia. Of still more recent date are the basalts and ashes west of Massawa and around Annesley Bay and known as the Aden Volcanic Series. With regard to the older igneous rocks, the enormous amount they have suffered from denudation is a prominent feature. They have been worn into deep and narrow ravines, sometimes to a depth of 3000 to 4000 ft.

(5) Climate.—The climate of Abyssinia and its dependent territories varies greatly. Somaliland and the Danakil lowlands have a hot, dry climate producing semi-desert conditions; the country in the lower basin of the Sobat is hot, swampy and malarious. But over the greater part of Abyssinia as well as the Galla highlands the climate is very healthy and temperate. The country lies wholly within the tropics, but its nearness to the equator is counterbalanced by the elevation of the land. In the deep valleys of the Takazzé and Abai, and generally in places below 4000 ft., the conditions are tropical and fevers are prevalent. On the uplands, however, the air is cool and bracing in summer, and in winter very bleak. The mean range of temperature is between 60° and 80° F. On the higher mountains the climate is Alpine in character. The atmosphere on the plateaus is exceedingly clear, so that objects are easily recognizable at great distances. In addition to the variation in climate dependent on elevation, the year may be divided into three seasons. Winter, or the cold season, lasts from October to February, and is followed by a dry hot period, which about the middle of June gives place to the rainy season. The rain is heaviest in the Takazzé basin in July and August. In the more southern districts of Gojam and Wallega heavy rains continue till the middle of September, and occasionally October is a wet month. There are also spring and winter rains; indeed rain often falls in every month of the year. But the rainy season proper, caused by the south-west monsoon, lasts from June to mid-September, and commencing in the north moves southward. In the region of the Sobat sources the rains begin earlier and last longer. The rainfall varies from about 30 in. a year in Tigré and Amhara to over 40 in. in parts of Galla land. The rainy season is of great importance not only to Abyssinia but to the countries of the Nile valley, as the prosperity of the eastern Sudan and Egypt is largely dependent upon the rainfall. A season of light rain may be sufficient for the needs of Abyssinia, but there is little surplus water to find its way to the Nile; and a shortness of rain means a low Nile, as practically all the flood water of that river is derived from the Abyssinian tributaries (see Nile).

(6) Flora and Fauna.—As in a day’s journey the traveller may pass from tropical to almost Alpine conditions of climate, so great also is the range of the flora and fauna. In the valleys and lowlands the vegetation is dense, but the general appearance of the plateaus is of a comparatively bare country with trees and bushes thinly scattered over it. The glens and ravines on the hillside are often thickly wooded, and offer a delightful contrast to the open downs. These conditions are particularly characteristic of the northern regions; in the south the vegetation on the uplands is more luxuriant. Among the many varieties of trees and plants found are the date palm, mimosa, wild olive, giant sycamores, junipers and laurels, the myrrh and other gum trees (gnarled and stunted, these flourish most on the eastern foothills), a magnificent pine (the Natal yellow pine, which resists the attacks of the white ant), the fig, orange, lime, pomegranate, peach, apricot, banana and other fruit trees; the grape vine (rare), blackberry and raspberry; the cotton and indigo plants, and occasionally the sugar cane. There are in the south large forests of valuable timber trees; and the coffee plant is indigenous in the Kaffa country, whence it takes its name. Many kinds of grasses and flowers abound. Large areas are covered by the kussa, a hardy member of the rose family, which grows from 8 to 10 ft. high and has abundant pendent red blossoms. The flowers and the leaves of this plant are highly prized for medicinal purposes. The fruit of the kurarina, a tree found almost exclusively in Shoa, yields a black grain highly esteemed as a spice. On the tableland a great variety of grains and vegetables are cultivated. A fibrous plant, known as the sanseviera, grows in a wild state in the semi-desert regions of the north and south-east.

In addition to the domestic animals enumerated below (§ 8) the fauna is very varied. Elephant and rhinoceros are numerous in certain low-lying districts, especially in the Sobat valley. The Abyssinian rhinoceros has two horns and its skin has no folds. The hippopotamus and crocodile inhabit the larger rivers flowing west, but are not found in the Hawash, in which, however, otters of large size are plentiful. Lions abound in the low countries and in Somaliland. In central Abyssinia the lion is no longer found except occasionally in the river valleys. Leopards, both spotted and black, are numerous and often of great size; hyaenas are found everywhere and are hardy and fierce; the lynx, wolf, wild dog and jackal are also common. Boars and badgers are more rarely seen. The giraffe is found in the western districts, the zebra and wild ass frequent the lower plateaus and the rocky hills of the north. There are large herds of buffalo and antelope, and gazelles of many varieties and in great numbers are met with in most parts of the country. Among the varieties are the greater and lesser kudu (both rather rare); the duiker, gemsbuck, hartebeest, gerenuk (the most common—it has long thin legs and a camel-like neck); klipspringer, found on the high plateaus as well as in the lower districts; and the dik-dik, the smallest of the antelopes, its weight rarely exceeding 10 ℔., common in the low countries and the foothills. The civet is found in many parts of Abyssinia, but chiefly in the Galla regions. Squirrels and hares are numerous, as are several kinds of monkeys, notably the guereza, gelada, guenon and dog-faced baboon. They range from the tropical lowlands to heights of 10,000 ft.

Birds are very numerous, and many of them remarkable for the beauty of their plumage. Great numbers of eagles, vultures, hawks, bustards and other birds of prey are met with; and partridges, duck, teal, guinea-fowl, sand-grouse, curlews, woodcock, snipe, pigeons, thrushes and swallows are very plentiful. A fine variety of ostrich is commonly found. Among the birds prized for their plumage are the marabout, crane, heron, blackbird, parrot, jay and humming-birds of extraordinary brilliance. Among insects the most numerous and useful is the bee, honey everywhere constituting an important part of the food of the inhabitants. Of an opposite class is the locust. Serpents are not numerous, but several species are poisonous. There are thousands of varieties of butterflies and other insects.

(7) Provinces and Towns.—Politically, Abyssinia is divided into provinces or kingdoms and dependent territories. The chief provinces are Tigré, which occupies the N.E. of the country; Amhara or Gondar, in the centre; Gojam, the district enclosed by the great semicircular sweep of the Abai; and Shoa (q.v.), which lies east of the Abai and south of Amhara. Besides these ancient provinces and several others of smaller size, the empire includes the Wallega region, lying S.W. of Gojam; the Harrar province in the east; Kaffa (q.v.) and Galla land, S.W. and S. of Shoa; and the central part of Somaliland.

With the exception of Harrar (q.v.), a city of Arab foundation, there are no large towns in Abyssinia. Harrar is some 30 m. S.E. of Dire Dawa, whence there is a railway (188 m. long) to Jibuti on the Gulf of Aden. The absence of large towns in Abyssinia proper is due to the provinces into which the country is divided having been for centuries in a state of almost continual warfare, and to the frequent change of the royal residences on the exhaustion of fuel supplies. The earliest capital appears to have been Axum (q.v.) in Tigré, where there are extensive ruins. In the middle ages Gondar in Amhara became the capital of the country and was so regarded up to the middle of the 19th century. Since 1892 the capital has been Adis Ababa in the kingdom of Shoa.

The other towns of Abyssinia worthy of mention may be grouped according to their geographical position. None of them has a permanent population exceeding 6000, but at several large markets are held periodically. In Tigré there are Adowa or Adua (17 m. E. by N. of Axum), Adigrat, Macalle and Antalo. The three last-named places are on the high plateau near its eastern escarpment and on the direct road south from Massawa to Shoa. West of Adigrat is the monastery of Debra-Domo, one of the most celebrated sanctuaries in Abyssinia.

In Amhara there are:—Magdala (q.v.), formerly the residence of King Theodore, and the place of imprisonment of the British captives in 1866. Debra-Tabor (“Mount Tabor”), the chief royal residence during the reign of King John, occupies a strong strategic position overlooking the fertile plains east of Lake Tsana, at a height of about 8,620 ft. above the sea; it has a population of 3000, including the neighbouring station of Samara, headquarters of the Protestant missionaries in the time of King Theodore. Ambra-Mariam, a fortified station midway between Gondar and Debra-Tabor near the north-east side of Lake Tsana, with a population of 3000; here is the famous shrine and church dedicated to St Mary, whence the name of the place, “Fort St Mary.” Mahdera-Mariam (“Mary’s Rest”), for some time a royal residence, and an important market and great place of pilgrimage, a few miles south-west of Debra-Tabor; its two churches of the “Mother” and the “Son” are held in great veneration by all Abyssinians; it has a permanent population estimated at over 4000, Gallas and Amharas, the former mostly Mahommedan. Sokota, one of the great central markets, and capital of the province of Waag in Amhara, at the converging point of several main trade routes; the market is numerously attended, especially by dealers in the salt blocks which come from Lake Alalbed. The following towns are in Shoa:—Ankober, formerly the capital of the kingdom; Aliu-Amba, east of Ankober on the trade route to the Gulf of Aden; Debra-Berhan (Debra-Bernam) (“Mountain of Light”), once a royal residence; Liché (Litché), one of the largest market towns in southern Abyssinia. Liekà, the largest market in Galla land, has direct communications with Gojam, Shoa and other parts of the empire. Bonga, the commercial centre of Kaffa, and Jiren, capital of the neighbouring province of Jimma, are frequented by traders from all the surrounding provinces, and also by foreign merchants from the seaports on the Gulf of Aden. Apart from these market-places there are no settlements of any size in southern Abyssinia.

Communications.—The Jibuti-Dire Dawa railway has been mentioned above. The continuation of this railway to the capital was begun in 1906 from the Adis Ababa end. There are few roads in Abyssinia suitable for wheeled traffic. Transport is usually carried on by mules, donkeys, pack-horses and (in the lower regions) camels. From Dire Dawa to Harrar there is a well-made carriage road, and from Harrar to Adis Ababa the caravan track is kept in good order, the river Hawash being spanned by an iron bridge. There is also a direct trade route from Dire Dawa to the capital. Telegraph lines connect Adis Ababa and several important towns in northern Abyssinia with Massawa, Harrar and Jibuti. There is also a telephonic service, the longest line being from Harrar to the capital.

(8) Agriculture.—The soil is exceedingly fertile, as is evident from the fact that Egypt owes practically all its fertility to the sediment carried into the Nile by its Abyssinian tributaries. Agriculture is extensively followed, chiefly by the Gallas, the indolence of the Abyssinians preventing them from being good farmers. In the lower regions a wide variety of crops are grown—among them maize, durra, wheat, barley, rye, teff, pease, cotton and sugar-cane—and many kinds of fruit trees are cultivated. Teff is a kind of millet with grains about the size of an ordinary pin-head, of which is made the bread commonly eaten. The low grounds also produce a grain, tocussa, from which black bread is made. Besides these, certain oleaginous plants, the suf, nuc and selite (there are no European equivalents for the native names), and the ground-nut are largely grown. The castor bean grows wild, the green castor in the low, damp regions, the red castor at medium altitudes. The kat plant, a medicinal herb which has a tonic quality, is largely grown in the Harrar province. On the higher plateaus the hardier cereals only are cultivated. Here the chief crops are wheat, barley, teff, peppers, vegetables of all kinds and coffee. Above 10,000 ft. the crops are confined practically to barley, oats, beans and occasionally wheat.

Coffee is one of the most important products of the country, and its original home is believed to be the Kaffa highlands. It is cultivated in the S., S.E. and S.W. provinces, and to a less extent in the central districts. Two qualities of coffee are cultivated, one known as Abyssinian, the other as Harrar-Mocha. The “Abyssinian” coffee is grown very extensively throughout the southern highlands. Little attention is paid to the crop, the berries being frequently gathered from the ground, and consequently the coffee is of comparatively low grade. “Harrar-Mocha” is of first-class quality. It is grown in the highlands of Harrar, and cultivated with extreme care. The raising of cotton received a considerable impetus in the early years of the 20th century. The soil of the Hawash valley proved particularly suitable for raising this crop. In the high plateaus the planting of seeds begins in May, in the lower plateaus and the plains in June, but in certain parts where the summer is long and rain abundant sowing and reaping are going on at the same time. Most regions yield two, many three crops a year. The methods of culture are primitive, the plough commonly used being a long pole with two vertical iron teeth and a smaller pole at right angles to which oxen are attached. This implement costs about four shillings. The ploughing is done by the men, but women and girls do the reaping. The grain is usually trodden out by cattle and is often stored in clay-lined pits. Land comparatively poor yields crops eight to tenfold the quantity sown; the major part of the land yields twenty to thirtyfold. In the northern parts of the empire very little land is left uncultivated. The hillsides are laid out in terraces and carefully irrigated in the dry season, the channels being often two miles or more long. Of all the cereals barley is the most widely grown. The average rate of pay to an agricultural labourer is about threepence a day in addition to food, which may cost another penny a day.

The Abyssinians keep a large number of domestic animals. Among cattle the Sanga or Galla ox is the most common. The bulls are usually kept for ploughing, the cow being preferred for meat. Most of the cattle are of the zebu or hump-backed variety, but there are also two breeds—one large, the other resembling the Jersey cattle—which are straight-backed. The horns of the zebu variety are sometimes four feet long. Sheep, of which there are very large flocks, belong to the short and fat-tailed variety. The majority are not wool-bearing, but in one district a very small black sheep is raised for wool. The small mountain breed of sheep weigh no more than 20 to 30 ℔. apiece. Goats are of both the long and short-haired varieties. The horns of the large goats are often thirty inches in length and stand up straight from the head. The goats from the Arusi Galla country have fine silky hair which is sometimes sixteen inches long. The meat of both sheep and goats is excellent; that of the latter is preferred by the natives. In 1904 the estimated number of sheep and goats in the country was 20,000,000. Large quantities of butter, generally rancid, are made from the milk of cows, goats and sheep. In the Leka province small black pigs are bred in considerable numbers. The horses (very numerous) are small but strong; they are generally about 14 hands in height. The best breeds come from the Shoa uplands. The ass is also small and strong; and the mule, bred in large numbers, is of excellent quality, and both as a transport animal and as a mount is preferred to the horse. The mule thrives in every condition of climate, is fever-proof, travels over the most difficult mountain passes with absolute security, and can carry with ease a load of 200 ℔. The average height of a mule is 121/2 hands. The country is admirably adapted for stock-raising.

(9) Minerals.—In the south and south-west provinces placer gold mines by the banks of watercourses are worked by Gallas as an industry subsidiary to tending their flocks and fields. In the Wallega district are veins of gold-bearing quartz, mined to a certain extent. There are also gold mines in southern Shoa. The annual output of gold is worth not less than £500,000. Only a small proportion is exported. Besides gold, silver, iron, coal and other minerals are found. Rock-salt is obtained from the province of Tigré.

Trade and Currency.—Abyssinia being without seaports, the external trade is through Massawa (Italian) in the north, Jibuti (French), Zaila and Berbera (British) in the south, and for all these ports Aden is a distributing centre. For Tigré and Amhara products Massawa is the best port, for the rest of the empire, Jibuti. For southern Abyssinia, Kaffa and Galla lands, Harrar is the great entrepot, goods being forwarded thence to Jibuti and the other Somaliland ports. There is also a considerable trade with the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan through the frontier towns of Rosaires and Gallabat. At the French and British ports there is freedom of trade, but on goods for Abyssinia entering Massawa a discriminating tax is levied if they are not imported from Italy.

The chief articles of export are coffee, skins, ivory, civet, ostrich feathers, gum, pepper, kat plant (used by Moslems for its stimulating properties), gold (in small quantities) and live stock. The trade in skins is mainly with the United States through Aden; America also takes a large proportion of the coffee exported. For live stock there is a good trade with Madagascar. The chief imports are cotton goods, the yearly value of this trade being fully £250,000; the sheetings are largely American; the remainder English and Indian. No other article of import approaches cotton in importance, but a considerable trade is done in arms and ammunition, rice, sugar, flour and other foods, and a still larger trade in candles and matches (from Sweden), oil, carpets (oriental and European), hats and umbrellas. Commerce long remained in a backward condition; but under the Emperor Menelek II. efforts were made to develop the resources of the country, and in 1905 the total volume of trade exceeded £1,000,000.

Until the end of the 19th century the usual currency was the Maria Theresa dollar, bars of rock-salt and cartridges. In 1894 a new coinage was introduced, with the Menelek dollar or talari, worth about two shillings, as the standard. This new coinage gradually superseded the older currency. In 1905 the Bank of Abyssinia, the first banking house in the country, was founded, with its headquarters at Adis Ababa. The bank, which was granted a monopoly of banking business in the empire for fifty years, has a capital of £500,000, has the power to issue notes, to mint the Abyssinian coinage, and to engage in commercial operations. It was founded under Egyptian law by the National Bank of Egypt, which institution had previously obtained a concession from the emperor Menelek.

(10) Government.—The political institutions are of a feudal character. Within their provinces the rases (princes) exercise large powers. The emperor, styled negūs negusti (king of kings), is occasionally assisted by a council of rases. In October 1907 an imperial decree announced the constitution of a cabinet on European lines, ministers being appointed to the portfolios of foreign affairs, war, commerce, justice and finance. The legal system is said to be based on the Justinian code. From the decisions of the judges there is a right of appeal to the emperor. The chief judicial official is known as the affa-negūs (breath of the king). The Abyssinian church (q.v.) is presided over by an abuna, or archbishop. The land is not held in fee simple, but is subject to the control of the emperor or the church. Revenue is derived from an ad valorem tax on all imports; the purchase and sale of animals; from royalties on trading concessions, and in other ways, including fees for the administration of justice. Education, of a rudimentary character, is given by the clergy. In 1907 a system of compulsory education “of all male children over the age of 12” was decreed. The education was to be state provided, Coptic teachers were brought from Egypt and school buildings were erected.

The Abyssinian calendar is as follows:—The Abyssinian year of 365 days (366 in leap-year) begins on the 1st of Maskarram, which corresponds to about the 10th of September. The months have thirty days each, and are thus named: Maskarram, Tekemt, Hadar, Tahsas, Tarr, Yekatit, Magawit, Miaziah, Genbot, Sanni, Hamle, Nas’hi. The remaining five days in the year, termed Pagmen or Quaggimi (six in leap-year, the extra day being named Kadis Yohannis), are put in at the end and treated as holidays. Abyssinian reckoning is about seven years eight months behind the Gregorian. Festivals, such as Easter, fall a week later than in western Europe.

Army.—A small standing army is maintained in each province of Abyssinia proper. Every able-bodied Abyssinian is expected to join the army in case of need, and a force, well armed with modern weapons, approaching 250,000 can be placed in the field. The cavalry is chiefly composed of Galla horsemen.  (F. R. C.) 


(11) The population of the empire is estimated at from 3,500,000 to 5,000,000. The inhabitants consist mainly of the Abyssinians, the Galla and the Somali (the two last-named peoples are separately noticed). Of non-African races the most numerous are Armenians, Indians, Jews and Greeks. There is a small colony of British, French, Italians and Russians. The following remarks apply solely to Abyssinia proper and its inhabitants. It should be remembered that the term “Abyssinian” is purely geographical, and has little or no ethnical significance; it is derived from the Arabic Habesh, “mixed,” and was a derisive name applied by the Arabs to the heterogeneous inhabitants of the Abyssinian plateau.

Abyssinia appears to have been originally peopled by the eastern branch of the Hamitic family, which has occupied this region from the remotest times, and still constitutes the great bulk of its inhabitants, though the higher classes are now strongly Semitized. The prevailing colour in the central provinces (Amhara, Gojam) is a deep brown, northwards (Tigré, Lasta) it is a pale olive, and here even fair complexions are seen. Southwards (Shoa, Kobbo, Amuru) a decided chocolate and almost sooty black is the rule. Many of the people are distinctly negroid, with big lips, small nose, broad at the base, and frizzly or curly black hair. The negroid element in the population is due chiefly to the number of negro women who have been imported into the harems of the Abyssinians. The majority, however, may be described as a mixed Hamito-Semitic people, who are in general well formed and handsome, with straight and regular features, lively eyes, hair long and straight or somewhat curled and in colour dark olive, approaching to black. The Galla, who came originally from the south, are not found in many parts of the country, but predominate in the Wollo district, between Shoa and Amhara. It is from the Galla that the Abyssinian army is largely recruited, and, indeed, there are few of the chiefs who have not an admixture of Galla blood in their veins.

As regards language, several of the indigenous groups, such as the Khamtas of Lasta, the Agau or Agaos of Agaumeder (“Agao land”) and the Falashas (q.v.), the so-called “Jews” of Abyssinia, still speak rude dialects of the old Hamitic tongue. But the official language and that of all the upper classes is of Semitic origin, derived from the ancient Himyaritic, which is the most archaic member of the Semitic linguistic family. Geez, as it is called, was introduced with the first immigrants from Yemen, and although no longer spoken is still studied as the liturgical language of the Abyssinian Christians. Its literature consists of numerous translations of Jewish, Greek and Arabic works, besides a valuable version of the Bible. (See Ethiopia.) The best modern representative of Geez is the Tigrina of Tigré and Lasta, which is much purer but less cultivated than the Amharic dialect, which is used in state documents, is current in the central and southern provinces and is much affected by Hamitic elements. All are written in a peculiar syllabic script which, unlike all other Semitic forms, runs from left to right, and is derived from that of the Sabaeans and Minaeans, still extant in the very old rock-inscriptions of south Arabia.

The hybridism of the Abyssinians is reflected in their political and social institutions, and especially in their religious beliefs and practices. On a seething mass of African heathendom, already in early times affected by primitive Semitic ideas, was suddenly imposed a form of Christianity which became the state religion. While the various ethnical elements have been merged in the composite Abyssinian nation, the primitive and more advanced religious ideas have nowhere been fused in a uniform Christian system. Foreigners are often surprised at the strange mixture of savagery and lofty notions in a Christian community which, for instance, accounts accidental manslaughter as wilful murder. Recourse is still had to dreams as a means of detecting crime. A priest is summoned, and, if his prayers and curses fail, a small boy is drugged, and “whatever person he dreams of is fixed on as the criminal. . . . If the boy does not dream of the person whom the priest has determined on as the criminal, he is kept under drugs until he does what is required of him” (Count Gleichen, With the Mission to Menelik, chap. xvi., 1898).

The Abyssinian character reflects the country’s history. Murders and executions are frequent, yet cruelty is not a marked feature of their character; and in war they seldom kill their prisoners. When a man is convicted of murder, he is handed over to the relatives of the deceased, who may either put him to death or accept a ransom. When the murdered person has no relatives, the priests take upon themselves the office of avengers. The natural indolence of the people has been fostered by the constant wars, which have discouraged peaceful occupations. The soldiers live by plunder, the monks by alms. The haughtiest Abyssinian is not above begging, excusing himself with the remark, “God has given us speech for the purpose of begging.” The Abyssinians are vain and selfish, irritable but easily appeased; and are an intelligent bright people, fond of gaiety. On every festive occasion, as a saint’s day, birth, marriage, &c., it is customary for a rich man to collect his friends and neighbours, and kill a cow and one or two sheep. The principal parts of the cow are eaten raw while yet warm and quivering, the remainder being cut into small pieces and cooked with the favourite sauce of butter and red pepper paste. The raw meat eaten in this way is considered to be very superior in taste and much more tender than when cold. The statement by James Bruce respecting the cutting of steaks from a live cow has frequently been called in question, but there can be no doubt that Bruce actually saw what he narrates. Mutton and goat’s flesh are the meats most eaten: pork is avoided on religious grounds, and the hare is never touched, possibly, as in other countries, from superstition. Many forms of game are forbidden; for example, all water-fowl. The principal drinks are mēse, a kind of mead, and bousa, a sort of beer made from fermented cakes. The Abyssinians are heavy eaters and drinkers, and any occasion is seized as an excuse for a carouse. Old and young, of both sexes, pass days and nights in these symposia, at which special customs and rules prevail. Little bread is eaten, the Abyssinian preferring a thin cake of durra meal or teff, kneaded with water and exposed to the sun till the dough begins to rise, when it is baked. Salt is a luxury; “he eats salt” being said of a spendthrift. Bars of rock-salt, after serving as coins, are, when broken up, used as food. There is a general looseness of morals: marriage is a very slight tie, which can be dissolved at any time by either husband or wife. Polygamy is by no means uncommon. Hence there is little family affection, and what exists is only between children of the same father and mother. Children of the same father, but of different mothers, are said to be “always enemies to each other.” (Samuel Gobat’s Journal of a Three Years’ Residence in Abyssinia, 1834.)

The dress of the Abyssinians is much like that of the Arabs. It consists of close-fitting drawers reaching below the knees, with a sash to hold them, and a large white robe. The Abyssinian, however, is beginning to adopt European clothes on the upper part of the body, and European hats are becoming common. The Christian Abyssinians usually go barehead and barefoot, in contrast to the Mahommedans, who wear turbans and leather sandals. The women’s dress is a smock with sleeves loose to the wrist, where they fit tightly. The priests wear a white jacket with loose sleeves, a head-cloth like a turban and a special type of shoe with turned-up toes and soles projecting at the heel. In the Woldeba district hermits dress in ochre-yellow cloths, while the priests of some sects wear hides dyed red. Clothes are made of cotton, though the nobles and great people wear silk robes presented by the emperor as a mark of honour. The possessor of one of these is allowed to appear in the royal presence wearing it instead of having one shoulder bared, as is the usual Abyssinian method of showing respect. A high-born man covers himself to the mouth in the presence of inferiors. The men either cut their hair short or plait it; married women plait their hair and wind round the head a black or parti-coloured silk handkerchief; girls wear their hair short. In the hot season no Abyssinian goes without a flag-shaped fan of plaited rushes. The Christian Abyssinians, men and women, wear a blue silk cord round the neck, to which is often attached a crucifix. For ornament women wear silver ankle-rings with bells, silver necklaces and silver or gold rosettes in the ears. Silver rings on fingers and also on toes are common. The women are very fond of strong scents, which are generally oils imported from India and Ceylon. The men scarcely ever appear without a long curved knife, generally they carry shield and spear as well. Although the army has been equipped with modern rifles, the common weapon of the people is the matchlock, and slings are still in use. The original arms were a sickle-shaped sword, spear and shield. The Abyssinians are great hunters and are also clever at taming wild beasts. The nobles hunt antelopes with leopards, and giraffes and ostriches with horse and greyhound. In elephant-hunting iron bullets weighing a quarter of a pound are used; throwing-clubs are employed for small game, and lions are hunted with the spear. Lion skins belong to the emperor, but the slayer keeps a strip to decorate his shield.

Stone and mortar are used in building, but the Abyssinian houses are of the roughest kind, being usually circular huts, ill made and thatched with grass. These huts are sometimes made simply of straw and are surrounded by high thorn hedges, but, in the north, square houses, built in stories, flat-roofed, the roof sometimes laid at the same slope as the hillside, and some with pitched thatched roofs, are common. The inside walls are plastered with cow-dung, clay and finely chopped straw. None of the houses have chimneys, and smoke soon colours the interior a dark brown. Generally the houses are filthy and ill ventilated and swarm with vermin. Drainage and sanitary arrangements do not exist. The caves of the highlands are often used as dwellings. The most remarkable buildings in Abyssinia are certain churches hewn out of the solid rock. The chief native industries are leather-work, embroidery and filigree metal-work; and the weaving of straw mats and baskets is extensively practised. The baskets are particularly well made, and are frequently used to contain milk.

Abyssinian art is crude and is mainly reserved for rough frescoes in the churches. These frescoes, however, often exhibit considerable skill, and are indicative of the lively imagination of their painters. They are in the Byzantine style and the colouring is gaudy. Saints and good people are always depicted full face, the devil and all bad folk are shown in profile. Among the finest frescoes are those in the church of the Holy Trinity at Adowa and those in the church at Kwarata, on the shores of Lake Tsana. The churches are usually circular in form, the walls of stone, the roof thatched.

The chief musical instruments are rough types of trumpets and flutes, drums, tambourines and cymbals, and quadrangular harps.


(12) Abyssinia, or at least the northern portion of it, was included in the tract of country known to the ancients as Ethiopia, the northern limits of which reached at one time to about Syene. The connexion between Egypt and Ethiopia was in early times very intimate, and occasionally the two countries were under the same ruler, so that the arts and civilization of the one naturally found their way into the other. In early times, too, the Hebrews had commercial intercourse with the Ethiopians; and according to Abyssinian tradition the queen of Sheba who visited Solomon was a monarch of their country, and from their son Menelek the kings of Abyssinia claim descent. During the Captivity many of the Jews settled here and brought with them a knowledge of the Jewish religion. Under the Ptolemies, the arts as well as the enterprise of the Greeks entered Ethiopia, and led to the establishment of Greek colonies. A Greek inscription at Adulis, no longer extant, but copied by Cosmas of Alexandria, and preserved in his Topographia Christiana, records that Ptolemy Euergetes, the third of the Greek dynasty in Egypt, invaded the countries on both sides of the Red Sea, and having reduced most of the provinces of Tigré to subjection, returned to the port of Adulis, and there offered sacrifices to Jupiter, Mars and Neptune. Another inscription, not so ancient, found at Axum, states that Aizanas, king of the Axumites, the Homerites, &c., conquered the nation of the Bogos, and returned thanks to his father, the god Mars, for his victory. Out of these Greek colonies appears to have arisen the kingdom of Auxume which flourished from the 1st to the 7th century A.D. and was at one time nearly coextensive with Abyssinia proper. The capital Auxume and the seaport Adulis were then the chief centres of the trade with the interior of Africa in gold dust, ivory, leather, aromatics, &c. At Axum, the site of the ancient capital, many vestiges of its former greatness still exist; and the ruins of Adulis, which was once a seaport on the bay of Annesley, are now about 4 m. from the shore (see Ethiopia, The Axumite Kingdom.)

(13) Christianity was introduced into the country by Frumentius (q.v.), who was consecrated first bishop of Ethiopia by St Athanasius of Alexandria about A.D. 330. From the scanty evidence available it would appear that the new religion at first made little progress, and the Introduction of Christianity.Axumite kings seem to have been among the latest converts. Towards the close of the 5th century a great company of monks are believed to have established themselves in the country. Since that time monachism has been a power among the people and not without its influence on the course of events. In the early part of the 6th century the king of the Homerites, on the opposite coast of the Red Sea, having persecuted the Christians, the emperor Justinian I. requested the king of Auxume, Caleb or El-Esbaha, to avenge their cause. He accordingly collected an army, crossed over into Arabia, and conquered Yemen (c. 525), which remained subject to Ethiopia for about fifty years. This was the most flourishing period in the annals of the country. The Ethiopians possessed the richest part of Arabia, carried on a large trade, which extended as far as India and Ceylon, and were in constant communication with the Greek empire. Their expulsion from Arabia, followed by the conquest of Egypt by the Mahommedans in the middle of the 7th century, changed this state of affairs, and the continued advances of the followers of the Prophet at length cut them off from almost every means of communication with the civilized world; so that, as Gibbon says, “encompassed by the enemies of their religion, the Ethiopians slept for near a thousand years, forgetful of the world by whom they were forgotten.” About A.D. 1000, a Jewish princess, Judith, conceived the design of murdering all the members of the royal family, and of establishing herself in their stead. During the execution of this project, the infant king was carried off by some faithful adherents, and conveyed to Shoa, where his authority was acknowledged, while Judith reigned for forty years over the rest of the kingdom, and transmitted the crown to her descendants. In 1268 the kingdom was restored to the royal house in the person of Yekūnō Amlāk.

(14) Towards the close of the 15th century the Portuguese missions into Abyssinia began. A belief had long prevailed in Europe of the existence of a Christian kingdom in the far east, whose monarch was known as Prester John, and various expeditions had been sent in quest of it. Among others who had engaged in this search was Pedro de Covilham, who Portuguese Influence.arrived in Abyssinia in 1490, and, believing that he had at length reached the far-famed kingdom, presented to the negūs, or emperor of the country, a letter from his master the king of Portugal, addressed to Prester John. Covilham remained in the country, but in 1507 an Armenian named Matthew was sent by the negūs to the king of Portugal to request his aid against the Mahommedans. In 1520 a Portuguese fleet, with Matthew on board, entered the Red Sea in compliance with this request, and an embassy from the fleet visited the negūs, Lebna Dengel Dawit (David) II., and remained in Abyssinia for about six years. One of this embassy was Father Francisco Alvarez, from whom we have the earliest and not the least interesting account of the country. Between 1528 and 1540 armies of Mahommedans, under the renowned general Mahommed Gran (or Granyé, probably a Somali or a Galla), entered Abyssinia from the low country to the south-east, and overran the kingdom, obliging the emperor to take refuge in the mountain fastnesses. In this extremity recourse was again had to the Portuguese. John Bermudez, a subordinate member of the mission of 1520, who had remained in the country after the departure of the embassy, was, according to his own statement (which is untrustworthy), ordained successor to the abuna (archbishop), and sent to Lisbon. Bermudez certainly came to Europe, but with what credentials is not known. Be that as it may, a Portuguese fleet, under the command of Stephen da Gama, was sent from India and arrived at Massawa in February 1541. Here he received an ambassador from the negūs beseeching him to send help against the Moslems, and in the July following a force of 450 musqueteers, under the command of Christopher da Gama, younger brother of the admiral, marched into the interior, and being joined by native troops were at first successful against the enemy; but they were subsequently defeated, and their commander taken prisoner and put to death (August 1542). On the 21st of February 1543, however, Mahommed Granyé was shot in an engagement and his forces totally routed. After this, quarrels arose between the negūs and Bermudez, who had returned to Abyssinia with Christopher da Gama and who now wished the emperor publicly to profess himself a convert to Rome. This the negūs refused to do, and at length Bermudez was obliged to make his way out of the country. The Jesuits who had accompanied or followed the da Gama expedition into Abyssinia, and fixed their headquarters at Fremona (near Adowa), were oppressed and neglected, but not actually expelled. In the beginning of the 17th century Father Pedro Paez arrived at Fremona, a man of great tact and judgment, who soon rose into high favour at court, and gained over the emperor to his faith. He directed the erection of churches, palaces and bridges in different parts of the country, and carried out many useful works. His successor Mendez was a man of much less conciliatory manners, and the feelings of the people became strongly excited against the intruders, till at length, on the death of the negūs Sysenius, Socinius or Seged I., and the accession of his son Fasilidas in 1633, they were all sent out of the country, Visits of Poncet and Bruce.after having had a footing there for nearly a century and a half. The French physician C. J. Poncet, who went there in 1698, via Sennar and the Blue Nile, was the only European that afterwards visited the country before Bruce in 1769. James Bruce’s main object was to discover the sources of the Nile, which he was convinced lay in Abyssinia. Accordingly, leaving Massawa in September 1769, he travelled via Axum to Gondar, where he was well received by King Tekla Haimanot II. He accompanied the king on a warlike expedition round Lake Tsana, moving S. round the eastern shore, crossing the genuine Blue Nile (Abai) close to its point of issue from the lake and returning via the western shore. On a second expedition of his own he proved to his own satisfaction that the river originated some 40 miles S.W. of the lake at a place called Geesh (4th of November 1770). He showed that this river flowed into the lake, and left it by its now well-known outlet. Bruce subsequently returned to Egypt (end of 1772) via Gondar, the upper Atbara, Sennar, the Nile and the Korosko desert (see Bruce, James).

(15) In order to attain a clear view of native Abyssinian history, as distinct from the visits and influence of Europeans, it must be borne in mind that during the last three hundred years, and indeed for a longer period, for the old chroniclers may be trusted to have given a somewhat distorted view of the importance of the particular chieftains with whom they came in contact, the country has been merely a conglomeration of provinces and districts, ill defined, loosely connected and generally at war with each other. Position of the negūs negusti.Of these the chief provinces have been Tigré (northern), Amhara (central) and Shoa (southern). The seat of government, or rather of overlordship, has usually been in Amhara, the ruler of which, calling himself negūs negusti (king of kings, or emperor), has exacted tribute, when he could, from the other provinces. The title of negūs negusti has been to a considerable extent based on the blood in the veins of the claimant. All the emperors have based their claims on their direct descent from Solomon and the queen of Sheba; but it is needless to say that in many, if not in most, cases their success has been due more to the force of their arms than to the purity of their lineage. Some of the rulers of the larger provinces have at times been given, or have given themselves, the title of negūs or king, so that on occasion as many as three, or even more, negūses have been reigning at the same time; and this must be borne in mind by the student of Abyssinian history in order to avoid confusion of rulers. The whole history of the country is in fact one gloomy record of internecine wars, barbaric deeds and unstable governments, of adventurers usurping thrones, only to be themselves unseated, and of raids, rapine and pillage. Into this chaos enter from time to time broad rays of sunshine, the efforts of a few enlightened monarchs to evolve order from disorder, and to supply to their people the blessings of peace and civilization. Bearing these matters in mind, we find that during the 18th century the most prominent and beneficent rulers were the emperor Yesu of Gondar, who died about 1720, Sebastié, negūs of Shoa (1703–1718), Amada Yesus of Shoa, who extended his kingdom and founded Ankober (1743–1774), Tekla Giorgis of Amhara (1770–1798?) and Asfa Nassen of Shoa (1774–1807), the latter being especially renowned as a wise and benevolent monarch. The first years of the 19th century were disturbed by fierce campaigns between Guxa, ras of Gondar, and Wolda Selassié, ras of Tigré, who were both striving for the crown of Guxa’s master, the emperor Eguala Izeion. Wolda Selassié was eventually the victor, and practically ruled the whole country till his death in 1816 at the age of eighty.

(16) Mention must here be made of the first British mission, under Lord Valentia and Mr Henry Salt, which was sent in 1805 to conclude an alliance with Abyssinia, and obtain a port on the Red Sea in case France secured Egypt by dividing up the Turkish empire with Russia. British mission and missionary enterprise.This mission was succeeded by many travellers, missionaries and merchants of all countries, and the stream of Europeans continued until well into Theodore’s reign. For convenience' sake we insert at this point a partial list of missionaries and others who visited the country during the second third of the 19th century—merely calling attention to the fact that their visits were distributed over widely different parts of the country, ruled by distinct lines of monarchs or governors. In 1830 Protestant missionary enterprise was begun by Samuel Gobat and Christian Kugler, who were sent out by the Church Missionary Society, and were well received by the ras of Tigré. Mr Kugler died soon after his arrival, and his place was subsequently supplied by Mr C. W. Isenberg, who was followed by Dr Ludwig Krapf, the discoverer of Mount Kenya, and others. Mr (afterwards Bishop) Gobat proceeded to Gondar, where he also met with a favourable reception. In 1833 he returned to Europe, and published a journal of his residence in Abyssinia. In 1834 Gobat went back to Tigré, but in 1836 ill health compelled him to leave. In 1838 other missionaries were obliged to leave the country, owing to the opposition of the native priests. Messrs Isenberg and Krapf went south, and established themselves at Shoa. The former soon after returned to England, but Mr Krapf remained in Shoa till March 1842, when he removed to Mombasa. Dr E. Ruppell, the German naturalist, visited the country in 1831, and remained nearly two years. M. E. Combes and M. Tamisier arrived at Massawa in 1835, and visited districts which had not been traversed by Europeans since the time of the Portuguese. One who did much at the time to extend our geographical knowledge of the country was Dr C. T. Beke (q.v.), who was there from 1840 to 1843. Mr Mansfield Parkyns was there from 1843 to 1846, and wrote the most interesting book on the country since the time of Bruce. Bishop Gobat having conceived the idea of sending lay missionaries into the country, who would engage in secular occupations as well as carry on missionary work, Dr Krapf returned to Abyssinia in 1855 with Mr Flad as pioneers of that mission; Krapf, however, was not permitted to remain in the country. Six lay workers came out at first, and they were subsequently joined by others. Their secular work, however, appears to have been more valuable to Theodore than their preaching, so that he employed them as workmen to himself, and established them at Gaffat, near his capital. Mr Stern arrived in Abyssinia in 1860, and after a visit to Europe returned in 1863, accompanied by Mr and Mrs Rosenthal.[1]

(17) Wolda Selassié of Tigré was succeeded in 1817, through force of arms, by Sabagadis of Agamé, and the latter, as ras of Tigré, introduced various Englishmen, whom he much admired, into the country. He increased the prosperity of his land considerably, but by so doing roused the jealousy of Ras Marié of Amhara—to whom he had refused tribute—and Ubié, son of Hailo Mariam, a governor of Simen. Rivalry of British and French factions.In an ensuing battle (in January 1831), both Sabagadis and Marié were killed, and Ubié retired to watch events from his own province. Marié was shortly succeeded in the ras-ship of Amhara by Ali, a nephew of Guxa and a Mahommedan. But Ubié, who was aiming at the crown, soon attacked Ras Ali, and after several indecisive campaigns proclaimed himself negūs of Tigré. To him came many French missionaries and travellers, chief of whom were Lieut. Lefebvre, charged (1839) with political and geographical missions, and Captains Galinier and Ferret, who completed for him a useful triangulation and survey of Tigré and Simen (1840–1842). The brothers Antoine and Arnaud d’Abbadie (q.v.) spent ten years (1838–1848) in the country, making scientific investigations of great value, and also involving themselves in the stormy politics of the country. Northern Abyssinia was now divided into two camps, the one, Amhara and Ras Ali, under Protestant British, and the other, Tigré and Ubié, under Roman Catholic French, influence. The latent hostility between the two factions threatened at one time to develop into a religious war, but no serious campaigns took place until Kassa (later Theodore) appeared on the scene.

(18) Lij (=Mr) Kassa was born in Kwara, a small district of Western Amhara, in 1818. His father was a small local chief, and his uncle was governor of the districts of Dembea, Kwara and Chelga between Lake Tsana and the undefined N.W. frontier. He was educated in a monastery, but preferred a more active life, and by his talents Rise of the emperor Theodore.and energy came rapidly to the front. On the death of his uncle he was made chief of Kwara, but in consequence of the arrest of his brother Bilawa by Ras Ali, he raised the standard of revolt against the latter, and, collecting a large force, repeatedly beat the troops that were sent against him by the ras (1841–1847). On one occasion peace was restored by his receiving Tavavich, daughter of Ras Ali, in marriage; and this lady is said to have been a good and wise counsellor during her lifetime. He next turned his arms against the Turks, in the direction of Massawa, but was defeated; and the mother of Ras Ali having insulted him in his fallen condition, he proclaimed his independence. As his power was increasing, to the detriment of both Ras Ali and Ubié, these two princes combined against him, but were heavily defeated by him at Gorgora (on the southern shore of Lake Tsana) in 1853. Ubié retreated to Tigré, and Ras Ali fled to Begemeder, where he eventually died. Kassa now ruled in Amhara, but his ambition was to attain to supreme power, and Growing power of Shoa.he turned his attention to conquering the remaining chief divisions of the country, Gojam, Tigré and Shoa, which still remained unsubdued. Berro, ras of Gojam, in order to save himself, attempted to combine with Tigré, but his army was intercepted by Kassa and totally destroyed, himself being taken prisoner and executed (May 1854). Shortly afterwards Kassa moved against Tigré, defeated Ubié’s forces at Deragié, in Simen (February 1855), took their chief prisoner and proclaimed himself negūs negusti of Ethiopia under the name of Theodore III. He now turned his attention to Shoa.

(19) Retracing our steps for a moment in that direction, we find that in 1813 Sahela (or Sella) Selassié, younger son of the preceding ras, Wassen Seged, had proclaimed himself negūs or king. His reign was long and beneficent. He restored the towns of Debra-Berhan and Angolala, and founded Entotto, the strong stone-built town whose ruins overlook the modern capital, Adis Ababa. In the terrible “famine of St Luke” in 1835, Selassié still further won the hearts of his subjects by his wise measures and personal generosity; and by extending his hospitality to Europeans, he brought his country within the closer ken of civilized European powers. During his reign he received the missions of Major W. Cornwallis Harris, sent by the governor-general of India (1841), and M. Rochet d’Héricourt, sent by Louis Philippe (1843), with both of whom he concluded friendly treaties on behalf of their respective governments. He also wrote to Pope Pius IX., asking that a Roman Catholic bishop should be sent to him. This request was acceded to, and the pope despatched Monsignor Massaja to Shoa. But before the prelate could reach the country, Selassié was dead (1847), leaving his eldest son, Haeli Melicoth, to succeed him. Melicoth at once proclaimed himself negūs, and by sending for Massaja, who had arrived at Gondar, gave rise to the suspicion that he wished to have himself crowned as emperor. By increasing his dominions at the expense of the Gallas, he still further roused the jealousy of the northerners, and a treaty which he concluded with Ras Ali against Kassa in 1850 determined the latter to crush him at the earliest opportunity.

Thus it was that in 1855 Kassa, under the name of the emperor Theodore, advanced against Shoa with a large army. Dissensions broke out among the Shoans, and after a desperate and futile attack on Theodore at Debra-Berhan, Haeli Melicoth died of exhaustion and fever, nominating with his last breath his eleven-year-old son Menelek[2] as successor (November 1855). Darge, Haeli’s brother, took charge of the young prince, but after a hard fight with Angeda, one of Theodore’s rases, was obliged to capitulate. Menelek was handed over to the negūs, taken to Gondar, and there trained in Theodore’s service.

(20) Theodore was now in the zenith of his career. He is described as being generous to excess, free from cupidity, merciful to his vanquished enemies, and strictly continent, but subject to violent bursts of anger and possessed of unyielding pride and fanatical religious zeal. He was also a man of education and intelligence, superior to those among whom he lived, with natural talents for governing and gaining the esteem of others. He had, further, a noble bearing and majestic walk, a frame capable of enduring any amount of fatigue, and is said to have been “the best shot, the best spearman, the best runner, and the best horseman in Abyssinia.” Had he contented himself with the sovereignty of Amhara and Tigré, he might have maintained his position; but he was led to exhaust his strength against the Wollo Gallas, which was probably one of the chief causes of his ruin. He obtained several victories over that people, ravaged their country, took possession of Magdala, which he afterwards made his principal stronghold, and enlisted many of the chiefs and their followers in his own ranks. As has been shown, he also reduced the kingdom of Shoa, and took Ankober, the capital; but in the meantime his own people were groaning under his heavy exactions, rebellions were breaking out in various parts of his provinces, and his good queen Tavavich was now dead.

The British consul, Walter C. Plowden, who was strongly attached to Theodore, having been ordered by his government in 1860 to return to Massawa, was attacked on his way by a rebel named Garred, mortally wounded, and taken prisoner. Theodore attacked the rebels, Theodore’s quarrel
with Great Britain.
and in the action the murderer of Mr Plowden was slain by his friend and companion Mr J. T. Bell, an engineer, but the latter lost his life in preserving that of Theodore. The deaths of the two Englishmen were terribly avenged by the slaughter or mutilation of nearly 2000 rebels. Theodore soon after married his second wife Terunish, the proud daughter of the late governor of Tigré, who felt neither affection nor respect for the upstart who had dethroned her father, and the union was by no means a happy one. In 1862 he made a second expedition against the Gallas, which was stained with atrocious cruelties. Theodore had now given himself up to intoxication and lust. When the news of Mr Plowden’s death reached England, Captain C. D. Cameron was appointed to succeed him as consul, and arrived at Massawa in February 1862. He proceeded to the camp of the king, to whom he presented a rifle, a pair of pistols and a letter in the queen’s name. In October Captain Cameron was sent home by Theodore, with a letter to the queen of England, which reached the Foreign Office on the 12th of February 1863. This letter was put aside and no answer returned, and to this in no small degree are to be attributed the difficulties that subsequently arose with that country. In November despatches were received from England, but no answer to the emperor’s letter, and this, together with a visit paid by Captain Cameron to the Egyptian frontier town of Kassala, greatly offended him; accordingly in January 1864 Captain Cameron and his suite, with Messrs Stern and Rosenthal, were cast into prison. When the news of this reached England, the government resolved, when too late, to send an answer to the emperor’s letter, and selected Mr Hormuzd Rassam to be its bearer. He arrived at Massawa in July 1864, and immediately despatched a messenger requesting permission to present himself before the emperor. Neither to this nor a subsequent application was any answer returned till August 1865, when a curt note was received, stating that Consul Cameron had been released, and if Mr Rassam still desired to visit the king, he was to proceed by the route of Gallabat. Later in the year Theodore became more civil, and the British party on arrival at the king’s camp in Damot, on the 25th of January 1866, were received with all honour, and were afterwards sent to Kwarata, on Lake Tsana, there to await the arrival of the captives. The latter reached Kwarata on the 12th of March, and everything appeared to proceed favourably. A month later they started for the coast, but had not proceeded far when they were all brought back and put into confinement. Theodore then wrote a letter to the queen, requesting European workmen and machinery to be sent to him, and despatched it by Mr Flad. The Europeans, although detained as prisoners, were not at first unkindly treated; but in the end of June they were sent to Magdala, where they were soon afterwards put in chains. They suffered hunger, cold and misery, and were in constant fear of death, till the spring of 1868 when they were relieved by the British troops.

(21) In the meantime the power of Theodore in the country was rapidly waning. Shoa had already shaken off his yoke; Gojam was virtually independent; Walkeit and Simen were under a rebel chief; and Lasta, Waag and the country about Lake Ashangi had submitted to Wagshum Gobassié, who had also overrun Tigré and appointed Dejaj Kassai his governor. The latter, however, in 1867 rebelled against his master and assumed the supreme power of that province. This was the state of matters when the English troops made their appearance in the country. With a view if possible to effect the release of the prisoners by conciliatory measures, Mr Flad was sent back, with some artisans and machinery, and a letter from the queen, stating that these would be handed over to his majesty on the release of the prisoners and their return to Massawa. This, however, failed to influence the emperor, and the English government at length saw that they must have recourse to arms. In July 1867, therefore, it was resolved to send an army into Abyssinia to enforce the release of the captives, under Sir Robert Napier (1st Baron Napier of Magdala). The landing-place selected was Mulkutto (Zula), on Annesley Bay, the point of the coast nearest to the site of the ancient Adulis, and we are told that “the pioneers of the English expedition followed to some extent in the footsteps of the adventurous Sir Robert Napier’s expedition.soldiers of Ptolemy, and met with a few faint traces of this old-world enterprise” (C. R. Markham). The force amounted to upwards of 16,000 men, besides 12,640 belonging to the transport service, and followers, making in all upwards of 32,000 men. The task to be accomplished was to march over 400  miles of a mountainous and little-known country, inhabited by savage tribes, to the camp or fortress of Theodore, and compel him to deliver up his captives. The commander-in-chief landed on the 7th of January 1868, and soon after the troops began to move forward through the pass of Senafé, and southward through the districts of Agamé, Tera, Endarta, Wojerat, Lasta and Wadela. In the meantime Theodore had been reduced to great straits. His army, which at one time numbered over 100,000 men, was rapidly deserting him, and he could hardly obtain food for his followers. He resolved to quit his capital Debra-Tabor, which he burned, and set out with the remains of his army for Magdala. During this march he displayed an amount of engineering skill in the construction of roads, of military talent and fertility of resource, that excited the admiration and astonishment of his enemies. On the afternoon of the 10th of April a force of about 3000 men suddenly poured down upon the English in the plain of Arogié, a few miles from Magdala. They advanced again and again to the charge, but were each time driven back, and finally retired in good order. Early next morning Theodore sent Lieut. Prideaux, one of the captives, and Mr Flad, accompanied by a native chief, to the English camp to sue for peace. Answer was returned, that if he would deliver up all the Europeans in his hands, and submit to the queen of England, he would receive honourable treatment. The captives were liberated and sent away, and accompanying a letter to the English general was a present of 1000 cows and 500 sheep, the acceptance of which would, according to Eastern custom, imply that peace was granted. Through some misunderstanding, word was sent to Theodore that the present would be accepted, and he felt that he was now safe; but in the evening he learned that it had not been received, and despair again seized him. Early next morning he attempted to escape with a few of his followers, but subsequently returned. The same day (13th April) Magdala was stormed and taken, practically without loss, and within they found the dead body of the emperor, who had fallen by his own hand. The inhabitants and troops were subsequently sent away, the fortifications destroyed and the town burned. The queen Terunish having expressed her wish to go back to her own country, accompanied the British army, but died during the march, and her son Alamayahu, the only legitimate son of the emperor, was brought to England, as this was the desire of his father.[3] The success of the expedition was in no small degree owing to the aid afforded by the several native chiefs through whose country it passed, and no one did more in this way than Dejaj Kassa or Kassai of Tigré. In acknowledgment of this, several pieces of ordnance, small arms and ammunition, with much of the surplus stores, were handed over to him, and the English troops left the country in May 1868.

(22) It is now time to return to the story of the young prince Menelek, who, as we have seen, had been nominated by his late father as ruler of Shoa, but was in Theodore’s power in Tigré. The following table shows his descent since the beginning of the 19th century:—Menelek II., king of Shoa.

 Asfa Nassen, d. 1807
Wassan Seged
d. 1811
Woizero Zenebe Work
Sella Selassié
Woizero Betsabesh
Haeli Melicoth
  b. 1827  
Menelek II.
b. 1844
1 son
Tanina Work

On the retirement of Theodore’s forces from Shoa in 1855, Siefu, brother of Haeli Melicoth, proclaimed himself negūs of Shoa at Ankober, and beat the local representatives of the northern government. The emperor returned, however, in 1858, and after several repulses succeeded in entering Ankober, where he behaved with great cruelty, murdering or mutilating all the inhabitants. Siefu kept up a gallant defence for two more years, but was then killed by Kebret, one of his own chiefs. Thus chaos again reigned supreme in Shoa. In 1865, Menelek, now a dejazmach[4] of Tigré, took advantage of Theodore’s difficulties with the British government and escaped to Workitu, queen of the Wollo Galla country. The emperor, who held as hostage a son of Workitu, threatened to kill the boy unless Menelek were given up; but the gallant queen refused, and lost both her son and her throne. The fugitive meanwhile arrived safely in Shoa, and was there acclaimed as negūs. For the next three years Menelek devoted himself to strengthening and disciplining his army, to legislation, to building towns, such as Liché (near Debra-Berhan), Worra Hailu (Wollo Galla country), &c., and to repelling the incursions of the Gallas. On the death of Theodore (13th April 1868) many Shoans, including Ras Dargé, were released, and Menelek began to feel himself strong King John attains supreme power.enough, after a few preliminary minor campaigns, to undertake offensive operations against the northern princes. But these projects were of little avail, for Kassai of Tigré, as above mentioned, had by this time (1872) risen to supreme power in the north. With the help of the rifles and guns presented to him by the British, he had beaten Ras Bareya of Tigré, Wagshum Gobassié of Amhara and Tekla Giorgis of Gondar, and after proclaiming himself negūs negusti under the name of Johannes or John, was now preparing to march on Shoa. Here, however, Menelek was saved from probable destruction through the action of Egypt. This power had, by the advice of Werner Munzinger (q.v.), their Swiss governor of Massawa, seized and occupied in 1872 the northern province of Bogos; and, later on, insisted on occupying Hamasen also, for fear Bogos should be attacked. John, after futile protests, collected an army, and with the assistance of Ras Walad Michael, hereditary chief of Bogos, advanced against the Egyptian forces, who were under the command of one Arendrup, a Dane. Meeting near the Mareb, the Egyptians were beaten in detail, and almost annihilated at Gundet (13th November 1875). An avenging expedition was prepared in the spring of the following year, and, numbering 14,000 men under Ratib Pasha, Loring (American), and Prince Hassan, advanced to Gura and fortified a position in the neighbourhood. Although reinforced by Walad Michael, who had now quarrelled with John, the Egyptians were a second time (25th March 1876) heavily beaten by the Abyssinians, and retired, losing an enormous quantity of both men and rifles. Colonel C. G. Gordon, governor-general of the Sudan, was now ordered to go and make peace with John, but the king had moved south with his army, intending to punish Menelek for having raided Gondar whilst he, John, was engaged with the Egyptians.

(23) Menelek’s kingdom was meanwhile torn in twain by serious dissensions, which had been instigated by his concubine Bafana. This lady, to whom he was much attached, had been endeavouring to secure the succession of one of her own sons to the throne of Shoa, and had almost succeeded in getting rid of Mashasha, son of Siefu and cousin of Menelek, who was the apparent heir. On the approach of John, the Shoans united for a time against their common enemy. But after a few skirmishes they melted away, and Menelek was obliged to submit and do obeisance to John. The latter behaved with much generosity, but at the same time imposed terms which effectually deprived Shoa of her independence (March 1878). In 1879 Gordon was sent on a fresh mission to John on behalf of Egypt; but he was treated with scant courtesy, and was obliged to leave the country without achieving anything permanent.

The Italians now come on the scene. Assab, a port near the southern entrance of the Red Sea, had been bought from the local sultan in March 1870 by an Italian company, which, after acquiring more land in 1879 and 1880, was bought out by the Italian government in 1882. In this year Count Pietro Antonelli was despatched to Beginning
of Italian influence.
Shoa in order to improve the prospects of the colony by treaties with Menelek and the sultan of Aussa. Several missions followed upon this one, with more or less successful results; but both John and Menelek became uneasy when Beilul, a port to the north of Assab Bay, was occupied by the Italians in January 1885, and Massawa taken over by them from Egypt in the following month. This latter act was greatly resented by the Abyssinians, for by a treaty concluded with a British and Egyptian mission under Admiral Hewett and Mason Pasha[5] in the previous year, free transit of goods was to be allowed through this port. Matters came to a head in January 1887, when the Abyssinians, in consequence of a refusal from General Gené to withdraw his troops, surrounded and attacked a detachment of 500 Italian troops at Dogali, killing more than 400 of them. Reinforcements were sent from Italy, whilst in the autumn the British government stepped in and tried to mediate by means of a mission under Mr (afterwards Sir Gerald) Portal. His mission, however proved abortive, and after many difficulties and dangers he returned to Egypt at the end of the year. In April 1888 the Italian forces, numbering over 20,000 men, came into touch with the Abyssinian army; but negotiations took the place of fighting, with the result that both forces retired, the Italians only leaving some 5000 troops in Eritrea, as their colony was now called. Meanwhile John had not been idle with regard to the dervishes, who had in the meantime become masters of the Egyptian Sudan. Although he had set his troops in motion too late to relieve Kassala, Ras Alula, his chief general, had succeeded in inflicting a handsome defeat on Osman Digna at Kufit in September 1885. Fighting between the dervishes and the Abyssinians continued, and in August 1887 the dervishes entered and sacked Gondar. After some delay, King John took the field in force against the enemy, who were still harassing the north-west of his territory. A great battle ensued at Gallabat, in which the dervishes, under Zeki Tumal, were beaten. But a stray bullet struck the king, and the Abyssinians decided to retire. The king died during the night, and his body fell into the hands of the enemy (9th March 1889).

(24) Immediately the news of John’s death reached Menelek, he proclaimed himself emperor, and received the submission of Gondar, Gojam and several other provinces. In common with other northern princes, Mangasha, reputed son and heir of King John, with the yellow-eyed Ras Alula,[6] refused to acknowledge the sovereignty of Menelek emperor.Menelek; but, on the latter marching against them in the following January with a large army, they submitted. As it happened, Count Antonelli was with Menelek when he claimed the throne, and promptly concluded (2nd of May 1889) with him on behalf of Italy a friendly treaty, to be known hereafter as the famous Uccialli treaty. In consequence of this the Italians occupied Asmara, made friends with Mangasha and received Ras Makonnen,[7] Menelek’s nephew, as his plenipotentiary in Italy. Thus it seemed as though hostilities between the two countries had come to a definite end, and that peace was assured in the land. For the next three years the land was fairly quiet, the chief political events being the convention (6th February 1891) between Italy and Abyssinia, protocols between Italy and Great Britain (24th March and 15th April 1891) and a proclamation by Menelek (10th April 1891), all on the subject of boundaries. As, however, the Italians became more and more friendly with Mangasha and Tigré the apprehensions of Menelek increased, till at last, in February 1893, he wrote denouncing the Uccialli treaty, which differed in the Italian and Amharic versions. According to the former, the negūs was bound to make use of Italy as a channel for communicating with other powers, whereas the Amharic version left it optional. Meanwhile the dervishes were threatening Eritrea. A fine action by Colonel Arimondi gained Agordat for Italy (21st December 1893), and a brilliant march by Colonel Baratieri resulted in the acquisition of Kassala (17th July 1894).

On his return Baratieri found that Mangasha was intriguing with the dervishes, and had actually crossed the frontier with a large army. At Koatit and Senafé (13th to 15th January 1895) Mangasha was met and heavily defeated by Baratieri, who occupied Adrigat in March. But as the year wore on the Italian commander pushed his forces unsupported too far to the south. Menelek was advancing with a large army in national support of Mangasha, and the subsequent reverses at Amba Alagi (7th December 1895) and Macalle (23rd January 1896) forced the Italians to fall back.

Reinforcements of many thousands were meanwhile arriving at Massawa, and in February Baratieri took the field at the head of over 13,000 men. Menelek’s army, amounting to about 90,000, had during this time advanced, and was occupying a strong position at Abba Garima, near Adua (or Adowa). Here Baratieri attacked him on the Battle of Adowa.1st of March, but the difficulties of the country were great, and one of the four Italian brigades had pushed too far forward. This brigade was attacked by overwhelming numbers, and on the remaining brigades advancing in support, they were successively cut to pieces by the encircling masses of the enemy. The Italians lost over 4500 white and 2000 native troops killed and wounded, and over 2500 prisoners, of which 1600 were white, whilst the Abyssinians owned to a loss of over 3000. General Baldissera advanced with a large body of reinforcements to avenge this defeat, but the Abyssinians, desperately short of supplies, had already retired, and beyond the peaceful relief of Adrigat no further operations took place. It may here be remarked that the white prisoners taken by Menelek were exceedingly well treated by him, and that he behaved throughout the struggle with Italy with the greatest humanity and dignity. On the 26th of October following a provisional treaty of peace was concluded at Adis Ababa, annulling the treaty of Uccialli and recognizing the absolute independence of Abyssinia. This treaty was ratified, and followed by other treaties and agreements defining the Eritrean-Abyssinian and the Abyssinian-Italian Somaliland frontiers (see Italy, History, and Somaliland, Italian).

(25) The war, so disastrous to Italy, attracted the attention of all Europe to Abyssinia and its monarch, and numerous missions, two Russian, three French and one British, were despatched to the country, and hospitably received by Menelek. The British one, under Mr (afterwards Sir) Menelek as independent monarch.Rennell Rodd, concluded a friendly treaty with Abyssinia (15th of May 1897), but did not, except in the direction of Somaliland, touch on frontier questions, which for several years continued a subject of discussion. During the same year (1897) a small French expedition under Messrs Clochette and de Bonchamps endeavoured to reach the Nile, but, after surmounting many difficulties, stuck in the marshes of the Upper Sobat, and was obliged to return. Another expedition of Abyssinians, under Dejaj Tasamma and accompanied by three Europeans—Faivre (French), Potter (Swiss) and Artomonov (Russian)—started early in 1898, and reached the Nile at the Sobat mouth in June, a few days only before Major Marchand and his gallant companions arrived on the scene. But no contact was made, and the expedition returned to Abyssinia.

In the same year Menelek proceeded northwards with a large army for the purpose of chastising Mangasha, who was again rebelling against his authority. After some trifling fighting Mangasha submitted, and Ras Makonnen despatched a force to subdue Beni Shangul, the chief of which gold country, Wad Tur el Guri, was showing signs of disaffection. This effected, the Abyssinians almost came into contact with the Egyptian troops sent up the Blue Nile (after the occupation of Khartum) to Famaka and towards Gallabat; but as both sides were anxious to avoid a collision over this latter town, no hostile results ensued. An excellent understanding was, in fact, established between these two contiguous countries, in spite of occasional disturbances by bandits on the frontier. On this frontier question, a treaty was concluded on the 15th of May 1902 between England and Abyssinia for the delimitation of the Sudan-Abyssinian frontier. Menelek, in addition, agreed not to obstruct the waters of Lake Tsana, the Blue Nile or the Sobat, so as not to interfere with the Nile irrigation question, and he also agreed to give a concession, if such should be required, for the construction of a British railway through his dominions, to connect the Sudan with Uganda. A combined British-Abyssinian expedition (Mr A. E. Butter’s) was despatched in 1901 to propose and survey a boundary between Abyssinia on the one side and British East Africa and Uganda on the other; and the report of the expedition was made public by the British government in November 1904. It was followed in 1908 by an agreement defining the frontiers concerned.

(26) In 1899 the rebellion of the so-called “mad” mullah (Hajji Mahommed Abdullah) began on the borders of British Somaliland. An Abyssinian expedition was, at Great Britain’s request, sent against the mullah, but without much effect. In the spring and summer of 1901 a fresh expedition from Harrar was Co-operation with Britain against the Somali mullah.undertaken against the mullah, who was laying waste the Ogaden country. Two British officers accompanied this force, which was to co-operate with British troops advancing from Somaliland; but little was achieved by the Abyssinians, and after undergoing considerable privations and losses, and harassing the country generally, including that of some friendly tribes, it returned to Harrar. During the 1902–3 campaign of General (Sir) W. H. Manning, Menelek provided a force of 5000 to co-operate with the British and to occupy the Webi Shebeli and south-western parts of the Haud. This time the Abyssinians were more successful, and beat the rebels in a pitched fight; but the difficulties of the country again precluded effective co-operation. During General Egerton’s campaign (1903–4) yet another force of 5000 Abyssinians was despatched towards Somaliland. Accompanied by a few British officers, it worked its way southward, but did not contribute much towards the final solution. In any case, however, it is significant that the Abyssinians have repeatedly been willing to co-operate with the British away from their own country.

Regarding the question of railways, the first concession for a railway from the coast at Jibuti (French Somaliland) to the interior was granted by Menelek to a French company in 1894. The company having met with numberless difficulties and financial troubles, the French government, on the extinction of the company’s funds, came Growth of European influence.to the rescue and provided money for the construction. (In the alternative British capitalists interested in the company would have obtained control of the line.) The French government’s help enabled the railway to be completed to Dire Dawa, 28 m. from Harrar, by the last day of 1902. Difficulties arose over the continuation of the railway to Adis Ababa and beyond, and the proposed internationalization of the line. These difficulties, which hindered the work of construction for years, were composed (so far as the European Powers interested were concerned) in 1906. By the terms of an Anglo-French-Italian agreement, signed in London on the 13th of December of that year, it was decided that the French company should build the railway as far as Adis Ababa, while railway construction west of that place should be under British auspices, with the stipulation that any railway connecting Italy’s possessions on the Red Sea with its Somaliland protectorate should be built under Italian auspices. A British, an Italian and an Abyssinian representative were to be appointed to the board of the French company, and a French director to the board of any British or Italian company formed. Absolute equality of treatment on the railway and at Jibuti was guaranteed to the commerce of all the Powers.

Meanwhile the country slowly developed in parts and opened out cautiously to European influences. Most of the Powers appointed representatives at Menelek’s capital—the British minister-plenipotentiary and consul-general, Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. L. Harrington, having been appointed shortly after the British mission in 1897. In December 1903 an American mission visited Adis Ababa, and a commercial treaty between the United States and Abyssinia was signed. A German mission visited the country early in 1905 and also concluded a treaty of commerce with the negūs. Later in the year a German minister was appointed to the court of the emperor.

After 1897 British influence in Abyssinia, owing largely no doubt to the conquest of the Sudan, the destruction of the dervish power and the result of the Fashoda incident, was sensibly on the increase. Of the remaining powers France occupied the most important position in the country. Ras Makonnen, the most capable and civilized of Menelek’s probable successors, died in March 1906, and Mangasha died later in the same year; the question of the succession therefore opened up the possibility that, in spite of recent civilizing influences, Abyssinia might still relapse in the future into its old state of conflict. The Anglo-French-Italian agreement of December 1906 contained provisions in view of this contingency. The preamble of the document declared that it was the common interest of the three Powers “to maintain intact the integrity of Ethiopia,” and Article I. provided for their co-operation in maintaining “the political and territorial status quo in Ethiopia.” Should, however, the status quo be disturbed, the powers were to concert to safeguard their special interests. The terms of the agreement were settled in July 1906, and its text forthwith communicated to the negūs. After considerable hesitation Menelek sent, early in December, a note to the powers, in which, after thanking them for their intentions, he stipulated that the agreement should not in any way limit his own sovereign rights. In June 1908, by the nomination of his grandson, Lij Yasu (b. 1896), as his heir, the emperor endeavoured to end the rivalry between various princes claiming the succession to the throne. (See Menelek.) A convention with Italy, concluded in the same year, settled the frontier questions outstanding with that country.  (G.*) 

Bibliography.—For general information see A. B. Wylde’s Modern Abyssinia (London, 1901), a volume giving the result of many years’ acquaintance with the country and people; Voyage en Abyssinie . . . 1839–43, par une commission scientifique, by Th. Lefebvre and others (6 vols. and atlas, 3 vols., Paris, 1845–54); Elisée Reclus, Nouvelle géographie universelle, vol. x. chap. v. (Paris, 1885). For latest geographical and kindred information consult the Geographical Journal (London), especially “A Journey through Abyssinia,” vol. xv. (1900), and “Exploration in the Abai Basin,” vol. xxvii. (1906), both by H. Weld Blundell, and “From the Somali Coast through S. Ethiopia to the Sudan,” vol. xx. (1902), by C. Neumann; Antoine d’Abbadie, Géographie de l’Ethiopie (Paris, 1890). The British parliamentary paper Africa, No. 13 (1904), is a report on the survey of the S.E. frontier by Capt. P. Maud, R.E., and contains a valuable map. For geology, &c., see W. T. Blanford, Observations on the Geology and Zoology of Abyssinia (London, 1870); C. Futterer, “Beiträge zur Kenntniss des Jura in Ost-Afrika,” Zeit. Deutsch. Geol. Gesell. xlix. p. 568 (1897); C. A. Raisin, “Rocks from Southern Abyssinia,” Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc. vol. lix. pp. 292-306 (1903).

Among works by travellers describing the country are—James Bruce’s Travels to discover the Source of the Nile [1768–1773] (Edinburgh, 1813, 3rd ed., 8 vols.); The Highlands of Aethiopia (3 vols., London, 1844), by Sir W. Cornwallis Harris, dealing with the Danakil country, Harrar and Shoa; Mansfield Parkyns, Life in Abyssinia; being notes collected during three years’ residence and travels (2nd ed., London, 1868); Antoine d’Abbadie, Douze ans dans La Haute-Ethiopie (Paris, 1868); P. H. G. Powell-Cotton, A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia (London, 1902); A. Donaldson Smith, Through Unknown African Countries (London, 1897); M. S. Wellby, ’Twixt Sirdar and Menelik (London, 1901). For history see—A. M. H. J. Stokvis’ Manuel d’histoire, vol. i. pp. 439-46, and vol. ii. pp. lxxiv-v (Leiden, 1888–89), which contains lists of the sovereigns of Abyssinia, Shoa and Harrar, from the earliest times, with brief notes. Texts of treaties between Abyssinia and the European Powers up to 1896 will be found in vol. i. of Sir E. Hertslet’s The Map of Africa by Treaty (London, 1896). L. J. Morié’s Histoire de l’Ethiopie: Tome ii, “L’Abyssinie” (Paris, 1904), is a comprehensive survey (the views on modern affairs being coloured by a strong anti-British bias). For more detailed historical study consult C. Beccari’s Notizia e Saggi di opere e documenti inediti riguardanti la Storia di Etiopia durante i Secoli XVI., XVII. e XVIII. (Rome, 1903), a valuable guide to the period indicated; E. Glaser, Die Abessinier in Arabien und Afrika (Munich, 1895); The Portuguese Expedition to Abyssinia in 1541–1543 as narrated by Castanhoso (with the account of Bermudez), translated and edited by R. S. Whiteway (London, Hakluyt Society, 1902), which contains a bibliography; Futuh el-Habacha, a contemporary Arab chronicle of the wars of Mahommed Gran, translated into French by Antoine d’Abbadie and P. Paulitschke (Paris,1898); A Voyage to Abyssinia by Father Jerome Lobo, from the French [by Samuel Johnson] (London, 1735); Record of the Expedition to Abyssinia, 3 vols., an official history of the war of 1868, by Major T. J. Holland and Capt. H. Hozier (London, 1870); Hormuzd Rassam, Narrative of the British Mission to Theodore [1865–1868] (2 vols., London, 1869); Henry Blanc, A Narrative of Captivity in Abyssinia (London, 1868), by one of Theodore’s prisoners; Sir Gerald H. Portal, My Mission to Abyssinia (London, 1892), an account of the author’s embassy to King John in 1887; Count A. E. W. Gleichen, With the Mission to Menelik, 1897 (London, 1898), containing the story of the Rennell Rodd mission; R. P. Skinner, Abyssinia of To-Day (London, 1906), a record of the first American mission to the country; G. F. H. Berkeley, The Campaign of Adowa and the Rise of Menelik (London, 1902). Books dealing with missionary enterprise are—Journal of a Three Years’ Residence in Abyssinia, by Bishop Samuel Gobat (London, 1834); J. L. Krapf, Travels, Researches and Missionary Labours during an 18 years’ residence in Eastern Africa (London, 1860); Cardinal G. Massaja, I miei Trentacinque anni di Missione nell’ Alta Etiopia (10 vols., Milan, 1886–1893). Political questions are referred to by T. Lennox Gilmour, Abyssinia: the Ethiopian Railway and the Powers (London, 1906); H. le Roux, Menelik et nous (Paris, 1901); Charles Michel, La question d’Ethiopie (Paris, 1905).  (F. R. C.) 

  1. Since Theodore’s time Protestant missionary work, except by natives, has been stopped.
  2. Menelek means “a second self.”
  3. He was subsequently sent to school at Rugby, but died in his nineteenth year, on the 14th of November 1879. He was buried at St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
  4. A title variously translated. A dejazmach (dejaj ) is a high official, ranking immediately below a ras.
  5. The main object of this mission was to seek John’s assistance in evacuating the Egyptian garrisons in the Sudan, which were threatened by the dervishes.
  6. Ras Alula died February 1897, aged about 52. He had raised himself by his military talents from being a groom and private soldier to the position of generalissimo of the army.
  7. Ras of Harrar, which province had been conquered and occupied by Menelek in January 1887.