Posted by Stephanie Baker on
Between 1755 to 1855, Ethiopia experienced a period of isolation referred to as the Zemene Mesafint or "Age of Princes". The Emperors became figureheads, controlled by warlords like Ras Mikael Sehul of Tigray, Ras Wolde Selassie of Tigray, and by the Oromo Yejju dynasty, such as Ras Gugsa of Begemder, which later led to 17th century Oromo rule of Gondar, changing the language of the court from Amharic to Afaan Oromo.
Emperor Tewodros II's rule is often placed as the beginning of modern Ethiopia, ending the decentralized Zemene Mesafint (Era of the Princes).
Ethiopian isolationism ended following a British mission that concluded an alliance between the two nations; however, it was not until 1855 that Ethiopia was completely united and the power in the Emperor restored, beginning with the reign of Emperor Tewodros II. Upon his ascent, despite still large centrifugal forces, he began modernizing Ethiopia and recentralizing power in the Emperor, and Ethiopia began to take part in world affairs once again.
But Tewodros suffered several rebellions inside his empire. Northern Oromo militias, Tigrayan rebellion and the constant incursion of Ottoman Empire and Egyptian forces near the Red Sea brought the weakening and the final downfall of Emperor Tewodros II, who committed suicide in 1868 after his last battle with a British expeditionary force.
After Tewodros' death, Tekle Giyorgis II was proclaimed Emperor. However, he was later defeated in the Battles of Zulawu (21 June 1871) and Adua (11 July 1871) by Dejazmach Kassai with the aid of John Kirkham, a British advisor who had trained his troops with modern weapons. Tekle Giyorgis was captured and deposed and Kassai was declared Emperor Yohannes IV on 21 January 1872. In 1875 and 1876, Turkish/Egyptian forces, accompanied by many European and American 'advisors', twice invaded Abyssinia but were initially defeated at the Battle of Gundet losing 800 men, and then following the second invasion, decisively defeated by Emperor Yohannes IV at the Battle of Gura on 7 March 1875, losing at least 3000 killed or captured. From 1885 to 1889 Ethiopia joined the Mahdist War allied to Britain, Turkey and Egypt against the Sudanese Mahdist State. On 10 March 1889 Yonannes IV was killed whilst leading his army in the Battle of Gallabat (also called Battle of Metemma).
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