Posted by Liya Nuru on
What is Ethiopia's Middle Ages?
The Zagwe dynasty ruled many parts of modern Ethiopia and Eritrea from approximately 1137 to 1270. The name of the dynasty is derived from the Cushitic-speaking Agaw of northern Ethiopia. From 1270 AD onwards for many centuries, the Solomonic dynasty ruled the Ethiopian Empire.
In the early 15th century, Ethiopia sought to make diplomatic contact with European kingdoms for the first time since Aksumite times. A letter from King Henry IV of England to the Emperor of Abyssinia survives. In 1428, the Emperor Yeshaq sent two emissaries to Alfonso V of Aragon, who sent return emissaries. They failed to complete the return trip. The first continuous relations with a European country began in 1508 with Portugal under Emperor Lebna Dengel, who had just inherited the throne from his father.
This proved to be an important development, for when the Empire was subjected to the attacks of the Adal General and Imam, Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi (called "Grañ", or "the Left-handed"), Portugal assisted the Ethiopian emperor by sending weapons and four hundred men, who helped his son Gelawdewos defeat Ahmad and re-establish his rule. This Ethiopian–Adal War was also one of the first proxy wars in the region as the Ottoman Empire and Portugal took sides in the conflict.
When Emperor Susenyos I converted to Roman Catholicism in 1624, years of revolt and civil unrest followed, resulting in thousands of deaths. The Jesuit missionaries had offended the Orthodox faith of the local Ethiopians. On 25 June 1632 Emperor Fasilides, Susenyos's son, declared the state religion again to be Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity. He expelled the Jesuit missionaries and other Europeans.
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