Abyssinia, From Solomon to Selassie

MENELIK II
Menelik II

Abyssinia rulers take their origin from King Solomon. Menelik I, also known as Ebna la-Hakim (“Son of the Wise”[) was the first Solomonic Emperor of Ethiopia, who is traditionally believed to be the son of Solomon of ancient Israel and Makeda, the ancient Queen of Sheba. Menelik is believed to have ruled around 950 BC, and tradition credits him with bringing of the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia, following a visit to Jerusalem to meet his father.

King Solomon intended to send one son of each of his nobles, and one son of each temple priests with Menelik on his return to his mother’s kingdom.  Menelik is supposed to have made a replica of the Ark to take with him on his mission. Upon the death of Queen Makeda, Menelik assumed the throne with the new title of Emperor and King of Kings of Ethiopia. The Solomonic dynasty ruled Ethiopia through 225 generations, except for a few interruptions, for three thousand years.

MENELIK COINSThe Abyssinian Emperor Menelik II  (1844 –  1913) was  baptized as Sahle Maryam, his birth name being Negus of Shewa (1866–89). He was later raised to the status of Nəgusä Nägäst (King of Kings)  from 1889 to his death.  Earlier at the zenith of his rule in 1898 Menelik had expanded his territory and created a modern empire, thus restoring the ancient Ethiopia to its past glory of Axumite Empire which was one of the four most powerful kingdoms of the ancient world.

Menelik’s victory over the Italian invaders at Adwa in 1896 earned him great fame.  Colonial Italy was defeated resoundingly by Ethiopia in one of the greatest battles in the history of Africa. This victory over Italy at the Battle of Adwa  came at a time when almost all of Africa was colonized by European powers. Emperor Menelik is credited with rallying his fellow Ethiopians behind him to fight back fiercely enough so as to deliver an unimaginable victory against the so called powerful and mighty forces of a European army.

In 1889 Menelik proclaimed that the territories north of the Merab Melash (modern Eritrea) did not belong to  his  rule as the land was not peopled by Abyssinians, but by other tribes such as  Adals, Bejas, and Tigres. This is probably the reason he ceded Eritrea to the Italians.

As the 20th century approached, most of Africa had been carved up among the European powers.  But the young Republic of Liberia on the west coast of the continent and the Ethiopian Empire in the strategic Horn of Africa were still free. The newly unified Kingdom of Italy was a relative newcomer to the colonial scramble for Africa. Italy already held the African territories, Eritrea and Somalia. Both these states were in an impoverished state and in proximity to the more fertile and rich Abyssinia on the Horn of Africa.

Benito Mussolini came to power in Italy in 1922 with a grandiose intent to create a new Roman Empire and was on a predatory watch over the world including Africa. His target was Abyssinia (Ethiopia), sandwiched between two small Italian colonies  Eritrea and Somalia

SELLASIE COINAbyssinia at this time, ruled by Haile Selassie, was a member of the League of Nations, created after World War I to maintain peace by solving international disputes without resorting to war. Britain, France, and Italy were members of the League.  If a member was attacked by another country, the League was supposed to come to its aid, but in fact the League lacked the strength needed to back this mandate.

Throughout the summer of 1935, Mussolini amassed troops on the Abyssinian border, and in October 1935 he launched a full invasion’ Selassie appealed to the League for help but the League’s intervention was too slow and weak. Mussolini conquered Abyssinia, creating the Italian East African Empire.

SELLASIEThe ruler Haile Selassie was born in 1892 as Tefari Makonnen and became governor of Harar, a city in Ethiopia in 1911. In 1928 he was crowned king and ruler of Ethiopia. On November 3 1930 Selassie appeared on the cover of Time magazine as  “Man of the year” and one of the Top 25 Political Icons in history. Writing about Haile Selassie, TIME stated, the King of Kings, Conquering Lion of Judah, Elect of God. (All were used to describe Haile Selassie) ruled as Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930.

An year later in 1931 he introduced the first constitution of Ethiopia. In 1935 when Italy invaded Ethiopia after a gruesome battle for 5 years Selassie went into exile.

Finally before the fall of Italy in 1941 during the Second World War Allied East African Forces forces retook Ethiopia. On January 18, 1941 Haile Selassie marched in the East African Campaign against Mussolini’s occupation.

In 1955, in an attempt to modernize the country, Selassie granted a new constitution with more rights for his citizens. In 1963, he presided over the first meeting of the Organization of African Unity In 1972. Selassie was ultimately deposed in a organized military coup by people who were discontented with his regime. However Selassie’s contribution to African solidarity earned him fame as one of the reformists in emerging African political scene.

HISTORY OF ETHIOPIA ON COINS

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