The History of The Battle and Victory of Adwa 125th
By Minilik Salsawi
The Ethiopian forces defeated the Italian invading force on Sunday 1 March 1896,
near the town of Adwa. The decisive victory thwarted the campaign of the
Kingdom of Italy to expand its colonial empire in the Horn of Africa .The outcome of
this battle ensured Ethiopia’s independence, making it the only African country
never to be colonized. Adwa turned Ethiopia into a symbol of freedom for black
people globally. It also led to a change of government in Italy.125 years ago,
Ethiopian men and women defeated the Italian army in the Battle of Adwa.
Adwa turned Ethiopia into a symbol of freedom for black people globally. It also
led to a change of government in Italy. The town of Adwa is located in Northern
Tigray, closer to the southern border of Eritrea. Ethiopia was among the first
independent nations to sign the Charter of the United Nations, and it gave moral
and material support to the decolonization of Africa and to the growth of Pan-
Menelik II was most responsible for the Ethiopian victory. Menelik II was the cause
of their victory. He played Italy, France, and Britain all against each other. While
this was happening, he gathered weapons from France and Russia and used
these weapons to fend off the “invaders”. Menelik declared war after
misinterpreting the treaty that he agreed to that came from Italy. He thought they
were only claiming a tiny portion of Ethiopia but really they claimed all of Ethiopia
as a protectorate, Menelik was the first to declare war.
The European nightmare that ended with the great victory of Adwa
The Europeans set their sights on Africa in 1884 at a conference in Berlin.
However, the invasion of Africa began in 1870. When they invaded Africa that
year, they occupied only 10 percent of Africa’s land, but in 1914, when they were
supposed to end their colonial rule, 90% of Africa’s land was under European
control. At that time, the only two African countries that were free were Ethiopia
When did the idea of colonization come about?
In 1884, at the request of Portugal, German leader Ottoman Bismarck called on
powerful powers to strengthen their agreement with Africa and resolve their
disputes. The invited countries were Austria, Germany, Italy, Portugal, France,
Belgium, Sweden, Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Turkey, and
the United States.
Among these fourteen countries were Portugal, Britain, France, and Germany,
which at the time were major participants in the conference and occupied much of
Africa at the time. One of the main reasons for this was our desire to control
political power in Europe.
This is a great way to show their superiority over the rest of the world, including
Africa. Another reason is the growing social crisis in Europe following the new
capitalist ideology (famine, migration, unemployment, housing crisis, etc.).
Believing that the key to overcoming all these problems is to take control of Africa,
the fourteen countries mentioned above agreed to divide Africa at a German-
sponsored conference at the invitation of Portugal. According to the treaty, they
began to send troops to take control of Africa, under the guise of missionaries,
under the guise of “preaching to you religion,” medical and road surveyors,
advising governors. Africans who believed in their deception, “We will teach you
civilization and religion,” began to live in slavery on their own land.
How did the colonization take place in such a short time?
One of the reasons why the European colonists took over Africa in such a short
period of time was the lion’s share of power among the local rulers. The
Europeans took full advantage of this African gap. Persuading one of the
missionaries to attack one another; On the other hand, they took up arms and
killed each other before going to war.
The second reason is the severe famine of 1895, the enormous locusts that
followed Africa, and the extinction of cattle by Europeans. All of this, with its
problems and moral decay, the Africans easily surrendered to their European
All blacks are dominated by the “Take the mind keep the body” system used by
the whites during their rule; The people fell under the yoke of oppression until they
were liberated in the 1960s by the liberation movement, which was believed to be
a white loser in the victory of Adwa.
At the time, Italy, which had been eyeing our country under the auspices of
colonialism, had been providing arms to Emperor Menelik II since the reign of
Emperor John IV. After the death of the emperor and the reign of Menelik II, they
tried to use their power to divide and conquer other African countries through their
They traveling north, south, east, and west of Ethiopia and gathering the
Governors who have a problem against Menelik and they said How does Menelik
admin you? Pretending to be compassionate, Those who did not disagree with
Menelik intended to side with him by using power and various deceptions
(including Menelik’s fleshly relatives). Our forefathers, who seemed to be divided
on a safe day, stood together on a bad day and defeated the invading army,
leaving no room for the enemy.
After the Adwa victory, the dream of colonialism in Berlin came to an end. No
country was invaded after the Adwa victory. Professor Raymond Jonas explains
Adwa’s victory is the first in the history of modern Africa and Ethiopia has
proved to be a superpower. But more than that, any European country dream of
colonizing has turned into a nightmare
The attention of the greatest in the world of political power will not be lost for a
moment. The ancient Europeans did not try to dispossess our ancestors. The geo-
political touch of the region, especially from the Horn of Africa to the Red Sea, is
unique in all four directions.
For many, the Horn of Africa is the first to be remembered by Ethiopia.
Unparalleled age-old freedom, beautiful and attractive culture of the rest of the
hemisphere, differences of opinion based on tolerance and respect, unity in
diversity, original language and values have made it easy for many to perish:
Ethiopia: Blood Builder Ethiopianness is the edge of beauty. Her landscape is
beautiful, her virginity, her virginity, and the bones and blood of her children.
Every year in February, the month of World History is marked by the balance of
the struggle for black freedom. Adwa was the dome of the black liberation
movement of that time. Adwa is a victory in which the backbone of the colonialists
is shattered and the whole world is glorified.
Realizing that Africa was at war, the invaders created another diplomatic context
in order not to leave the region and liberate Africans.
Adwa was the climactic battle of the First Italo-Ethiopian War. The Ethiopian
forces defeated the Italian invading force on Sunday 1 March 1896, near the town
of Adwa. The decisive victory thwarted the campaign of the Kingdom of Italy to
expand its colonial empire in the Horn of Africa. By the end of the 19th century,
European powers had carved up almost all of Africa after the Berlin Conference;
only Ethiopia, Liberia and the Dervish State still maintained their
independence. Adwa became a pre-eminent symbol of pan-Africanism and
secured Ethiopia’s sovereignty until the Second Italo-Ethiopian War forty years
In 1889, the Italians signed the Treaty of Wuchale with then Negus[nb 5] Menelik
of Shewa. The treaty ceded territories previously part of Ethiopia, namely the
provinces of Bogos, Hamasien, Akele Guzai, Serae, and parts of Tigray. In return,
Italy promised Menelik II continued rule, financial assistance and military supplies.
A dispute later arose over the interpretation of the two versions of the document.
The Italian-language version of the disputed Article 17 of the treaty stated that the
Emperor of Ethiopia was obliged to conduct all foreign affairs through Italian
authorities. This would in effect make Ethiopia a protectorate of the Kingdom of
Italy. The Amharic version of the article however, stated that the Emperor could
use the good offices of the Kingdom of Italy in his relations with foreign nations if
he wished. However, the Italian diplomats claimed that the original Amharic text
included the clause and that Menelik II knowingly signed a modified copy of the
The disagreement of the treaty; the Amharic version stated that Ethiopia could use
Italy for foreign relations with Europe. The Italian version stated that Menelik had
to have Italy’s permission for foreign exchanges. When Italy declined Menelik’s
request to change that statement Italy refused, resulting in Menelik declining the
Difference: Italians tried to claim all of Ethiopia; Italy wanted all foreign exchanges
to run through them.
Same: Both states that Menelik’s confusion on the statements.
The Italian government decided on a military solution to force Ethiopia to abide by
the Italian version of the treaty. As a result, Italy and Ethiopia came into
confrontation, in what was later to be known as the First Italo-Ethiopian War. In
December 1894, Bahta Hagos led a rebellion against the Italians in Akele Guzai,
in what was then Italian controlled Eritrea. Units of General Oreste Baratieri’s army
under Major Pietro Toselli [it] crushed the rebellion and killed Bahta. The Italian
army then occupied the Tigrayan capital, Adwa. In January 1895, Baratieri’s army
went on to defeat Ras Mengesha Yohannes in the Battle of Coatit, forcing
Mengesha to retreat further south.
By late 1895, Italian forces had advanced deep into Ethiopian territory. On 7
December 1895, Ras Makonnen Wolde Mikael, Ras Welle Betul and Ras
Mengesha Yohannes commanding a larger Ethiopian group of Menelik’s vanguard
annihilated a small Italian unit at the Battle of Amba Alagi. The Italians were then
forced to withdraw to more defensible positions in Tigray Province, where the two
main armies faced each other. By late February 1896, supplies on both sides were
running low. General Oreste Baratieri, commander of the Italian forces, knew the
Ethiopian forces had been living off the land, and once the supplies of the local
peasants were exhausted, Emperor Menelik II’s army would begin to melt away.
However, the Italian government insisted that General Baratieri act.
The landscape of Adwa
On the evening of 29 February, Baratieri, about to be replaced by a new governor,
General Baldissera, met with his brigadier generals Matteo Albertone, Giuseppe
Arimondi, Vittorio Dabormida, and Giuseppe Ellena, concerning their next steps.
He opened the meeting on a negative note, revealing to his brigadiers that
provisions would be exhausted in less than five days, and suggested retreating,
perhaps as far back as Asmara. His subordinates argued forcefully for an attack,
insisting that to retreat at this point would only worsen the poor morale. Dabormida
exclaimed, “Italy would prefer the loss of two or three thousand men to a
dishonorable retreat.” Baratieri delayed making a decision for a few more hours,
claiming that he needed to wait for some last-minute intelligence, but in the end
announced that the attack would start the next morning at 9:00am His troops
began their march to their starting positions shortly after midnight.
The Battle of Adwa in 1896 also had two fateful consequences the preservation of
Ethiopia’s independence from Italian colonization, and the confirmation of Italy’s
control over the part of the country Italy had named Eritrea in 1890. Both
consequences had repercussions throughout the twentieth century. Italy
experienced her defeat at Adwa as intensely humiliating, and that humiliation
became a national trauma which demagogic leaders strove to avenge. It also
played no little part in motivating Italy’s revanchist adventure in 1935. On the other
hand, Italy’s continued occupation of Eritrea gave her a convenient springboard
from which to launch that invasion. A generation later, tensions stemming from the
protracted division of historic Ethiopia into two parts one under European
governance, one under the Ethiopian Crown culminated in a long civil war, and the
eventual secession of Eritrea as an independent state in 1993. In addition to these
actual historic consequences, the Battle of Adwa was historic because it acquired
symbolic significance of many kinds. In some instances this symbolism itself came
to exert a certain influence on the course of events.
Adwa’s Symbolism in Other Countries
Donald N. Levine wrote …In Europe, the short-term symbolic significance of the
Ethiopian defeat of Italy in 1896 was that it served to initiate a process of
rethinking the Europeans’ image of Africa and Africans. During the nineteenth
century Africa had come to be viewed in increasingly pejorative terms, as a
continent of people so primitive they were fit only for European rule. Ethiopia did
not escape such swipes. British officers called Ethiopia a nation of savages and
Italian officials described it as “a nation of primitive tribesmen led by a barbarian.”
The British Foreign Office supported the provocative move of ceding Zula to Italy,
expecting that Yohannes would protest by attacking them and then easily be
punished for imagining that Ethiopians were equal to white men. Kaiser Wilhelm
responded to Emperor Menelik’s announcement of his accession to the throne
with insulting language. The stunning victory at Adwa required Europeans to take
Ethiopia and Africa more seriously. It not only initiated a decade of negotiations
with European powers in which nine border treaties were signed, it made
Europeans begin to reconsider their prejudices against Africans. It came to
symbolize a rising awareness among Europeans of African political resources and
yearnings and an increasing recognition of indigenous African cultural
In Japan, Ethiopia became appreciated as the first non-Caucasian power to defeat
Europeans, an achievement the Japanese were to duplicate in warfare against
Russia in 1904. This appreciation led to a sense of affinity that bore fruit for
decades thereafter. Ethiopian intellectuals looked to Japan as a model for
modernizing their ancient monarchy; the Meiji Constitution served as a model for
the Ethiopian Constitution of 1931. When Italy invaded Ethiopia again in the mid-
thirties, many Japanese citizens (if not the regime formally) expressed solidarity
with Ethiopians, sending shipments of many thousands of swords to help
Ethiopians in their plight. In Africa, the Battle of Adwa inspired other kinds of
symbolism. For a number of colonized Africans, the Ethiopian victory at Adwa
symbolized the possibility of future emancipation. Black South Africans of the
Ethiopian Church came to identify with the Christian kingdom in the Horn, a
connection that led South African leader James Dwane to write Menelik for help in
caring for the Christian communities of Egypt and Sudan. The victory at Adwa
made Ethiopia visible as a beacon of African independence, a position that
inspired figures like Nnamdi Azikiwe in Nigeria, Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, and
Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya in the early years of the African independence
movement, as well as leaders in the West Indies like George Padmore and
Marcus Garvey from Jamaica.
Adwa as a Symbol of Ethiopia’s Tradition of Independence
Within Ethiopia itself, Adwa symbolized many things, some of which had positive
consequences for her development while others did not. Internally, as abroad, it
symbolized Ethiopia’s proud commitment to freedom from foreign domination. Of
the many emblems of Ethiopia’s historic independence, Adwa is perhaps the most
visible and the most dramatic. The spirit of Ethiopians’ defiant protection of their
land from outsiders manifests itself in many forms. There is the apocryphal story
of Emperor Tewodros, who is said to have ordered the boots of some visitors
washed before they embarked on a ship back to Europe, saying: “Far more
precious than jewels is a single drop of Ethiopian soil.” There was the refrain I
used to hear young braves chant at festive times, jabbing dula (stick) up and down
as they danced and sang:
Min alle, Teqel min alle? Ageren le sew, ageren le sew, alsetim alle!
(What did Teqel [Haile Selassie’s horse name] say? I won’t give my country to
foreigners, he said.)
With respect to Menelik’s reputation, it partly overcame the resentments he had
stirred up by ceding Bogos to Italy in exchange for help against his competitors in
Tigray. As a historic assertion of Ethiopia’s independence, Adwa also
reverberated with memories of Ethiopia’s experience as a long-lived independent
polity. Its symbolism thereby encompassed a layer of meaning that alluded to the
historic depth of the Ethiopian nation. It revived memories of earlier achievements
and yearnings. At the same time, Adwa may have served to give Ethiopians a
false sense of confidence about their position in the modern world. In showing
themselves and the world that they could defeat a European invader with their
own resources, the 1896 campaign may have led them to think that their
traditional resources could be adequate in an era in which war would be waged
with tanks and airplanes. It gave encouragement to isolationist and conservative
strains that were deeply rooted in Ethiopian culture, strengthening the hand of
those who would strive to keep Ethiopia from adopting techniques imported from
the modern West resistances with which both Menelik and Ras Teferi/Haile
Selassie would have to contend.
Adwa as a Symbol of Multi-ethnic Cooperation
The symbolism of multi-ethnic collaboration evoked by the Battle of Adwa has
been less visible than its role in symbolizing Ethiopia’s tradition of independence.
Yet in some ways the former was the most remarkable and meaningful aspect of
the entire episode.
Although members of different ethnic, religious, and regional groups had been
interacting regularly in Ethiopia for more than 2,000 years through trading,
intermarriage, common ritual observances, pilgrimages, and political competition
from the perspective of Ethiopian history, Adwa offers the most dramatic instance
of multi-ethnic collaboration before the 20th century. This is because it gave
expression to a great outpouring of national patriotism, foreshadowing the great
patriotic struggles of 1935-41.
Even from the perspective of modern world history, Adwa represented a relatively
rare struggle for national independence waged by a coalition of diverse ethnic
groups. Twenty-five years earlier, Adwa had been the scene of a protracted battle
between Dejazmatch Kasa, who would become Emperor Yohannes IV, and the
reigning emperor, Tekle Giorgis II, formerly Wag Shum Gobeze. What the 1871
Battle of Adwa symbolized was the age-old struggle among different regional and
ethnic groups for dominance. Yohannes, like Tewodros II before him, came to the
throne determined to reunify the empire, which had been fragmented following the
invasion of Ahmed Gragn and subsequent divisive developments. Although
Yohannes did not live to see it, the 1896 Battle of Adwa was a tribute to his vision
and to the thoughtfulness and determination with which he sought to unify Ethiopia
while respecting the local jurisdiction of regional kings and lords so long as they
remained faithful to the national crown. Those who would deny Ethiopia’s long
existence as a multi-ethnic society must be embarrassed by the facts of the Adwa
experience. If the empire consisted of nothing but a congeries of separate tribal
and regional groups, how then account for the courageous collaboration of
100,000 troops from dozens of ethnic groups from all parts of the country? How
then explain the spirited national patriotism of such diverse leaders as Ras Alula,
Ras Mengesha, and Ras Sibhat of Tigray, Dejazmatch Bahta of Akale Guzae,
Wag Shum Guangul of Lasta, Ras Mikael of Wollo, Negus Tekle-Haymanot of
Gojjam, Ras Gobena and Dejazmatch Balcha of the Mecha Oromo, Ras Wole of
the Yejju Oromo, Fitawrari Tekle of Wollega, Ras Mekonnen of Harer, as well as
Ras Gebeyehu (who died fighting at Adwa) and Ras Abate of Shoa? Of course,
deeply rooted antagonisms and persistent rivalries among different factions beset
Ethiopia throughout the 19th century. And yet, as historian Sven Rubenson has
written, “at the crucial moment, Menelik commanded the loyalty of every important
chief in the country.” The Battle of Adwa became and remains the most
outstanding symbols of what, a half-century later, a British colonel would describe
as the “mysterious magnetism” that holds Ethiopia together.
The Battle of Adwa as a “Historic” Event
Donald N. Levine wrote There are three reasons why we commonly refer to some
happening as a historic event: either it occurs for the first time; it has significant
consequences; or it is symbolically important. As a first time event, Emperor
Menelik’s cession of the Bogos highlands to Italy in 1889 has been described as
historic, as the first time that an Ethiopian ruler ever voluntarily ceded territory to a
foreign power. In the same vein, Abebe Bikila’s victory in the marathon race in the
1960 Olympics at Rome was historic, as the first time that an Ethiopian won a gold
medal. We also designate events as historic when their consequences
significantly alter the shape of subsequent history. The conversion of King Ezanas
to Christianity in the middle of the fourth century was historic in this sense
because it redirected Ethiopia’s entire cultural development. Similarly, the
protection given to disciples of the Prophet Mohammed by the Ethiopian king in
the seventh century was a historic event. It led Mohammed to advise his followers
to spare Ethiopia from the jihad of Islamic expansion that took place soon after.
Likewise, the killing of Emperor Yohannes IV by Sudanese Mahdists in 1889 was
historic because it opened the way to the ascendancy of an emperor from Shoa.
Even when events have no significant direct consequences, we tend to call them
historic when they symbolize important national or universal human ideals. The
suicide of Emperor Tewodros II had little political consequences rule was over,
whether or not he was captured alive by the British but it came to symbolize a
sentiment of preferring death over demeaning captivity. The speech of Emperor
Haile Selassie to the League of Nations in 1937 is often called a historic address,
even though it did nothing to change the course of history, because it came to
symbolize the moral weakness of Western democracies in the face of fascist
expansionism and the need for a stronger world organization empowered to
provide collective security. The Battle of Adwa in 1896 qualifies as an historic
event in all three senses of the term. As a historic “first,” it represented the first
time since the beginning of European imperial expansion that a non-white nation
had defeated a European power.
The Empress Taytu Betul is the beloved and influential wife of Emperor
Menelik II, who played a significant role during the Battle of Adwa. Although
often overlooked, thousands of women participated in the Battle of Adwa
alongside men. Some were trained as nurses to attend to the wounded,
while others mainly cooked and supplied food and water to the soldiers and
comforted the wounded.
The significance to Africa and Pan Africanism
Adwa’s victory is a wake-up call for Africans .Adwa is not only a day for Ethiopians
to gain their independence, but a victory that has revived the struggle of all
Africans for liberation. The fact that Ethiopians have won the Adwa war is due to
the fact that Ethiopians from different parts of the county have strengthened their
unity and solidarity. The Battle of Adwa is a wake-up call not only for Ethiopians’
Independence Day but also for Africans against colonialization
Adwa’s victory is a demonstration that Africans can solve their problems on their
own with the strong unity they create .The victory of Ethiopians not only enabled
Africans to fight for their own freedom, but also showed the strength of Africans
together. If Ethiopia achieves Adwa victory in one day, we Africans can work
together to strengthen our unity and overcome the interference of other countries
and reach the tower of prosperity.
As the colonial boundaries must be removed, the African Union flag does not have
a line that separates one country from another, which signifies unity. In order to
realize the African Renaissance, it is important to create a free movement for
Africans by strengthening regional ties through peace building, trade, tourism and
investment. We must achieve our agenda, which is Africa’s biggest development
agenda, by stepping aside our civil strife and strengthening our unity for growth
and prosperity. Congratulations on the 125th anniversary of the victory of Adwa.
Victory must be repeated by Africans overcoming poverty.
Africans must learn the transformation of this victory .They must strengthen