The Battle of Adwa was a historic clash between Ethiopian forces and the invading Italian army. In a remarkable display of bravery and military strategy, Emperor Menelik II led the Ethiopian troops to a resounding victory over the Italians. This triumph shattered the myth of European invincibility and firmly established Ethiopia as the only African nation to successfully resist European colonization during the Scramble for Africa.
Defeat of Italy at Adwa
The Italians had established themselves along the Red Sea coast, and the governor of the Italian colony of Eritrea, after much intrigue and several minor military skirmishes, risked a major confrontation. The Italian army was defeated by the Ethiopians in one of the greatest battles in the history of Africa—the Battle of Adwa, on March 1, 1896. A settlement after the battle canceled the Treaty of Wichale and acknowledged the full sovereignty and independence of Ethiopia, but the Italians were allowed to retain Eritrea.
After Adwa, Menilek’s Ethiopia was at once accepted by the European powers as a real political force. The crushing defeat of a European army greatly enhanced Menilek’s international reputation, causing a host of foreign advisers, ambassadors, emissaries, and adventurers to flow into the country.
Menilek’s later activities as emperor included the creation of ministries, the initiation of modern education, and the construction of telephone and telegraph systems and of a railway from Djibouti, on the Gulf of Aden, to Addis Ababa, the emperor’s new capital in the highlands of Shewa. Beginning in 1906 or 1907, Menilek suffered a series of paralytic strokes, and power passed to his wife, Empress Taitu, to Ras Tesemma, who became regent, and to Lij Iyasu, the grandson who was to succeed him. The stricken emperor finally died in 1913.
The Battle of Adwa holds immense significance as a symbol of African resistance against imperialism. It showcased the unity, determination, and military prowess of the Ethiopian people in defending their sovereignty and independence. The victory at Adwa had profound repercussions on a global scale, inspiring other African nations in their struggles for liberation and self-determination.