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Ethiopia, History

During the 1st millennium bc, Semitic people from Saba’ (Hebrew Sheba) crossed the Red Sea and conquered the Hamite on the coast of what was eventually to become the Ethiopian Empire. By the 2nd century ad the victors had established the kingdom of Aksum. The kingdom was ruled by the Solomonid dynasty, so called because the kings claimed direct descent from the biblical king Solomon and the queen of Sheba. Aksum converted to Christianity, belonging to the same tradition as the Coptic Christians of Egypt. It flourished for a while, but beginning in about the 7th century the kingdom declined as the Solomonids lost control of section after section of their realm. Early in the 10th century the Solomonid dynasty was overthrown and replaced by the Zagwe dynasty, the ruling family of a region on the central plateau known as Lasta. Regaining control of the country around or after 1260, the Solomonids gradually succeeded in reasserting their authority over much of Ethiopia, although Muslims retained control of the coastal area and the southeast. During the reign (1434-1468) of Zara Yakub, the administration of the Ethiopian church, which had become divided by factionalism, was reformed, and religious doctrines were codified. At about this time a political system emerged that lasted until the middle of the 20th century. It was characterized by absolutist monarchs who exacted military service in return for grants of land.

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