First Italo-Ethiopian War

The First Italo-Ethiopian War was fought between Italy (supported by the United Kingdom) and Ethiopia (supported by Russia and France) from 1895 to 1896. It originated from the disputed Treaty of Wuchale which, the Italians claimed, turned the country into an Italian protectorate. Much to their surprise, they found that Ethiopian ruler Menelik II, rather than being opposed by some of his traditional enemies, was supported by them, so the Italian army, invading Ethiopia from Italian Eritrea in 1893, faced a more united front than they expected. In addition, Ethiopia was supported by Russia, an Orthodox Christian nation like Ethiopia[clarification needed] with military advisers, army training, and the sale of weapons for Ethiopian forces during the war. Ethiopia was also supported diplomatically by the French in order to prevent Italy from becoming a colonial competitor. In response, the United Kingdom supported the Italians to challenge Russian influence in Africa. Full-scale war broke out in 1895, with Italian troops having initial success until Ethiopian troops counterattacked Italian positions and besieged the Italian fort of Meqele, forcing its surrender. Italian defeat came about after the Battle of Adwa, where the Ethiopian army dealt the heavily outnumbered Italians a decisive blow and forced their retreat back into Eritrea. The Italians suffered about 7,000 killed during the battle with 3,000 taken prisoner (in addition, 1,200 Eritrean Ascari were killed while 800 were captured and later mutilated by the Ethiopians); the Ethiopian losses were estimated to be 4,000. This was not the first African victory over Western colonizers, but it was the first time such an indigenous African army put a definitive stop to a colonizing nation's efforts. According to one historian, "In an age of relentless European expansion, Ethiopia alone had successfully defended its independence (for a few decades more)."


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