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Ethiopia Timeline -- Part 1: From Prehistory to the Death of Dawit I (1413)

A Chronology of Key Events in Ethiopia

By Alistair Boddy-Evans, About.com

c. 3 million years ago Hadar is one of the possible locations for the origins of early man in Africa. Bone fragments discovered in 1976 by Don Johanson and his team in the Awash Valley, Ethiopia, have been identified as Australopithicus afarensis.
c. 7000 BCE Pastoralism develops in the region by Afro-Asiatic speakers (formally Hamito-Semitic). Afro-Asiatic speakers develop a number of language groups: Cushitic, Semitic, and Omitic.
c. 6000 BCE General agriculture and settlement develops in region.
c. 2000 BCE Grain crops and the use of the plough, possibly imported from what is now the Sudan.
Ge'ez (Semitic) speaking peoples migrate into the Northern Highlands of Tigray.
7th Century BCE Kingdom of D'mt (aka Da'amat) established, and expands its influence to the west. Kingdom trades ivory, gold, silver, and slaves to Arab merchants and slavers.
c. 500 BCE Formation of the Kingdom of Aksum (aka Axum).
c. 300 BCE Kingdom of D'mt in decline as trade routes turn east rather than west, looking for easy access to coastal ports. Ultimately the kingdom fractures into a number of small city-states. These are gradually absorbed by the Kingdom of Aksum.
Second Century BCE Semitic speaking Sabaean people arrive from what is now Yemen (possibly the Kingdom of Sheba). They join (rather than create, as some historians claim) the Kingdom of Aksum (aka Axum), which had been established in north of modern day Ethiopia. Aksumite rulers claimed, however, direct descent from the Israelite King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (Makeda), and are known as the Solomonid dynasty which starts with the (mostly mythical) Menilek I.
First century BCE Influence of Aksum expands to incorporate what is now Eritrea.
Third Century CE Ge'ez, an ancient South Semitic language, is the official language of the Kingdom of Aksum. Today it is only known through the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (to which the majority of Eritrean Christians belong).
328 Frumentius, who along with his brother Edesius had been taken as a slave by Aksumites as a child, travels to Alexandria, Egypt, to petition the Patriach Athanasisus to send a bishop to Aksum to spread Christianity. Athanasisus considers Frumentius to be the ideal candidate, and he is duly consecrated and instructed to return.
341 Christianity introduced to the Aksumite Empire by Frumentius, first Bishop of the Coptic Christian Church.
State of Aksum adopts Christianity with the conversion of King Ezana. (Ezana is now considered a saint of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, with a feast day of 1 October.)
383 Death of Saint Frumentius. (The Feast of Frumentius is celebrated on the 18th of December by the Coptic Church.)
c.340 Arab conquest of Egypt cuts Ethiopia off from rest of Christian world.
5th Century Askum dominates trade in the Red Sea. The region is heavily dependent on coinage minted by the kingdom, and trade flows through its coastal ports such as Adulis.
Christianity being spread in the Aksum Kingdom, and missions are sent into the Cushitic speaking peoples of neighboring Agew to the east and south.
Ethiopian church comes under the leadership of the Coptic church centered in Alexandria, Egypt.
451 Ethiopian church follows the Coptic church in rejecting the proposals of the Council of Chalcedon (which declared Egyptian monophysitism heretical), and break with the church of Rome and Constantinople. (It is argued that the Monophysitical nature of the Coptic and, especially, the Ethiopian Orthodox church, is the reason that it was able to withstand the onslaught of Islam which overtook the rest of North Africa.)
6th Century Aksumite Empire reaches its zenith. Its influence extends north to Meroe, and south to the Omo River. For a short while, even the region of Yemen, across the Red Sea, came under its control as a dominion.
572 Aksum influence in Yemen ended by the Persian Invasion. This is reinforced by a subsequent invasion by Arab peoples 30 years later.
7th Century Ongoing invasion of Egypt and North Africa by Muslim forces further isolates Aksum Empire.
8th Century Aksumite Empire is loosing its grasp on outlying territories. To the south, the Kingdoms of Lasta and Shoa are growing in strength. Even its access to trade routes on the Red Sea is disappearing.
Aksum looks south to the highlands of Ethiopia, and develops the region for grain production.
9th Century Incorporation of the Agew peoples has resulted in the transfer of the capital to the south, and the old kingdom of Lasta (which allows the development of the Zagwe Dynasty.)
Early 10th Century Aksumite Empire, and the Solomonid dynasty, is overthrown by the Zagwe Dynasty from the Kingdom of Lasta
1137 Zagwe Dynasty founded by Mara Takla Haymanot, considered the first Emperor of Ethiopia. He overthrows Dil Na'od, the king of Aksum to found his 'empire' of Lasta, Aksum, Wag, Tigray, and northern Bergemder.
1185 Emperor Gebre Mesqel Lalibela begins his reign. His capital, Roha, is known today as Lalibela. He is considered a saint by the Ethiopian church, and is believed to be responsible for the building of various monolithic churches in the region.
1223 Death of Emperor Lalibela. He is succeeded by Na'akueto La'ab, possibly the son of Kedus Harbe (who was Negus before Lalibela).
c.1240 Zagwe hegemony is opposed by the Smeitic speaking Tigray people to the north and the Amhara to the south. There is increasing doubt as to the 'Solominic' descent of the dynasty.
Death of Na'akueto La'ab. He is succeeded by the son of Lalibela, Yitbarek I.
August 1270 Emperor Yitbarek I is assassinated. Zagwe Dynasty overthrown by the princes of Amhara. Solominid Dynasty is restored in Ethiopia by Emperor Yekuno Amlak, who claims to be a descendant of the Aksum King Dil Na'od.
19 June 1285 Death of Emperor Yekuno Amlak, founder of the Solomonic Dynasty. He is succeeded by his son Yagbe'u Seyon.
Late 13th Century Increasing proportion of Ethiopia's immediate neighbors are turning to Islam. To the south, Muslim sultanates come under the hegemony of the The Ifat Sultanate (a pre-cursor to the Adal Sulatante), in the Shewa uplands to the east of the growing Ethiopian Empire.
1294 Death of Emperor Yagbe'u Seyon. His rule is followed by a period of confusion, as his son's vied for the throne.
1299 Wedem Arad, brother of Yagbe'u Seyon, seizes the throne.
c.1300 Ewostatewos (c.1273-1352) preaches that the state should be isolated form corrupt influences and that society should return to biblical teachings, including the reintroduction of the Judaic Sabbath (in addition to that of Sunday).
1306 Emperor Wedem Arad dispatches envoys to Europe. Little is recorded of their exploits, but it is believed they reached Rome and Avignon.
1314 Death of Wedem Arad. He is succeeded by his son Amda Seyon I.
1316-17 Emperor Amda Seyon I campaigns against the Muslim kingdoms of Damor and Hadiya to the south west of Ethiopia's territories, and towards the Ifat Sultanate to the east.
1328 Amda Seyon I invaded the Ifat Sultanate. The region is subdued but not completely conquered by Ethiopia.
1329 Emperor Amda Seyon I campaigns in the Tigrean highlands to the north
1344 Newaya Krestos ('Property of Christ') succeeds Amda Seyon I as Emperor.
1372 Death of Newaya Krestos, he is succeeded by his oldest son, Newaya Maryam.
1382 Death of Newaya Maryam. He is succeeded by his son, Dawit I.
1402 Dawit I sends an embassy to Venice requesting trade and artisans. Five are dispatched, but they apparently do not make it to Ethiopia.
6 October 1413 Dawit I is killed by his horse. He is succeeded by his son Tewodros I.

More on the History of Ethiopia
• Part 1: From Prehistory to the Death of Dawit I (1413)
Part 2: From the Death of Dawit I (1413) to Enthronement of Emperor Fasilides (1632)
Part 3: From the Death of Susenyos I (1632) to Enthronement of Tewodoros II (1855)
Part 4: From the Enthronement of Tewodoros II (1855) to the Battle of Adowa (1896)
Part 5: From the Battle of Adowa (1896)
Part 6: From the Derg Coup (1974) to the Departure of Mengistu (1991)
Part 7: From the Departure of Mengistu (1991) to Independent Boundary Commission Report (2002)
Part 8: From the Independent Boundary Commission Report (2002) to the Present Day

1st Italo–Ethiopian war
Conflict In Late 19th Century Ethiopia
Map of Ethiopian Battles In The Late C19th
Battle of Adowa Timeline
The Battle of Adowa Map

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