Adwa, Battle of

Adwa, Battle of
or Battle of Adowa

(March 1, 1896) Military clash at Adwa, in north-central Ethiopia, between the Ethiopian army of King Menilek II and Italian forces.

The decisive Ethiopian victory produced independence for Ethiopia and checked Italy's attempt to build an empire in Africa comparable to that of the French or British. The colony of Eritrea was carved out in the ensuing peace negotiations.

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▪ Italy-Ethiopia [1896]
Adwa also spelled  Adowa , Italian  Adua 

      (March 1, 1896), military clash at Adwa, in north-central Ethiopia, between the Ethiopian army of King Menilek II and Italian forces. The decisive Ethiopian victory checked Italy's attempt to build an empire in Africa.

      The death (in 1889) of the Ethiopian emperor Yohannes IV was followed by great disorder, during which the Italians helped Menilek of Shewa (Shoa) win the throne. Furthermore, the Treaty of Wichale (Wichale, Treaty of) (Ucciali), which Italy had signed with Menilek in 1889, was interpreted by the Italian premier Francesco Crispi (Crispi, Francesco) as implying the declaration of an Italian protectorate over Ethiopia. Accordingly, the Italian possessions in Africa were constituted (January 1890) as Colonia Eritrea.

      Menilek first repudiated in September 1890 the ambiguous Article XVII of the treaty and then, in September 1893, repudiated the treaty altogether, afterward preparing to combat the Italians' attempt to impose their dominion militarily. Italian victories at the beginning of the campaign were brilliant but fruitless, and at the end of 1895 large Ethiopian armies were threatening the Italian outposts. The Italian governor of Eritrea, General Oreste Baratieri (Baratieri, Oreste), sighted Menilek's forces on February 7, 1896, but remained inactive. On February 28 Crispi sent Baratieri a furious telegram to try to goad him into action. Desperate to retrieve his position, Baratieri advanced to Adwa with 14,500 men against an Ethiopian army of some 100,000; the Italian columns, moreover, were disorganized and lacked adequate maps of the area. Humiliatingly routed on March 1 by Menilek's forces, the Italians retreated through difficult terrain, harassed by a hostile population. As much as 70 percent of the Italian force was killed, wounded, or captured.

      The Treaty of Addis Ababa, signed in October 1896, abrogated the Treaty of Wichale and reestablished peace. The Italian claim to a protectorate over all Ethiopia was thereafter abandoned, and the Italian colony of Eritrea, finally delimited by a treaty of peace (September 1900), was reduced to a territory of about 200,000 square km (80,000 square miles). Various treaties concluded with Italy, France, and Great Britain in the years up to 1908 fixed the borders of Ethiopia with the neighbouring territories ruled by the European powers.

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Universalium. 2010.

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