First Italo-Abyssinian War 1895-1896

[ 1895 - 1896 ]

Menilek declared himself emperor of Ethiopia on March 25, and at Wichale (or Ucciali, as the Italians called it) in Tigray on May 2 he signed a treaty of amity and commerce granting Italy rule over Eritrea. The Italian version of Article XVII of the Treaty of Wichale made Rome the medium for Ethiopia's foreign relations, whereas the Amharic text was noncommital. Learning that Rome had used the mistranslation to claim a protectorate over all of Ethiopia, Menilek first sought a diplomatic solution; meanwhile, during 1891-93, he sent expeditions south and east to obtain gold, ivory, musk, coffee, hides, and slaves to trade for modern weapons and munitions. In December 1895, after two years of good harvests had filled Ethiopia's granaries, Menilek moved his army into Tigray.

Rome believed that as few as 35,000 soldiers could control Ethiopia, but it was proved wrong on March 1, 1896, at the Battle of Adwa, where General Oreste Baratieri led 14,500 Italian troops on a poorly organized attack against Menilek's well-armed host of some 100,000 fighters. The Italian lines crumbled, and at noon retreat was sounded. The emperor retired into Ethiopia to await negotiations, and on October 26, 1896, he signed the Treaty of Addis Ababa, which abrogated the Treaty of Wichale.

Menilek subsequently directed the Solomonid state into areas never before under its rule. Between 1896 and 1906 Ethiopia expanded to its present size, taking in the highlands, the key river systems, and a buffer of low-lying arid or tropical zones around the state's central core. 


Battle of Adwa, 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 comparable to that of the French or the British.

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 (Ucciali), which Italy had signed with Menilek in 1889, was interpreted by the Italian premier Francesco Crispi 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, sighted Menilek's forces on Feb. 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, and Italy recognized the independence of Ethiopia. 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.

<table class='table table-bordered col-lg-12 col-md-12 col-sm-12 col-xs-12 margin20 row-30' border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><tbody><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">State</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Entry</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Exit</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Combat Forces</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Population</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Losses</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Ethiopia</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1895</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1896</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">100000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">7000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">15000</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Italy</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1895</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1896</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">300000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">33000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">9000</font></td></tr></tbody></table>

Total Casualties 24000 Killed and Wounded
Casualties Killed / Wounded
Military Casualties Killed 24000 /Wounded
Civilian Casualties Killed / Wounded
Belligerents Initiation Date Termination Date
Ethiopian Empire and Kingdom of Italy 1895 1896 View

Related Conflicts

No Releted Conflicts