Here’s How Ethiopian-Trained Lions Helped Defeat Italian Troops In The Battle Of Adwa

Photo: Facebook/United States of Africa
Photo: Facebook/United States of Africa


When colonization was at its height, conquest through force was a crucial quality. One factor in the sudden European interest in Africa was their desire to demonstrate their superior military prowess. It was once thought that a nation’s military might could be gauged by how many lands it colonized.

This resulted in the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884–1885 where Europeans divided up territories in several African countries. These colonial wars were not an exception in Ethiopia. However, the Ethiopians used cheetahs and bees in battle and trained lions to hunt down enemy soldiers. Due to this, they were able to defeat colonial efforts and become one of only two independent African nations.

The Italian forces that were in control of the area were defeated at the Battle of Adwa by a group of Ethiopian swordsmen known as Shotel. Its pivotal conflict was the First Italo-Ethiopian War, well known as the Battle of Adwa. Ethiopian soldiers stopped an Italian invasion force on March 1st, 1896, close to the town of Adwa. The Kingdom of Italy was prevented from attempting to incorporate the Horn of Africa into its colonial empire by the resounding victory.

Following the victory at Adwa, Ethiopia became one of the two countries in Africa that was never colonized (Liberia was the other country). Ethiopia under Adwa became a global symbol of black liberation. According to an article by The Conversation, this incident also prompted Italy to elect a new administration.

According to The Conversation, it was resolved at the Berlin Conference that Italy would one day be able to invade Ethiopia. Before the Conference, only about 10% of Africa was ruled by Europeans, with the remaining 90% being ruled by traditional and native leaders. Italy exercised colonial control over the port of Assab starting in 1882.

Treaty of Wuchale

In May 1889, Italy and Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia reached an agreement in the Treaty of Wuchale. The agreement was written in Amharic and Italian. The Adwa conflict finally resulted from this deal. Menelik was shocked to learn that the vocabulary employed in the two treaty documents was different. The Italian translation turned Ethiopia into an Italian protectorate in contrast to the Amharic one.

Menelik ordered all forces to get ready for war with Italy on September 17, 1895. He urged everyone in Ethiopia to defend their nation, their families, and their religions. According to The Conversation, Menelik urged those who could to engage in combat while advising those who couldn’t to pray for Ethiopia to triumph.

According to The New Times, Ethiopia’s victory at Adwa was a significant turning point that demonstrated to both Europeans and Africans that colonial invasion was not inescapable. Smaller anti-colonialist demonstrations took place in Italy, but they were countered by a stronger cry for retaliation.

Ethiopia became a symbol of black liberation because to Adwa. Others who were inspired included George Padmore, Bob Marley, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and others. Many African nations adopted the red, yellow, and green hues of the Ethiopian flag after escaping colonial domination.

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