Adwa timeline

Mapping the flow of events is central to the historian’s craft. As I worked with archival and print sources, I developed a timeline and kept it handy. I revised the timeline as I went – correcting errors and reconciling differences among accounts. Here is an abbreviated version of that timeline.


Sahle Maryam (Menelik II) is born on 19 August in Ankober


Cassa proclaims himself emperor of Ethiopia, taking the name Tewodros II. Tewodros invades Shoa. Sahle Maryam (Menelik) is captured and taken to Magdala, were he remains for 10 years.


The northern Italian kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, in alliance with France, defeats Austria militarily; following victories against Austria, Piedmont-Sardinia annexes Parma, Modena, Tuscany, and much of the Papal States.


A young Oreste Baratieri joins Giuseppe Garibaldi in his invasion of Sicily; the Kingdom of Italy is created following Garibaldi’s victories.


The British Foreign Office receives a letter from Tewodros intended for Queen Victoria; it goes unanswered. Tewodros takes offense. In retaliation, Tewodros imprisons Henry Stern, missionary to the Falasha and a British subject. Over time, Tewodros takes other Europeans hostage.


July 1 – Menelik slips away from Tewodros’ camp at Magdala under cover of darkness; claims title of king of Shoa


April 13 – negotiations for the release of the European hostages break down


Robert Napier undertakes military mission against Tewodros to rescue hostages


Tewodros defeated at Magdala by Napier’s expeditionary force; Tewodros commits suicide


Suez Canal opens; Rubattino Shipping Company [later Navigazione Generale Italiana] buys Red Sea port of Assab


June 25 – Monsignor Massaia meets with Italian King Victor Emmanuel II and describes Shoa as a “true terrestrial paradise” (“vero Paradiso terrestre”)

July 18 – Tekle Giyorgis of Wag-Lasta claims throne vacated by Tewodros


January – Kassa Mircha of Tigray defeats army of Tekle Giyorgis; he claims imperial Ethiopian throne under the name Yohannes IV


Egypt begins to move against Ethiopia; Egyptian forces occupy Keren


Egypt invades Ethiopia from the north, its soldiers commanded by veteran officers from American Civil War, also Danes, Germans, Austrians.  Egyptian forces are eventually defeated by soldiers of Yohannes. There are rumors that Menelik was in alliance with Egypt.

October 11 – Egypt takes Harar


Marchese Orazio Antinori leads Rome Geographic Society expedition to Ethiopia

March 7 – Yohannes defeats Egyptian forces at Gura; Egyptian ambition to conquer Ethiopia thwarted


Geographic Society expedition stalls; Sebastiano Martini is sent back to Rome to purchase arms to be given as tribute before Menelik will allow the expedition to continue.


Yohannes marches against Menelik. Menelik capitulates.


Alfred Ilg arrives in Ankober; he becomes adviser to Menelik, beginning a career of service to Menelik that will last over 25 years


Club Africano founded in Naples; renamed Società Africana d’Italia in June of 1882

Pietro Antonelli arrives as private traveler in company of Pietro Martini; following several audiences with Menelik, Antonelli offers arms in exchange for commercial favors.  Contract signed on 27 March 1881 – Menelik agrees to route caravans through Italian-controlled port of Assab in exchange for 2000 rifles.

Emperor Yohannes issues a proclamation ordering all the Muslims in Ethiopia to be baptized or to leave the country

Arthur Rimbaud arrives in Aden; he is engaged as agent of Mazeran, Viannay, Bardey et Cie commercial house; he arrives in commerical hub of Harar in December


Mohamet Acmet reveals to his followers that he has spoken with Mohammed, he calls himself the Mahdi


Italy joins Germany and Austria in the Triple Alliance


Mahdi’s forces defeat Egyptian army; control western Sudan

April 29 – marriage of Menelik and Taytu Betul at Ankober

May 21 – treaty of Friendship and of Commerce signed at Ankober between Menelik, king of Shoa and the representative of the king of Italy


February 5 – Italian forces land at Massawa; begin push toward Ginda Pass and the Eritrean highlands


Addis Ababa founded as Menelik’s capital


Menelik’s forces take Harar

January 25 – Ethiopian forces under command of Alula attack Italian fortified position at Sahati, hundreds of Alula’s men fall

January 26 – Alula’s forces intercept 500 Italian soldiers at Dogali, massacre ensues; Yohannes assembles massive army to move against Italians


1888-1889 First Italo-Ethiopian War

January 23 – Mahdists enter Gondar “45 churches set on fire.” Yohannes turns his attention from Italians to the Mahdists


Cattle from India unloaded at Massawa carry rinderpest virus, infecting bovines throughout East Africa; catastrophic loss of bovines used for plow and slaughter; famine besets Ethiopia

January 22 – count Antonelli arrives at Addis with letters, gifts, and 4700 Remington rifles

March 9 – Emperor Yohannes killed in battle against Mahdists at Metemma; his son Mangasha claims imperial throne; Menelik, on hearing of the death of Yohannes, declares himself emperor, setting up succession battle

May 2 – Treaty of Wichale signed between Ethiopia and Italy; Menelik gets recognition, arms, and Italian protection of Ethiopians abroad; Italians get recognition of Italian occupation of Eritrea and, they believe, protectorate relationship with Ethiopia

late July – Ethiopian delegation, led by Makonnen, departs for Italy aboard the Colombo

August – Italian occupation of Asmara

August 21 – Ethiopian delegation disembarks at Naples

August 28 – Ethiopian delegation reaches Rome; they have audience with King Umberto, then tour several cities; they return to Rome on 19 September

October 1 – Makonen and Francesco Crispi sign Additional Convention to Wichale Treaty at Naples; Ethiopian delegation departs shortly thereafter

November 3 – Menelik crowned emperor of Ethiopia; Menelik sends letters announcing coronation to European heads of state. Britain and Germany respond that they should be informed through Italy, as per the protectorate clause of the Wichale agreement


January 1 – Italian colony of Eritrea formalized with capital at Asmara;

January 26 – Italians briefly occupy Adwa, capital of Tigray

Late February – a weakened Mangasha submits and recognizes authority of Menelik; Menelik ratifies Additional Convention to Wichale Treaty, recognizing significant Italian territorial expansion


February 28 – Oreste Baratieri named governor of Eritrea


March – Menelik denounces treaty of Wichale

November 10 – ten Italian families settle on land seized by Eritrea; Italian settlement of Eritrea begins


June 2 – Mangasha and Alula enter Addis, reconcile with Menelik

July 28 – Rosalia Oldani – Eritrea’s first European settler infant – is born

December 16 – Revolt of Bahta Hagos at Saganeiti marks beginning of conflict that will culminate in battle of Adwa

December 19 – Troops commanded by Pietro Toselli trap Bahta Hagos at Halay; death of Bahta Hagos

December 20 – Mangasha mobilizes troops on pretext that he is arming against Mahdist forces

December 28 – In reaction to Mangasha’s build-up, Baratieri enters northern Ethiopia in preemptive strike; occupies Adwa, then evacuates on 2 January 1895 in pursuit of Mangasha’s forces


January 12-15 – Italian forces locate Mangasha, defeat his forces at Coatit and Senafé; Mangasha retreats in disorder

January 18 – Baratieri’s forces pursue Mangasha southward into Ethiopia, push into Tigray on pretext of defense of Eritrea

March 3 – Italians continue southward push, occupy Adigrat

March 28 – Italians occupy Mekele; thousands of square miles of territory occupied since December

April 1 – Italians occupy Adwa (third occupation); evacuate in December

Mid-April – Baratieri sends lengthy report to Rome laying out plan for the colonization of Tigray; his request for substantial new funding is denied; in response Baratieri asks to be relieved of his command

May 7 – Crispi government rejects Baratieri’s request for a replacement; he is called to Rome

July 27 – in Rome, Baratieri confers with Crispi and his cabinet

September 15 – Baratieri leaves Italy for Eritrea

September 17 – Menelik calls for national mobilization

October 9 – Italian forces pursue Mangasha’s army as far as Amba Alage and Lake Ashenge, a mere 250 miles from Addis Ababa

December 7 – Italian advanced post at Amba Alage under Major Pietro Toselli is destroyed by Menelik’s advance guard under Makonnen

December 8 – Major Giuseppe Galliano assigned to defense of Mekele

December 10 – Makonnen, leading the advance guard of Menelik’s army, arrives at Mekele, begins negotiations with Galliano for surrender and evacuation; Galliano refuses to surrender


January 6 – Menelik’s main force arrives at Mekele; siege begins

January 20 – evacuation of Mekele negotiated

February 3 – Menelik’s forces move northwest from Mekele, bypassing Italian forces at Adigrat; they settle near Gundapta; Baratieri leads force from Adigrat westward in pursuit; they settle near Entisho

February 5 – half-hearted peace negotiations break down; military stalemate ensues

February 13 – Italian allies Hagos Tafari and Ras Sebhat defect to Menelik, taking their forces with them; Ethiopian popular resistance to Italian occupation builds, imperiling Italian supply lines

February 22 – impatient Italian political leadership secretly names Antonio Baldissera to replace Baratieri; he leaves for Africa

February 22 – Menelik shifts forces westward from Gundapta to Adwa

February 23 – as Italian supply problems deepen, Baratieri orders preparations for strategic retreat into Eritrea

February 25 – Crispi sends searing telegram to Baratieri

February 29 – after consulting brigadier generals the previous day, Baratieri decides on aggressive move forward, in an attempt to force Menelik to attack or to withdraw

March 1 – the Battle of Adwa

March 5 – Menelik’s army and nearly 2,000 Italian prisoners leave Adwa for Addis Ababa

Late May / early June – Italian prisoners arrive in Addis

June 5 – Baratieri trial begins in Asmara

June 14 – Baratieri trial ends in acquittal

October 26 – peace treaty between Ethiopia and Italy

November 24 – first group of prisoners begins journey back to Italy


early March – final group of prisoners leaves Addis Ababa


death of Oreste Baratieri


US mission to Ethiopia under Robert P. Skinner, Consul-General at Marseilles


death of Makonnen; Menelik becomes ill; Alfred Ilg leaves Ethiopia to retire in Europe


death of Menelik


death of Alfred Ilg


death of Taytu


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