An Introduction to the Economic History of Ethiopia, from Early Times to 1800

An Introduction to the Economic History of Ethiopia, from Early Times to 1800

An Introduction to the Economic History of Ethiopia, from Early Times to 1800

An Introduction to the Economic History of Ethiopia, from Early Times to 1800

Excerpt

Ethiopia is a land famed in song and legend from the most ancient times. It enters into the story of Isis in Egypt. It is closely connected with the history of Solomon. Queen Hatshepsut sent a celebrated expedition to that land known to ancient Egyptians as Punt to collect its products, and her tomb is adorned with pictures commemorating that achievement. Further, Ethiopia seems to have been one of the first countries to accept Christianity. The Ethiopians claim that their conversion dates from apostolic times. Though this is doubtful, it is unquestionable that at least from the time of Athanasius, patriarch of Alexandria in the fourth century, Ethiopia has remained staunchly Christian.

It is also significant that of all the countries of Africa which had accepted Christianity in the early centuries, Ethiopia is the only one where it flourishes even now. Though nearest to Arabia and at all times in the closest contacts with Yemen and Mecca, Ethiopia was left well alone by the Arabs in the days of their great expansion. The reason given for this is interesting. In the early days of Mahommed's career when his followers were being persecuted in Mecca he sent a batch of refugees to Ethiopia where they were received and given protection by the Negus. In recognition of this early assistance the prophet himself is said to have commanded his followers never to attack Ethiopia, and except for sporadic raids by Turkish Governors and the invasion by Ahmad Grañ this injunction of the prophet has been a fairly effective guarantee of Ethiopia's independence even in the days when the name of Islam evoked terror in the minds of the most powerful nations of Europe.

During the Middle Ages, though little was known of Ethiopia in Europe, the legend of Prester John, the mysterious Christian monarch who ruled a vast and powerful empire somewhere in the East, exercised the imagination of Western Nations. No one was certain of its location. Some placed it in the heart of Asia and identified it with the empire of the Tatar Khans. Others placed it in Africa. But everyone agreed that the country was . . .

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