Meaning of ETHIOPIA, FLAG OF in English

horizontally striped green-yellow-red national flag with a central blue disk bearing a yellow star in outline. The flag's width-to-length ratio is 1 to 2. Ethiopia has traditionally identified its green-yellow-red national flag with the rainbow that, according to the book of Genesis in the Bible, God set in the heavens after the Flood. Pennants of those three colours had been displayed before the first official flag was established by Emperor Menilek II on October 6, 1897; his flag bore on the yellow stripe the first letter of his name in Amharic script. Later the imperial coat of armsconsisting of the Conquering Lion of Judah, a lion holding a staff topped by a cross with ribbons in the three national coloursappeared on the flag when it was used for official purposes. The lion symbolically asserted that Emperor Menilek I had been the son of the Queen of Sheba and the biblical King Solomon. The first legal definition was given to the lion flag in November 1932, soon after the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie. It remained in use until the overthrow of the empire in 1974, except for those years (193641) when the country was occupied by Italy. Flag of Ethiopia (199196). In 1975 a revolutionary government established a new coat of arms with socialist symbols. In 1987 President Mengistu Haile Mariam proclaimed the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia under a flag with an even more openly Marxist design, including a red star at the top. The rebels who overthrew his regime in 1991 flew a simple green-yellow-red tricolour. Finally, the new constitution for the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, adopted on February 6, 1996, added a central blue disk with a yellow outlined and rayed star. The star represents the unity of all Ethiopian nationalities, its rays the bright prospects for their future. Blue is for peace, yellow for hope, justice, and equality. Red represents sacrifice for freedom and equality, while green is equated with labour, development, and fertility. Whitney Smith History From prehistory to the Aksumite kingdom That life is of great antiquity in Ethiopia is indicated by the Hadar remains, a group of skeletal fragments found in the lower Awash River valley. The bone fragments belong to Australopithecus afarensis, an apelike creature that lived about four million years ago and may have been an ancestor of modern humans. Sometime between the 8th and 6th millennia BC, pastoralism and then agriculture developed in northern Africa and southwestern Asia, and, as the population grew, an ancient tongue spoken in this region fissured into the modern languages of the Afro-Asiatic (formerly Hamito-Semitic) family. This family includes the Cushitic and Semitic languages now spoken in Ethiopia. During the 2nd millennium BC, cereal grains and the use of the plow were introduced into Ethiopia from the region of the Sudan, and a people speaking Ge'ez (a Semitic language) came to dominate the rich northern highlands of Tigray. There, in the 7th century BC, they established the kingdom of Da'amat. This kingdom dominated lands to the west, obtaining ivory, tortoiseshell, rhinoceros horn, gold, silver, and slaves and trading them to South Arabian merchants. After 300 BC, Da'amat deteriorated as trade routes were diverted eastward for easier access to coastal ports. Subsequent wars of aggrandizement led to unification under the inland state of Aksum, which, from its base on the Tigray Plateau, controlled the ivory trade into the Sudan, other trade routes leading farther inland to the south, and the port of Adulis on the Gulf of Zula. Aksum's culture comprised Ge'ez, written in a modified South Arabian alphabet, sculpture and architecture based on South Arabian prototypes, and an amalgam of local and Middle Eastern dieties. Thus, evidence exists of a close cultural exchange between Aksum and the Arabian peninsula, but there are no scholarly grounds for the common belief that South Arabian immigrants actually peopled and created Aksum, even if many of them visited or even came to live there. Nevertheless, the ancient cultural exchange across the Red Sea became enshrined in Ethiopian legend in the persons of Makedathe Queen of Shebaand the Israelite king Solomon. Their mythical union was said to have produced Menilek I, the progenitor of Ethiopia's royal dynasty. By the 5th century Aksum was the dominant trading power in the Red Sea. Commerce rested on sound financial methods, attested to by the minting of coins bearing the effigies of Aksumite emperors. In the anonymous Greek travel book Periplus Maris Erythraei, written in the 1st century AD, Adulis is described as an open harbour containing a settlement of Greco-Roman merchants. It was through such communities, established for the purposes of trade, that the Monophysite Christianity of the eastern Mediterranean reached Ethiopia during the reign of Emperor Ezanas (c. 303c. 350). By the mid-5th century, monks were evangelizing among the Cushitic-speaking Agew people to the east and south. At its height, Aksum extended its influence northward to the southernmost reaches of Egypt, westward to the Cushite kingdom of Meroe, southward to the Omo River, and eastward to the spice coasts on the Gulf of Aden. Even the South Arabian kingdom of the Himyarites, across the Red Sea in what is now Yemen, came under the suzerainty of Aksum. In the early 6th century, Emperor Caleb (Ella-Asbeha; reigned c. 500534) was strong enough to reach across the Red Sea in order to protect his coreligionists in Yemen against persecution by a Jewish prince. However, Christian power in South Arabia ended after 572, when the Persians invaded and disrupted trade. They were followed 30 years later by the Arabs, whose rise in the 7th and 8th centuries cut off Aksum's trade with the Mediterranean world. The Zagwe and Solomonid dynasties As Christian shipping disappeared from the Red Sea, Aksum's towns lost their vitality. The Aksumite state turned southward, conquering adjacent, grain-rich highlands. Monastic establishments moved even farther to the southfor example, a great monastery was founded near Lake Hayk in the 9th century. Over time, one of the subject peoples, the Agew, learned Ge'ez, became Christian, and assimilated their Aksumite oppressors to the point that Agew princes were able to transfer the seat of the empire southward to their own region of Lasta. Thus the Zagwe dynasty appeared in Ethiopia. Later ecclesiastical texts accused this dynasty of not having been of pure Solomonid stock (i.e., not descended from the union of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba), but it was in the religious plane that the Zagwe nonetheless distinguished themselves. At the Zagwe capital of Roha, Emperor Lalibela (reigned c. 11851225) directed the hewing of 11 churches out of living rocka stupendous monument to Christianity, which he and the other Zagwes fostered along with the Ethiopianization of the countryside. The church hierarchy, however, continued to view the Zagwes with distaste, favouring instead the Amhara princes of northern Shewa, who claimed legitimacy as the avatars of the Aksumite dynasty. When Shewa's king Yekuno Amlak rebelled in 1270, he was supported by an influential faction of monastic churchmen, who condoned his regicide of Emperor Yitbarek and legitimated his descent from Solomon. The genealogy of the new Solomonid dynasty was published in the early 14th century in the Kebra Negast (Glory of the Kings), a pastiche of legends that related the birth of Menilek I, associated Ethiopia with the Judeo-Christian tradition, and provided a basis for Ethiopian national unity through the Solomonid dynasty, Shewan culture, and the Amharic language. Well-armed ideologically, the Ethiopian state was prepared for a struggle impending in its eastern and southern provinces, where Christianity was being pushed back by the forces of Islam. Islamic missionary preaching had led to the conversion of many pagan people living on the peripheries of Ethiopian rule. In the late 13th century, various Muslim sultanates on Ethiopia's southern border fell under the hegemony of Ifat, located on the eastern Shewan Plateau and in the Awash valley. Early in his reign (131444), the Ethiopian emperor Amda Tseyon marched southward, where he established strategic garrisons and divided jurisdictions into gults, or fiefs, whose holders paid an annual tribute. His heavy taxation of exports, especially of gold, ivory, and slaves that were transshipped from Ifat to Arabia, resulted in several rebellions led by Muslim sultans. Amda Tseyon and his successors replied with brutal pacification campaigns that carried Solomonid power into the Awash valley and even as far as Seylac (Zeila) on the Gulf of Aden. Aggrandizement into non-Christian areas eventually stimulated an internal reform and consolidation of the Christian state. As heads of the church, Solomonid monarchs actively participated in the development of religious culture and discipline by building and beautifying churches, repressing pagan practices, and promoting the composition of theological and doctrinal works. Such close connection between church and state inevitably brought conflict. Because of the role played by the monasteries in the accession of the Solomonid dynasty, many of them had been given perpetual title to considerable landed benefices. Such power allowed the monasteries at times to intervene in disputes over succession to the Solomonid throne and even openly to fight the reigning monarch. On the other hand, the monk Abba Ewostatewos (c. 12731352) preached isolation from corrupting state influences and a return to Biblical teachingsincluding observance of the Judaic Sabbath on Saturday in addition to the Sunday observance, an idea deeply held by the rural masses. The great emperor Zara Yakob (reigned 143468) conceded the latter point in 1450 at the Council of Mitmak, but he also initiated severe reforms in the church, eliminating abuses by strong measures and executing the leaders of heretical sects. Zara Yakob also conducted an unsuccessful military campaign to annihilate the Beta Israel, or Falasha, a group of Agew-speaking Jews who practiced a non-Talmudic form of Judaism. Zara Yakob valued national unity above all and feared Muslim encirclement. In 1445 he dealt Ifat such a crushing military defeat that hegemony over the Muslim states passed to the sultans of Adal, in the vicinity of Harer. About 1520 the leadership of Adal was assumed by Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi, a Muslim reformer who became known as Sahib al-Fath (the Conqueror) to the Muslims and Ahmad Gra (Ahmad the Left-Handed) to the Christians. Ahmad drilled his men in modern Ottomon tactics and led them on a jihad, or holy war, against Ethiopia, quickly taking areas on the periphery of Solomonid rule. In 1528 Emperor Lebna Denegel was defeated at the battle of Shimbra Kure, and the Muslims pushed northward into the central highlands, destroying settlements, churches, and monasteries. In 1541 the Portuguese, whose interests in the Red Sea were imperiled by Muslim power, sent 400 musketeers to train the Ethiopian army in European tactics. Emperor Galawdewos (reigned 154059) opted for a hit-and-run strategy and on February 21, 1543, caught Ahmad in the open near Lake Tana and killed him in action. The Muslim army broke, leaving the field and north-central Ethiopia to the Christians. The economy Under Emperor Haile Selassie (reigned 193074), Ethiopia's economy enjoyed a modicum of free enterprise. The production and export of cash crops such as coffee were advanced, and import-substituting manufactures such as textiles and footwear were established. Especially after World War II, tourism, banking, insurance, and transport began to contribute more to the national economy. The Derg regime, which ruled from 1974 to 1991, nationalized all means of production, including land, housing, farms, and industry. Faced with uncertainties on their land rights, the smallholding subsistence farmers who form the backbone of Ethiopian agriculture became reluctant to risk producing surplus foods for market. Food shortages, already made serious by drought and civil war, worsened, and famine continued until the Derg finally collapsed. Under the present regime, which is essentially extracted from a rebel faction, land is still state-owned and is tenurable only by leasing from the government. In addition, an uncertain political climate has precluded significant internal or external investment in the country's economy. Ethiopia therefore remains among the poorest countries in the world. Resources Ethiopia's most promising resource is its agricultural land. Although soil erosion, overgrazing, and deforestation have seriously damaged the plateaus, nearly half the potentially cultivable land is still available for future use. Most of the reserve land is located in parts of the country that have favourable climatic conditions for intensive agriculture. In addition, Ethiopia is the richest country in Africa in number of livestock, including cattle. With better management of grazing lands and breeding, livestock raising has the potential to meet the demands of internal as well as export markets. Ethiopia has many large rivers, but, with the exception of the Awash, they have yet to be exploited fully for hydroelectric power and irrigation. The role of minerals in Ethiopia's economy is also small. Only gold and platinum are of significance. However, there are potentials for copper, potash, lead, manganese, aluminum, chromium, cobalt, sulfur, and many others. The land Geology Ethiopia's topography, one of the most rugged in Africa, is built on four geologic formations. Rocks of Precambrian origin (more than 540 million years in age) form the oldest basal complex of Ethiopia, as they do in most of Africa. The Precambrian layer is buried under more recent geologic formationsexcept in parts of northern, western, and southern Ethiopia, where there are exposed rock layers of granite and schist. Geologic processes of the Mesozoic Era (245 to 66.4 million years ago) contributed sedimentary layers of limestone and sandstone, most of which have been either eroded or covered by volcanic rocks. Younger sedimentary layers are found in northern Ethiopia and on the floors of the Rift Valley. Lava flows from the Tertiary and Quaternary periods (from 66.4 million years ago to the present) have formed basaltic layers that now cover two-thirds of Ethiopia's land surface with a thickness ranging from about 1,000 feet (300 metres) to almost 10,000 feet. The Rift Valley forms a spectacular graben (a massive tectonic trough) running right down the middle of the country from the northern frontier with Eritrea to the southern border with Kenya. Relief Although Ethiopia's complex relief defies easy classification, five topographic features are discernible. These are the Western Highlands, Western Lowlands, Eastern Highlands, Eastern Lowlands, and Rift Valley. The Western Highlands are the most extensive and rugged topographic component of Ethiopia. The most spectacular portion is the North Central massifs; these form the roof of Ethiopia, with elevations ranging from 15,157 feet (4,620 metres) for Mount Ras Dejen (or Dashen), the highest mountain in Ethiopia, to the Blue Nile and Tekeze river channels 10,000 feet below. The Western Lowlands stretch north-south along the Sudanese border and include the lower valleys of the Blue Nile, Tekeze, and Baro rivers. With elevations of about 3,300 feet, these lowlands become too hot to attract dense settlement. The Rift Valley is part of the larger East African Rift System. Hemmed in by the escarpments of the Western and Eastern Highlands, it has two distinct sections. The first part is in the northeast, where the valley floor widens into a funnel shape as it approaches the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. This is a relatively flat area interrupted only by occasional volcanic cones, some of which are active. The Denakil Plain, in which a depression known as the Kobar Sink drops as low as 380 feet below sea level, is found here. High temperatures and lack of moisture make the northeastern Rift Valley unattractive for settlement. The southwest section, on the other hand, is a narrow depression of much higher elevation. It contains Ethiopia's Lakes Region, an internal drainage basin of many small rivers that drain into Lakes Abaya, Abiyata, Awasa, Langano, Shala, Chamo, and Ziway. Together these lakes have more than 1,200 square miles (3,108 square kilometres) of water surface. The upper Rift Valley is one of the most productive and most settled parts of Ethiopia. The Eastern Highlands are much smaller in extent than the Western Highlands, but they offer equally impressive contrast in topography. The highest peaks are Mount Batu, at 14,127 feet, and Mount Chilalo, at 13,575 feet. The Eastern Lowlands resemble the long train of a bridal gown suddenly dipping from the narrow band of the Eastern Highlands and gently rolling for hundreds of miles to the Somalian border. Two important regions here are the Ogaden and the Hawd. The Shebele and Genale rivers cross the lowlands, moderating the desert ecology. The people Ethiopians are ethnically diverse, but it is not helpful to attempt to distinguish among peoples by physical criteria alone. The most important differences are cultural, particularly in language and religion. Languages Ethiopia is a mosaic of about 100 languages that can be classified into four groupsSemitic, Cushitic, Omotic, and Nilotic. The Semitic languages are spoken primarily in the northern and central parts of the country; they include Ge'ez, Tigrinya, Amharic, Gurage, and Hareri. Ge'ez, the ancient language of the Aksumite empire, is used today only for religious writings and worship in the Ethiopian Orthodox church. Tigrinya is native to the northern province of Tigray. Amharic is one of the country's principal languages and is native to the central and northwestern provinces. Gurage and Hareri are spoken by relatively few people in the south and east. The most important Cushitic languages are Oromo, Somali, and Afar. Oromo, together with Amharic, is one of the two most-spoken languages in Ethiopia; it is native to the western, southwestern, southern, and eastern areas of the country. Somali is dominant among inhabitants of the Ogaden and Hawd, while Afar is most common in the Denakil Plain. The Omotic languages, chief among which is Walaita, are not widespread, being spoken mostly in the densely populated areas of the extreme southwest. The Nilotic language group is native to the Western Lowlands, with Kunama speakers being dominant.

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