Ethiopia

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The flag and emblem of Ethiopia are shown above. These are the modern symbols, but, Ethiopia is very old… on of the most ancient continuous countries in the world.

For individual banknotes of Ethiopia, select from the banknote images above.

Scholarship has considered Ethiopia to be, perhaps, the original fount of humanity. The river Gishon, “encircling the entire land of Cush”, has been considered by Ethiopians from a very early date, to the the Blue Nile “which encircles the former kingdom of Gojjam.”1 2 Apart from Liberia, a much smaller West African nation with a unique history, Ethiopia is the only country in Africa not colonized by Europe.

Askum was prosperous by the 3rd and 4th centuries CE.3

A unique combination of construction in stone on a massive scale together with detailed stone carvings evolved in Askum.  Stellae as tall as 100 feet carved from a single clock of stone weighing as much as 700 tons have been uncovered, some still standing erect.4 The stone monuments received, perhaps, their highest expression in the stone churches carved from living rock in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Christianity came to Ethiopia in the 3rd century by way of scholars from Alexandria.  The Ethiopian king adopted Christianity as the nations’ religion by the middle of the 4th century.5

The country under the Askumites were very prosperous for three or four centuries, extending their borders even across the Red Sea into modern area Yemen,6 and then entered into a decline that lasted until around 1000 CE when the kingdom began to resurge. 

The Askumite line of kings gave way to the Zagwe dynasty around 1100CE.7

The last Zagwe ruler was ousted by the incoming Solomonid dynasty in 1270CE.8

The Solomonid kings traced their lineage to Solomon of Hebrew fame and the Queen of Sheba.9 Their era was marked architecturally by the cessation of the mighty stone works of old and the adoption of a more contemporary mud brick and tent structure which also facilitated an innovative mobile governmental system.  

The center of Indian ocean Muslim trade shifted from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf with the rise of Baghdad as a center of the Muslim world.  With this shift, the Somali coast, that is the horn of Africa outside of the Red Sea channel, grew in importance for trade with Africa.10

  Muslim merchants began to penetrate the region and a kingdom of Adal, was founded.11 In 1526 general Ahmad ibn Ibrahim became leader in the kingdom of Adal.  He rallied the Muslim world under the banner of jihad  and attacked Ethiopia, defeated the renowned Ethiopian army and began to overrun the country destroying as he went.  The Ethiopian king appealed to “Christian Europe: for assistance against the “common enemy” of Islam.12 The Portuguese responded and Adal was defeated and much of the territory soon recovered, but leaving a substantially weakened Ethiopia.13

Ethiopia has a long and storied relationship with the Christian faith. It was one of, if not the first nation,14 as a nation to adopt the Christian faith as a nation. The country’s relation to that faith dates back to the storied encounter between Philip and an Ethiopian eunuch outside of Jerusalem, returning home. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is one of the oldest ecclesiastical bodies in the world and has long dominated culture in the country.

King Tewodros … (1855-1868) and conflict with Great Britain

King Tewodros in the mid 19th century and, unifying disparate factions in the land, is considered the first modern ruler of Ethiopia. He abolished the widespread institution of slavery, although the practice lingered for almost another hundred years.15

Tewodros II reigned 1855 until he died in battle with the British in 1868.16 His thirteen year reign united the kingdom and laid the foundation for modern Ethiopia.

Menelik obtained the throne upon Johannes’ death in 1889.  He reigned from Addis Ababa and expanded the empire to include Somalia.  He acknowledged Italian claims in Eritrea but defeated the Italians in their attempt to enter Ethiopian territory, effectively excluding Ethiopia from conquest during the scramble for Africa.17

Haile Selassie … (1916-1974) and conflict with Italy

coat of arms of Haille Selassie

Haile Selassie became regent in 1916 and then emperor in 1930. When Mussolini’s Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1936, Selassie’s address to the League of Nations elevated his status to world statesman. Italy’s occupation was displaced by Britain in the course of WW2 and Ethiopia’s independence affirmed in the Paris Peace Conference. Italy’s occupation abolished slavery. Upon return to power, Haile Selassie abandoned his earlier plan of slow emancipation for slavery for continuance of the abolition commenced by the Italians.

A Communist era through the demise of the Soviet Union … (1974 – 1991) and conflict with Somalia

The worldwide oil crisis of 1973 turned internal opinion against Selassie, and, September 12, 1974 he was deposed by a Soviet-backed communist dictatorship led by Mengistu Haile Mariam.

In 1977, Somalia invaded Ethiopia in the Ogaden War. Massive Soviet aid including 15,000 Cuban combat troops enabled Ethiopia to repulse the Somalis.

1977 and 1978 were years of violent political suppression called The Red Terror against The White Terror in which half million sols died. The famine years from 1983 to 1985 saw another million die. Concurrent with the decline of the Soviet Union in the latter years of the 1980s, so declined their aid to Ethiopia, and concurrently the people organized against the oppressive regime. Mengistu fled in 1991 and was convicted of crimes of genocide in abstentia by Ethiopia’s high court.

The Post Cold-War era … and conflict with Eritrea

A transitional government with a transitional constitution was adopted in 1991, a new constitution written in 1994 and the first multi party election held in 1995, electing as president, Negasso Gidada.

The Ethiopian-Eritrean War lasted from May 1998 until June 2000. In 2018, Prime Ministr Abiy Ahmed visited Eritrea bring to an end the state of hostility between the two countries.

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Ethiopia 10 Birr 2006 banknote front (2) featuring a weaver

Ethiopia – 10 Birr – Year 2006

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Ethiopia 10 Birr banknote year 2006 front, featuring woman weaving
Ethiopia 10 Birr (2006) front

TEN BIRR is noted prominently left center of the front of our banknote.  The Birr is the name of the unit of currency in Ethiopia and has been since the middle 1800s.  “Birr” means “silver” in the local languages.

A weaver adorns the front.  A lion appears behind the inscription for TEN BIRR.

Ethiopia 10 Birr banknote year 2006 back, featuring man riding on tractor
Ethiopia 10 Birr (2006) back

Fields are plowed in the foreground with rolling hills in the background.