Early Dynasties

The Zagwe dynasty eventually rose around Lalibela in 1137. Although only lasting until

1270, it produced arguably Ethiopia's greatest treasures: the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela (p668). Despite the architectural wonders, this period remains shrouded in mystery as stones weren't inscribed, and no chronicles were written. The dynasty was overthrown by Yekuno Amlak, self-professed descendant of King Solomon and Queen Sheba. His 'Solomonic dynasty' would reign for 500 years.

Although Islam expanded into eastern Ethiopia during the 12th and 14th centuries, it wasn't until the late 15th century, when Ottoman Turks intervened, that hostilities erupted. After jihad was declared on the Christian highlands, Ethiopia experienced some of the worst bloodshed in its history. Only Portuguese intervention helped saved the Christian empire.

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