Battle of Mek'elē

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Battle of Mek'elē
For a ransom and under Ethiopian guard, Menelik let the Italians and Askaris go (La Tribuna Illustrata, 1896)
For a ransom and under Ethiopian guard, Menelik let the Italians and Askaris go (La Tribuna Illustrata, 1896)
date January 7, 1896 to January 21, 1896
place Mek'ele , Tigray , Abyssinia
output Victory of the Ethiopians
consequences Defeat of the Ethiopian auxiliaries and allies from the Italians
Parties to the conflict

Ethiopian Pennants.svg Ethiopia

Italy 1861Kingdom of Italy (1861-1946) Italy


Ethiopian Pennants.svg Menelik II. Taytu Betul Mengesha Yohannes Alula Engida Ras Mekonnen
Ethiopian Pennants.svg
Ethiopian Pennants.svg
Ethiopian Pennants.svg
Ethiopian Pennants.svg

Italy 1861Kingdom of Italy (1861-1946) Giuseppe Galliano

Troop strength
30,000 men 1200 men (including 1000 Askari) to 1500 men

The Battle of Mek'elē was part of the Italo-Ethiopian War . There the Ethiopian army defeated the Italian invasion troops in 1896 .

Starting position

Since January 1895, Italian troops led by Lieutenant Colonel Giuseppe Galliano, together with Sudanese and Eritrean Askaris, occupied the fortress of Mek'elē . The Ethiopian generals ( Amharic : Ras ) Mengesha , Makonnen and Welle set up camp near Mek'elē. They sent messengers to the fortress and demanded negotiations and the withdrawal of the Italian military from Mek'elē. On December 8th, 1895, immediately after the battle of the Amba Alagi , the Ethiopian cavalry began to enclose the Italians and put them under siege. On January 5, 1896, Ras Makonnen Galliano asked that he should leave the fortress with his troops and Askaris and go to Massaua . The luggage of the Italian soldiers would be brought by Makonnen's men. The Italian general Oreste Baratieri urged his negotiator, the royal commissioner Pietro Felter , to postpone the negotiations for up to 20 days in order to get reinforcements by then. Already on January 7th, Emperor Menelik II reached the camp with his army and instead reinforced the Ethiopian troops.

Attacks and surrender

On the same day (not until January 8th or 10th respectively) Menelik II gave the order to attack. The well-equipped Italians were initially able to repel the attack. Over 500 Ethiopians died on the mountain and numerous were wounded, including Ras Makonnen. In the case of the Italians, on the other hand, only six dead and nine wounded are known.

In search of a new tactic, the wife of Menelik II. Taytu Betul , who with her personal bodyguard had her own troops of around 3,000 men, came up with the idea of ​​cutting off the water supply for the Italians. On the same day, Ras Makonnen ordered his troops to capture and spill the springs at the gates of Mek'elē. The Italians only had water supplies in the fortress cistern for ten days. Therefore, the Italians had to reduce their water consumption within a very short time. Each soldier received only a quarter liter of water and a little beer. Galliano waited in vain for reinforcements from Adigrat at that time. On January 10th, the Ethiopians tried again to storm the fortress. Again there was a large number of victims on the Ethiopian side. Ras Makonnen, who was once more lightly wounded in the attack, asked for a truce on January 13th to bury the dead who were still lying in the field. Galliano demanded the withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops by eleven kilometers. Makonnen realized that the Italian first lieutenant was trying to recapture the water sources and did not accept the offer.

On January 19, Galliano announced his readiness to withdraw from Mek'elē after the lack of water and a letter from Oreste Baratieri forced him to do so. Menelik, who did not want to risk any further losses of his own, accepted, and on January 21 and 22 the Italians marched off to Adigrat.


  • Wiener Zeitung of February 6, 1896
  • Wiener Bilder newspaper from February 8, 1896
  • Wiener Bilder newspaper from February 16, 1896

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h Andrzej Bartnicki, Joanna Mantel-Niećko: History of Ethiopia - From the beginnings to the present , Part 1, pages 334–338. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1978
  2. a b c d Enciclopedia Italiana (1934): Macallè
  3. a b c Enciclopedia Italiana (1933): Italo-Abissina, Guerra
  4. ^ Andrzej Bartnicki, Joanna Mantel-Niećko: History of Ethiopia - From the beginnings to the present , part 2, page 413. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1978