Battle of Dogali
The Battle of Dogali was fought on 26 January 1887 between Italy
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

 and Ethiopia
Ethiopian Empire
The Ethiopian Empire also known as Abyssinia, covered a geographical area that the present-day northern half of Ethiopia and Eritrea covers, and included in its peripheries Zeila, Djibouti, Yemen and Western Saudi Arabia...

 in Dogali near Massawa
Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa (Ge'ez ምጽዋዕ , formerly ባጽዕ is a city on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea. An important port for many centuries, it was ruled by a succession of polities, including the Axumite Empire, the Umayyad Caliphate,...

, in present-day Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...


On his own initiative, Ras Alula Engida
Alula Engida
Ras Alula Engida was a general and Ethiopian politician...

, then governor of Emperor
Emperor of Ethiopia
The Emperor of Ethiopia was the hereditary ruler of Ethiopia until the abolition of the monarchy in 1974. The Emperor was the head of state and head of government, with ultimate executive, judicial and legislative power in that country...

 Yohannes IV
Yohannes IV of Ethiopia
Yohannes IV , born Lij Kassay Mercha Ge'ez, was Emperor of Ethiopia from 1872 until his death.-Early life:...

, had attacked the Italian-controlled town of Sahati on the day prior. Hundreds of his men were slaughtered by cannon fire, while only four Italians were injured, forcing Ras Alula to pull his men back.

On January 26, a battalion of 500 men under Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 Tommaso De Cristofori, sent to reinforce the Italian garrison at Sahati, were ambushed by Ras Alula's men at Dogali. Although the Italians fought back all were killed, except for eighty wounded men who were able to escape notice by the Ethiopians and be rescued.

Although a victory for the Ethiopians, Haggai Erlich notes that this incident only encouraged the Italians to intrigue with Yohannes' rival, Menelik II, then ruler only of Shewa
Shewa is a historical region of Ethiopia, formerly an autonomous kingdom within the Ethiopian Empire...

, and encourage his insubordination towards his Emperor.

This battle was celebrated under the Derg
The Derg or Dergue was a Communist military junta that came to power in Ethiopia following the ousting of Haile Selassie I. Derg, which means "committee" or "council" in Ge'ez, is the short name of the Coordinating Committee of the Armed Forces, Police, and Territorial Army, a committee of...

 regime, and Mengistu Haile Mariam
Mengistu Haile Mariam
Mengistu Haile Mariam is a politician who was formerly the most prominent officer of the Derg, the Communist military junta that governed Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987, and the President of the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia from 1987 to 1991...

 commemorated the centennial with much attention, including the erection of a monument topped with a red star on the battlefield. Following Eritrean independence, the monument was removed. Paul B. Henze diplomatically notes in a footnote, "When I crossed the battlefield in 1996, I could detect no trace of the monument." Erlich provides more information: when Eritrean troops gained control of the area in 1989, "a prominent commander of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front
Eritrean People's Liberation Front
The Eritrean People's Liberation Front was an armed organization that fought for the independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia. It emerged in 1970 as an intellectual left-wing group that split from the Eritrean Liberation Front .-Background:...

,and a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Petros Solomon
Petros Solomon
Petros Solomon is an Eritrean politician. He was an Eritrean People's Liberation Front commander during the Eritrean War of Independence, and following independence he served in several positions in the Cabinet, including Minister of Defense and Minister of Foreign Affairs...

 himself was delighted to blast Mengistu's monument of Ras Alula." This could be attributed to the fact that while Alula was an administrator appointed by Yohannes IV over small parts of the Eritrean highlands, he committed many atrocities against the local biher-Tigrinya population, sowing seeds of discord. Observers, including Erlich and others, attribute this to Eritrean Tigrinya views of their own relationship with Ethiopia as a whole. Since Alula fought for the Empire and not for Tigray itself, he is viewed as a traitor on the Eritrean side of the border, a hero on the Ethiopian side.

See also

  • First Italo-Ethiopian War
  • Obelisks in Rome
    Obelisks in Rome
    The city of Rome harbours the most obelisks in the world. There are eight ancient Egyptian and five ancient Roman obelisks in Rome, together with a number of more modern obelisks; there was also formerly an ancient Ethiopian obelisk in Rome....

    (one obelisk commemorates the Italian soldiers killed in the Battle of Dogali)
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