Since the Middle Ages, Italy has been very active in Ethiopia’s political and cultural relations with the Western world. The same legend of the Priest Gianni or Janni, although not yet localized in Ethiopia at that time, originates in Italy because Otto of Freising (who first accepted it in his chronicle) reports news he intended in Viterbo in the pontifical court in 1145; and equally the first attempt in Europe to forge diplomatic relations with the distant Ethiopian monarch is the one made by Pope Alexander III who with his letter of 27 September 1177 sent the doctor Philip on a mission to the Priest Gianni. For Ethiopia political system, please check politicsezine.com.
Later, the search for new routes to the Indies pushed Venice and Genoa into contacts, albeit indirect, with the states of the African basin of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. And Marco Polo gives the first sure news on the “Abascia”; and, it seems, the Genoese Sorleone Vivaldi from the coasts of the Indian Ocean tries to go towards Ethiopia; and, on the other hand, Genoese go from Egypt to Nubia where the Dominican Bartolomeo da Tivoli seems to have managed to have some relationship with Ethiopia in the first decades of the century. XIV.
But the first diplomatic relations between an Italian state and Ethiopia, certainly documented, are those that Venice, overcoming its rivals in this competition, managed to establish at the beginning of the century. XV. The first envoy of the Ethiopian monarch to Europe, nuncius excelsi domini Prestozane, was still an Italian, the Florentine Antonio Bartoli, who had been accredited by the negus to the Venetian Republic and had presented in the name of his sovereign to the Great Council “quattuor leopardos, aromata et certas res placibiles” (including monkey skins and of zebra). The Major Council with a resolution of 22 July 1402 allocated the sum of one thousand golden ducats for the expenses necessary to return the gifts to the negus and with another resolution of 10 August 1402 authorized the ambassador of the negus to bring some artists and craftsmen with him to Ethiopia. Italians (a Florentine painter, a Neapolitan majolica, two masons and a carpenter). Thus an Italian colony began to be formed in Ethiopia at the request of the same negus (Dāwit I) who used the masters of
This Ethiopian embassy in Venice in 1402 was the object of the most lively curiosity; and a typical document of this is the letter dated 23 June 1402 from Francesco Novello da Carrara, lord of Padua, who asked the doge to be sent to see at least part of the “stranie cosse” sent to Venice by the negus in Padua. And the other Italian states were excited by Venice’s example to follow the same path. Thus in 1427 Alfonso V, king of Naples and Aragon, received an embassy from the negus Yeshaq in Valenza and on 14 May 1428 he proposed with a letter of his to the said negus “domino Ysaq son of David” an alliance to be strengthened with two marriages of family; so in 1450 the same sovereign received in Naples an embassy of the negus Zar ‘ to Yā‛qob (composed of two Abyssinians and Pietro Rombolo da Messina interpreter) and he too sent the masters of art requested in Ethiopia to the negus. And already in 1432 Pietro Napoletano was going, on behalf of the negus, from Ethiopia (where he had gone two years earlier as an envoy of Giovanni Duke of Berry) to Constantinople to recruit craftsmen and unskilled workers there. The Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza, sent a letter to the negus Simoh Iacopo (Zar’a Yā‛qob) on June 16, 1459 to ask him for a copy of Ethiopian manuscripts of Solomon’s works. And finally, after the various pilgrimages of Ethiopian monks to Rome, of which we find traces in the documents of the century. XV, Pope Sixtus IV received an Ethiopian mission in November 1481, led by Friar Battista da Imola, a mission that Friar Giovanni Tomaselli, Neapolitan, he had managed to direct from Jerusalem to Rome. And the pontiff in turn sent an embassy to the negus Eskender which, chaired by Fra Giovanni da Calabria, reached the court of Ethiopia in 1482.
These Italo-Ethiopian relations had brought about a double consequence: on the one hand, the intensification, in Italy, of the interest in the knowledge of Ethiopia (and there are outstanding testimonies, among other things, the Venice-Sciaa itinerary and the Latin-Amharic phrasebook preserved for us by a Florentine codex, a phrasebook that is the oldest document in Europe of Abyssinian linguistic things; and the details given by Fra Mauro di S. Michele di Murano in the globe made by him on 26 August 1460 for news received “from those proper who are naked here”); and, on the other hand, the Italian influence in Ethiopian culture. This beneficial work of the Italian colony in Ethiopia in the century. XV is attested to us in painting (according to the prevailing opinion of scholars and, moreover,Ethiopian abbreviated chronicle), in architecture and sculpture (and suffice it to recall the church of Ganato Ghiorghis, the work of Niccolò Brancaleone from Veneto, then burned in the Muslim invasion), in music (the Venetians had built a “great et ornate organ, facto alla taliana “, according to a report of 1482), and in the same literature, both providing sources for Ethiopian works (as established by C. Conti Rossini for the Acts of St. Sebastian – Gadla Sebesty ā nos – v. below: Literature; and as it is documented for the African symbol of St. Athanasius), both by provoking the development of cultural activity with discussions (as was the case for Mas ḥ afa Mestir written following conversations of the Ethiopian author with an Italian Messer Zan).
And the legend of the Prete Gianni was so popular in Italy that Andrea dei Magnabotti made a large part of it in his chivalrous novels; as later Giuliano Dati (in the last decades of the 15th century) dedicated a poem to the Priest Gianni of Ethiopia: popular predecessors of the octaves of Orlando Furioso (canto XXXIII) in which Ariosto gave complete poetic form to the current traditions on relationships between Ethiopia and Egypt, determined by the Egyptian interest in the free flow of the Nile waters. Meanwhile still in Ethiopia from 1523 Gerolamo Bencini was court painter of the negus Lebna Denghel.
If the historical events of the Muslim invasion of Ethiopia made Portugal assume a special position towards the state of Negus, the Italians also played a large part in the same mission as the Jesuits (at the beginning of the anti-Catholic reaction out of 20 missionaries six were Italians) and one of them Francesco Antonio De Angelis, a Neapolitan, not only distinguished himself for his knowledge of Ethiopian and Amiaric, but also learned the Agau language, thus starting Cushitic studies. Meanwhile in Rome the church of S. Stefano, where Paul III had founded an Ethiopian convent in September 1539, became the center of European studies on Ethiopia and in Rome the first Ethiopists were formed: Teseo Ambrogio dei conti di Albonese in Lomellina, Pietro Paolo Gualtieri of Arezzo, and especially Mariano Vittori of Rieti, the
The expulsion of the Jesuits and the decline of the Ethiopian state slowed down in the second half of the century. XVII and then in XVIII, the contacts of Ethiopia with the Western world; but the Holy See multiplied the attempts to reconnect with the negus, attempts in which the Lucanian Ludovico da Laurenziana and the Sicilian Francesco da Mistretta (stoned in 1668), Francesco da Salemi Sicilian (died traveling in 1700), Michele Pio del Zerbo from Pavia and Samuele Marzorati from Milan (stoned in 1716). However Pasquale da Montella Lucano managed in 1697 to access the negus court as a doctor; and almost a century later another Lucanian Michelangelo Pacelli da Tricarico (of the observant minors) was finally able, with a trip to Tigrè (1789-1790), to re-establish the relations of the Holy See with the Ethiopian sovereign, then reigning, negus Hezekiyās and presented to Rome a request for arms from the negus who offered, in exchange, to recognize the sovereignty of the Eritrean coast to that Christian state which, occupying it against the Muslims, had advanced there to help himself Hezekiyās. But in 1791 Cardinal Antonelli, secretary of state, rejected these proposals, observing that “if that territory had been conquered by arms, there would be no need for the emperor to cede”.
Meanwhile, St. Stephen of the Moors, one of whose monks, Gregory of Makȧna Sellāsē, had given the German Ludolf the materials for the Historia Aethiopica and for the other linguistic works, continued his work, although diminished in intensity; and again at the end of the century. XVIII in an episode that took place in the presence of Goethe in Rome, Cardinal Albani could jokingly comment on a refrain sung in Ethiopian in his presence by seminarians from St. Stephen.
Later, during the same Risorgimento, Cavour tried to get in touch with Ethiopia and on 15 January 1857 Monsignor Massaia was commissioned to negotiate a treaty with the “most powerful prince of Abyssinia”. And if two years later, in September 1859, the events in Italy did not allow to implement the draft treaty that the father Leone des Avanchers, Savoyard, had formulated with the head of the Tigrè, later in 1872 Vittorio Emanuele II exchanged letters and donations with Menelik king of the Scioa, thus starting the relations of the new Italy with Ethiopia. Meanwhile, the mission, founded by the Piedmontese Capuchins, also yielded to science the works of Massaia, of his father Giusto da Urbino, the linguistic collections of his father Leone des Avanchers; and the political events of 1884-1896 bringing the Italy in Eritrea gave new possibilities for a renewal of Ethiopian studies with us. This renewal is the work of the Roman school, whose founder, Ignazio Guidi, with his works and those of his students (Carlo Conti Rossini, Francesco Gallina, Francesco Beguinot, Ludovico De Vito) managed to affirm this school, as has recently been said, “second to none in the philological field, first in the historical field”, thus resuming the glorious tradition that we have seen flourish in Italy already in the century. XV. Ludovico De Vito) has succeeded in affirming this school, as has recently been said, “second to none in the philological field, first in the historical field”, thus resuming the glorious tradition that we saw flourish in Italy already in the century. XV. Ludovico De Vito) has succeeded in affirming this school, as has recently been said, “second to none in the philological field, first in the historical field”, thus resuming the glorious tradition that we saw flourish in Italy already in the century. XV.
For the geographical explorations, to which the Italian colonial activity in East Africa gave reason, see. Exploration. For the political events of the most recent period, see History.