Amba Alagi

Amba Alagi

Infobox Mountain
Name=Amba Alagi
Photo= | Caption=
Elevation=3949 m
Location=Ethiopia | Range=Ethiopian highlands

Amba Alagi is a mountain, or an amba, in northern Ethiopia. Located in the Debubawi Zone of the Tigray Region, Amba Alagi dominates the roadway that runs past it from the city of Mek'ele south to Maychew. Because of its strategic location, Amba Alagi has been the location of several battles. As Anthony Mockler describes it,

: It was [a] real "amba", flat-topped, covered with crevices and canyons and caves, impregnable on the north and north-east where the Tug Gabat ran round its flanks through precipitous ravines, falling steeply away in the rear to the spur of Antalo, behind which lay the broad plain of Mahera. [Anthony Mockler, "Haile Selassie's War" (New York: Olive Branch Press, 2003), p. 97.]


The first mention of Amba Alagi is in the Chronicle of Emperor Baeda Maryam (1468-1478), who personally led an expedition against the Dobe'a, who lived around Amba Alagi and raided the caravan routes. The road built from the coast south to Magdala during the British 1868 Expedition to Abyssinia passed through Amba Alagi. [Richard Pankhurst, "Economic History of Ethiopia" (Addis Ababa: Haile Selassie University, 1968), p. 287] A generation later, the mountain was the scene of a battle in February 1889 between Ras Alula Engida and Ras Seyoum Gebre in which Ras Alula was wounded. [ [ "Local History in Ethiopia"] (pdf) The Nordic Africa Institute website (accessed 3 January 2008)]

The first Battle of Amba Alagi occurred in December 1895. On December 7, the Ethiopians defeated an Italian army of 2,350 led by Pietro Toselli and a day later, on December 8, the Ethiopian emperor, Menelik II, drove out the Italian forces of General Oreste Baratieri. After the defeat, the Italians withdrew from Amba Alagi and Gondar to their half-finished fort at Mek'ele, which Menelik then besieged for 15 days (6 - 21 January 1896). [The 1895 battle at Amba Alagi is described by Chris Prouty, "Empress Taytu and Menilek II: Ethiopia 1883-1910" (Trenton: Red Sea Press, 1986), pp. 140-3.]

The second Battle of Amba Alagi was fought in May 1941, during World War II, part of the East African Campaign. The mountain had galleries carved into the rock to protect the defending troops and hold ample ammunition and stores. The defenders, Italian troops under command of the Viceroy, the Duke of Aosta, thought themselves to be impregnable. The initial attacks on the approaches to Amba Alagi by British troops under Major-General Mayne from the north, commenced on May 4 with a pincer from the eastern and western sides. There was hard fighting in the jagged mountainous terrain. Mayne's troops were joined on May 12 by Brigadier Dan Pienaar's 1st South African Brigade, which had captured the Italian garrison of Dessie (April 20) located 200 miles south of Amba Alagi, and by May 14 Amba Alagi was completely surrounded. A final assault was planned for the next day but a lucky strike by an artillery shell hit an Italian fuel dump, upsetting oil into their last remaining drinking water and forcing the garrison's surrender. [ Compton Mackenzie, "Eastern Epic", pp. 67-70]

The film "La Pattuglia dell'Amba Alagi", shot in 1953 by Flavio Calzavara, glorifies the Italian defense against the British.

Amba Alagi was the location of the decisive battle of the Woyane rebellion. After capturing Mek'ele, the Woyane swept south to the mountain where they encountered a government force consisting of 2,000 regular soldiers and 8,000 territorials. From 18 September through 6 October 1943, rebels under the personal leadership of Blatta Haile Mariam Redda repeatedly stormed the government positions, until artillery barrages and British Blenheim bombers at last dispersed the rebels. [Gebru Tareke, "Ethiopia: Power and protest" (Lawrenceville: Red Sea Press, 1996) pp. 109-113]



*cite book | author=Compton MacKenzie | title=Eastern Epic | publisher=Chatto & Windus, London | year=1951 | id=

External links

* [ Battle of Amba-Alagi on December 7]
* [ Battle of Amba-Alagi on December 8]
* [ Timeweb - Amba-Alagi]
* [ La Pattuglia dell'Amba Alagi (1953)]
* [ Amba Alagi]

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