The first records of Ethiopia come from Egyptian traders from 5000 years ago. They refer to the lands south of Nubia as Cush, Punt, and Yam. Almost 3000 years ago, Ancient Greeks wrote of Abyssinians, a sacred people loved by the Gods. Yet no matter what name the region goes by — Cush, Axum, Abyssinia — Ethiopia is one of the oldest nations in the world and the second Christian kingdom after Armenia. Today, a cartographic history.
The first demarcated borders of modern records are those of the nation of Axum, which emerged as a regional power with its own written language and distinctive architecture.
King Ezana was baptized a Christian in 330, and Ethiopia then waged war on Yemen and expanded along the Arabian coast of the Red Sea, launching one abortive invasion of pre-Muslim Mecca.
Islam and Axum originally had good relations — Muhammed told his followers, “Leave the Ethiopians in peace as long as they do not take the offensive.” But when Arabs invaded North Africa a clash with Ethiopia was invitable, and the two sides fought several wars in the 8th century. Eventually, Muslims occupied the coast and converted the natives.
From thereafter, Christian Ethiopia became a hermit kingodm and was confined to the highlands. Cut off from trade routes and the rest of the world (the nation had diplomatic relations with Byzantium until the Arab invasion), the country stagnated was mired in isolation and poverty for centuries.
The country gained a brief rise when it allied with Portugal against the Arab traders from 1400-1650. The alliance did little for both sides, as each had unrealistic expectations of the other.
When the Portugese left, Ethiopia returned to its state of isolationism until European colonialism. Exact borders cannot be confirmed — some maps show the nation barely more than a city-state, others show it controlling large chunks of central Africa.
Ethiopia is the only state in Africa, along with American colony Liberia, never colonized by European powers. This had much to do with its exalted status in Western legend as one of the oldest Christian kingdoms. Neighboring Eritrea was occupied by Italy while Ethiopia was given Muslim territory to the east of the highlands in 1896 (which it still holds today and which upsets the demographics of Ethiopia as a Christian nation).
Mussolini invaded in 1935 and annexed the territory for five years. After colonialism ended, Ethiopia was given Eritrea (in Green) but lost the region after the Mengistu regime and civil war.
Today, Ethiopia is one of the poorest nations in the world with the second largest population in Africa (after Nigeria).