Ethiopia (Amharic: ኢትዮጵያ, ʾĪtyōṗṗyā), officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (Amharic: የኢትዮጵያ ፌዴራላዊ ዲሞክራሲያዊ ሪፐብሊክ, ye-Ītyōṗṗyā Fēdēralāwī Dīmōkrāsīyāwī Rīpeblīk), is the oldest Christian nation in Africa. Founded thousands of years ago as the land of Axum, Ethiopia was an independent power in East Africa, near the Red Sea. Contact with the Roman Empire to the north eventually led to the conversion of Ethiopia to Christianity. Ethiopia has been a Christian land since before many parts of Europe, such as Poland or Norway, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is part of a branch of Christianity called Oriental Orthodoxnote . In the 500's AD, Ethiopia invaded its cross-straits neighbor Yemen, under the pretext that the Arab Jewish King,note Abu Nuwas, was persecuting Christians. The Ethiopian hegemony lasted for about a century until the Sassanid Persians conquered that part of the Middle East. During the Ethiopian occupation of Yemen, it was said that the Christian king of Ethiopia, Kaleb, built a Church known as Al-Qualis to the Arabs living in Yemen (which is part of the Arabian peninsula). It is said that a merchant from Mecca disrespected the church, as he feared it might divert the pagan pilgrimage from Mecca to Christian-controlled lands. In retaliation, Kaleb led a force to attack Mecca, but the elephants in his army stopped short of the city and refused to attack, leading his army to turn back. This event was known as the Year of the Elephant, and was the same year Mohammed was born. Following the rout of Ethiopian forces from the Arabian peninsula and the subsequent rise of Islam, Christian Ethiopia found itself cut off from the rest of the Christian world for roughly a millennium. During this time, legends spread in Europe of a mystical "Prester John", a Christian King from a far-off land. The Portuguese "rediscovered" Ethiopia in the 1500s, during a war against the Ottoman Turks. During this time, Ethiopia re-asserted itself as a regional power, and began to assume its present shape, while incorporating many Muslims as a significant minority as the country absorbed the lands they lived in. An Ethiopian prince, Abraham Petrovich Gannibal, came to Russia and became an ancestor of the 19th-century poet Alexander Pushkin. During the age of colonialism, Ethiopian became the only African country besides Liberia to escape colonization when its forces won the Battle of Adowa, in which an 80,000 strong Ethiopian army defeated 20,000 Italian troops. Sadly, Ethiopia (then known as Abyssinia) was occupied by the Italians under Benito Mussolini in the 1930s, but the occupation did not last very long. An interesting note is that the leader of Ethiopia at the time, Emperor Haile Selassie (birth name Ras Tafari) became a major figure in the Rastafari Faith. Even more interestingly, he rejected godhood, but never actively tried to persuade the Rastafari from their faith, deciding (more or less), "I know I'm not God, but if these people think I am, who am I to tell them no?" He also participated in the founding of the Non-Aligned Movement along with Jawaharlal Nehru, Kwame Nkrumah, Gamal Abdel Nasser (a small miracle, since Egypt and Ethiopia have a history of not getting along that dates back centuries if not millenia), Sukarno, and Josip Broz Tito. Ethiopia has since been involved in various power struggles in East Africa, both during and after the Cold War. A major regional player, Ethiopia has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world, and has more people than most countries in Europe, save Russia and perhaps Germany. Ethiopia is poor and landlocked, but it is nevertheless a civilized land, producing fine coffee, being the plant's native land,note and major works of Christian art and Architecture, such as churches carved out of solid rock. Not to mention the fact that it has lousy relations with almost all its neighbours, save maybe Djibouti and Kenya; the worst of all with Eritrea, for a long time considered Ethiopia's archnemesis. In wider East Africa, Ethiopia has mildly good relations with South Sudan the countries around Lake Victoria (Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda) on account of being less-developed countries that want to harness as much of the sources of the Nile as they can for development; they are opposed by Sudan and Egypt, are more or less utterly dependent on the Nile to support their large and growing populations and economies and need as much of its water as they can get. Compromise on the issue has been...a bit slow. Fun fact: Ethiopia is allegedly the home of The Ark of the Covenant (this is generally beyond a doubt in the minds of the people living there). It is said to be inside a small building in the town of Axum that only a single monk is ever allowed to see. The Ethiopians believe that if anyone else should see it, they will die shortly thereafter, like in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Ethiopian flag
The green, yellow and red colors of the Ethiopian flag served as the source for one version of the Pan-African colors (the other replaces yellow with black). The green, yellow and red stripes symbolize the land, peace and hope, and strength, respectively. The blue disc, added 1996, symbolizes peace, containing the yellow star of diversity and unity, and whose five rays symbolize prosperity.