The Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia could already claim a lineage of over a thousand years by the 15th century: it sent envoys to Henry IV of England and established diplomatic relations with Portugal. However, as the century progressed it was increasingly threatened by Islamic neighbours – the Funj Sultanate to the north and, in particular, the Adal Sultanate to the east. In 1403, Emperor Dawit I invaded Adal and sacked its capital Zeila, forcing the Sultan to flee. However, by the 16th century, the Adal general Ahmad Gran (‘the left handed’), had Ottoman support from Yemen, and came close to conquering Ethiopia. The Portuguese came to Ethiopia’s aid and Gran was killed in battle in 1543. The emperor, Sarsa Dengel, campaigned successfully against Adal and its Ottoman allies and repulsed the encroachments of the Oromo, pastoral herders from the south.
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