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Friday, February 21, 2014

Military History Photo Friday: The Battle of Dogali

I was chatting with science fiction author David Drake this week and he mentioned a recent visit to Italy, where he got to see this splendid painting. It's by Michele Cammarano and depicts the Battle of Dogali on January 26, 1887.

This was an early engagement during Italy's attempt to colonize Abyssinia, modern Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Italians had taken the coastline, modern Eritrea, and the Emperor Yohannes IV sent an army to push them back. After the Abyssinians unsuccessfully attacked an Italian fort, the 10,000 warriors ambushed an Italian relief column headed for the fort. The column consisted of 500 Italians, 50 native irregulars, and two machine guns. The machine guns soon jammed and the Italians were overrun.

The Italians quickly vacated the region, but came back in 1896 intent on taking the entire country and regaining the honor they lost at Dogali. Instead, they were defeated at the famous Battle of Adowa, the subject of one of my books.

The detail below certainly makes it look like the Italians are winning. Note the curved shotel sword the Abyssinian to the left is carrying. These were fearsome weapons and were especially good against shield-carrying African warriors.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons, where you can see a large format copy of this painting.


  1. Brutal images. No fighting allowed at the Tiki Hut :)

  2. That is one intense painting! Interesting snippet of history, thank you.

  3. It is amazing how such horror produces such scintillating art. Thanks also for the history lesson.


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