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Armies of the Ethiopia have existed since earliest times. Ethiopia maintained a sizable contingent of her forces in her Sabbean Garrisons which expanded out to project power over colonies in Yemen and to protect Caravans or trade routes. At home Ethiopian Forces under the command Prince Nastesen (Iskindr) inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Persian Army of Cambyses. The Prince had been Ordered by His Mother the Candace to draw the Persian Forces deep into Ethiopian territory before engaging them. He did this so well that Cambyses Army was never able to recover and those let alive had to retreat back to Egypt. Cambyses did not attempt to reconquer Ethiopia.[citation needed]

About the 2nd century AD, there arose the Axumites rapidly supplanting the Damot. The Axumite however paid homage to their former masters. The Judaic rulers of Damot were held in the highest esteem by the new Axumite Empire. There is evidence in inscriptions and archaeological finds that attest to the presence of Axumite troops in Yemen as early as AD 200. This suggests that Axum was no less involved in the Arabian matters than Damot during the reigns of GDRT, and his successors `DBH and Sembrouthes, During the reign of Ousanas, Ezanas father, Axum traded and projected its influence as far as India, where coins minted in Ousanas' reign were discovered in 1990.

This lasted until the 4th century when Twin Axumite Emperors Ezana and Sezana became converted to the new Chritian Faith.

Axum's Armies were launched into the former tributary Kingdom of Nubia devastating it to the point it never recovered its former glory or was ever an independent polity again. In 520, during the reign of Emperor Kaleb Ella Atsbeha, Axum received an appeal from the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian. At first Axum re-occupied an abandoned fort at Najran with cavalry troops admonshing the local ruler Yusuf Hathar who as a consequence of his conversion to Judaism and the urging of the Persian Sassanian Kings had vigorously undertaken the persecution of Christian pilgrims. Axum was not a new power there Yusuf Hathar who had taken the throne name of Dhu Nuwas may have genuinely been mollified by his actions. The elderly commander Arayat, the uncle of the Emperor, led a company of cavalry into Najran charged with protecting Christian pilgrims on the road to Jerusalem from Banditry. However, peace proved fleeting: perhaps as a result of encouragement from the Persians else out of humiliation Dhu Nuwa's men attacked the Fort of Najran. What happened afterward is debated. By some accounts the garrison fought back and died. Witness later accused Dhu Nuwas of having killed the soldiers in their sleep and then massacring all others who had sought their protection.

Dhu Nuwas may have believed, and perhaps even received assurances, that the Sassanians would protect his fledgling empire with a sizable force. It is doubtful if he knew that Aryat led the Garrison that he would kill the Emperor's uncle without knowing with certainty that Kaleb would exact revenge. It was said that Emperor Kaleb received news of the massacre and the death of his beloved uncle as he was coming out of the Church. He ordered the entire court back into Church and ordered the priests to give the assembled nobles and soldiers including himself the last rites of the Christian faith. He ordered the entire Imperial host to war. The first attempt at crossing was not successful: the army unable to land was forced to return to Adulis. The second embarked via the port of Zeila in present day Somalia, then an Ethiopian port, and dropped anchor in the Yemeni port of Mukwha.[citation needed]

Under the command of its Emperor Abraha the Axumite Army of spearmen, swordsmen, elephants, cavalry and Archers defeated the Army of Himyar. It was apparent that Kaleb had not gone there just to punish a wayward vassal. Holding a trial for Dhu Nuwas, Kaleb gave Dhu Nuwas to his own people so they may exact their own justice. He appointed a local Christian named Safwa administrator, left Abraha, his cousin, in charge of the sizable portion of the Axumite Host and returned home to Axum with the rest. The target was an usurper, Yusuf Hathar that had begun to make a name of himself consolidating power in the region. A recent convert to Judaism, he had become a client of the Sassanian Persians, avowed enemies of the Western Roman Empire. appealed for the Ethiopian Emperor. Ethiopian Imperial Army existed in one form or another since the founding of the Ethiopian Empire in the 13th century. During the First Italo–Ethiopian War, the Army of the Ethiopian Empire was able to defeat the army of the Kingdom of Italy at the battle of Adwa.

During the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, the Army of the Ethiopian Empire consisted of the Imperial Bodyguard, a central army, and several armies of provincial forces. The Ethiopian army was defeated soundly, after giving considerable difficulty to the Italians. The Italians employed mass aerial bombing of mustard gas to win the Battle of Amba Aradam.

On 12 September 1974, a committee of low-ranking military officers and enlisted men called the Derg deposed Emperor Haile Selassie. The Army of the Ethiopian Empire became the Army of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

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