|Legend tells us that Ethiopia was founded by the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Whether this is so or not, indisputable is that Ethiopia was known as an important part of classical trade routes as far back as 500 years before Christ. Christianized in the 4th century, Ethiopia managed to counter Islamic invasion in the 600s. But its Coptic Christians were then cut off from Christian centers by the now-Islamic countries of northern Africa and the rest of the Middle East. Portugal arrived in the 15th century, using Ethiopia to bolster their trade across the Indian Ocean. The Portuguese tried to introduce Roman Catholicism to little avail. In the early 17th century, Ethiopia expelled all missionaries. An Italian effort to invade in 1880 was also successfully foiled. In 1930, Haile Selassie came to the throne. His reign was interrupted in 1936 by another Italian invasion attempt -- this time successful and he fled to England. Italy was forced to withdraw from Ethiopia thanks to British and Ethiopian military action during World War II and Haile Selassie was restored to the throne as emperor. In 1974, a coalition of forces deposed Haile Selassie. After abolishing the monarchy, the power of the Coptic Church was limited and serious land reform was initiated. A socialist state was declared, resulting in the deaths of thousands of the new government's foes. The long-time relationship between the US military and Ethiopia was abrogated in favor of a new pact with the Soviet Union. Somalia attacked Ethiopia in 1977 and with Soviet assistance, Ethiopia repelled the Somalian forces, although skirmishes continued. Internal fighting in Ethiopia over Eritrea and later the province of Tigre, had devastated the country. Though elections were finally held in 1994, tensions heated up again with Eritrea in 1998 and escalated in 1999 with both sides expending considerable energy and manpower in a struggle to control some seemingly unimportant border territory near Badme.