The Ethiopians were historically known for the Aksumite and Zagwe kingdoms, which were dedicated followers of Orthodox Christianity and Judaism. Their architecture was the best in the region, and many stelae and other tall monuments exist to this day. For most of the Middle Ages, Ethiopian kingdoms were defensive - not offensive - powers. They protected their lands from various outsiders (Himyarite, Arab, Portuguese, among others), and kept close watch of movements in their own region. To highlight this, the Ethiopian team bonus grants extra Line of Sight for towers and Outposts.
Ethiopian kingdoms were positioned in a vital area - on the Horn of Africa at the narrow entrance to the Red Sea. This made Aksum a vital center for trade on the Indian Ocean; goods and materials from Europe, India, Arabia, and even China went through Ethiopian ports. Through the ages, they benefited from a regular influx of resources from outside the empire. This is represented in-game with the Ethiopians gaining 100 food and 100 gold for free whenever they advance an Age.
The Ethiopians were known to be mercenaries for fast deployments to other kingdoms (particularly Egypt) and were known to be very fierce in battle, but underequipped. To highlight the Ethiopian army, the Shotel Warrior, a powerful but fragile infantry unit, can be created quickly in the Castle. Because historically, spears and polearms were a staple of most Ethiopian armies, the Ethiopians get the Pikemen upgrade at no cost.
Along with spears and shotel swords, the bow and arrow were important weapons in Ethiopia, and archers formed the backbone of the kingdom's army. Arabs referred to East African archers as Archers of the Eyes to reflect their expert marksmanship, letting loose showers of arrows aimed at the eyes of their enemies. To reflect these facts, Ethiopian archers fire faster.
Finally, the Ethiopians are one of the few civilizations to have preserved some of the lost technology from the Classical Age after the barbarians destroyed the Roman Empire. They were also exposed through trade to many forms of technology from all over the world. To highlight this, the Ethiopians are the only civilization to access all siege weapons, and have a technology that increases the blast radius for their siege weapons.
When playing a random map game against the computer, the player may encounter any of the following Ethiopian AI characters:
Abba Guba: One of the Nine Saints of Ethiopia, who were important in the growth of Christianity in Ethiopia.
Amda Seyon: An Ethiopian emperor from the Solomonic dynasty; reigns 1314–1344.
Amir Habbuba: Amir (king) ruled the ancient walled city of Harar (969–1000).
Dil Na'od: The last king of Aksum before the Zagwe dynasty; lived 9th–10th century.
Frumentius: The first Bishop of Aksum who were credited for bringing Christianity to the kingdom; died 383.
Gelawdewos: Personal name of Asnaf Sagad I, an Ethiopian emperor from the Solomonic dynasty; lived 1521/1522–1559.
Kaleb of Axum: The most well-documented, if not the best known, king of Aksum; reigned ca. 520.
Lalibela: Personal name of Gebre Mesqel, the most well-known of Zagwe kings known for completing the monolithic rock-cut churches on the namesake city; lived 1162–1221.
Yakuno Amlak: Personal name of Tasfa Iyasus, a descendant of Dil Nao'd and the restorer of the Solomonic dynasty; reigned 1270–1285.
Yared: A legendary Ethiopian musician credited for inventing the sacred music of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Ethiopian musical notation; lived 505–571.
Yodit: Yodit was a semi-legendary non-Christian queen (flourished c. 960) who laid waste to Axum and its countryside, destroyed churches and monuments, and attempted to exterminate the members of the ruling Axumite dynasty. Her deeds are recorded in the oral tradition and mentioned incidentally in various historical accounts.
Zara Yaqob: Personal name of Kwestantinos I, emperor of Ethiopia from the Solomonic dynasty and one of the greatest rulers in Ethiopia's history; lived 1399–1468.
When Ensemble Studios still existed, one of the original designers, Sandy Petersen, hinted that he once proposed an Age of Africa expansion sequel, with Ethiopians as one of the planned civilizations. Unlike the Ethiopians from The African Kingdoms, his version of Ethiopians was a defensive-oriented civilization with unique Monk and ranged infantry.