Emperor of Ethiopia
The Emperor of Ethiopia was the hereditary ruler of the Ethiopian Empire, until the abolition of the monarchy in 1975. The Emperor was the head of state and head of government, with ultimate executive and legislative power in that country. A National Geographic Magazine article called imperial Ethiopia "nominally a constitutional monarchy; the title of "King of Kings" rendered imprecisely in English as "Emperor", dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, but was used in Axum by King Sembrouthes. However, Yuri Kobishchanov dates this usage to the period following the Persian victory over the Romans in 296–297, its use, from at least the reign of Yekuno Amlak onward, meant that both subordinate officials and tributary rulers, notably the gubernatorial vassals of Gojjam, the seaward provinces and Shewa, received the honorific title of nəgus, a word for "king." The consort of the Emperor was referred to as the ətege. Empress Zauditu used the feminized form nəgəstä nägäst to show that she reigned in her own right, did not use the title of ətege.
At the death of a monarch any male or female blood relative of the Emperor could claim succession to the throne: sons, uncles or cousins. Practice did not always enforce it; the system developed two approaches to controlling the succession: the first, employed on occasion before the 20th century, involved interning all of the Emperor's possible rivals in a secure location, which drastically limited their ability to disrupt the Empire with revolts or to dispute the succession of an heir apparent. Ethiopian traditions do not all agree as to when the custom started of imprisoning rivals to the throne on a Mountain of the Princes. One tradition credits this practice to the Zagwe king Yemrehana Krestos, who received the idea in a dream. Another tradition, recorded by historian Thomas Pakenham, states that this practice predates the Zagwe dynasty, was first practiced on Debre Damo, captured by the 10th-century queen Gudit, who isolated 200 princes there to death. Taddesse Tamrat argues that this practice began in the reign of Wedem Arad, following the struggle for succession that he believes lies behind the series of brief reigns of the sons of Yagbe'u Seyon.
A constructivist approach states that the tradition was used on occasion, weakened or lapsed sometimes, was sometimes revived to full effect after some unfortunate disputes – and that the custom started in time immemorial as Ethiopian common inheritance patterns allowed all agnates to succeed to the lands of the monarchy – which however is contrary to keeping the country undivided. The potential royal rivals were incarcerated at Amba Geshen until Ahmed Gragn captured that site in 1540 and destroyed it. Rumors of these royal mountain residences were part of the inspiration for Samuel Johnson's short story, Rasselas. Although the Emperor of Ethiopia had theoretically unlimited power over his subjects, his councillors came to play an increasing role in governing Ethiopia, because many Emperors were succeeded either by a child, or one of the incarcerated princes, who could only leave their prisons with help from the outside; as a result, by the mid-18th century the power of the Emperor had been transferred to his deputies, like Ras Mikael Sehul of Tigray, who held actual power in the Empire and elevated or deposed Emperors at will.
The Emperors of Ethiopia derived their right to rule based on two dynastic claims: their descent from the kings of Axum, their descent from Menelik I, the son of Solomon and Makeda, Queen of Sheba. The claim to their relationship to the Kings of Axum derives from Yakuno Amlak's claim that he was the descendant of Dil Na'od, through his father, although he defeated and killed the last Zagwe king in battle, his claim to the throne was helped by his marriage to that king's daughter though Ethiopians do not acknowledge claims from the distaff side. The claim of descent from Menelik I is based on the assertion that the kings of Axum were the descendants of Menelik I. While the surviving records of these kings fail to shed light on their origins, this genealogical claim is first documented in the 10th century by an Arab historian. Interpretations of this claim vary widely; some accept it as evident fact. At the other extreme, others understand this as an expression of propaganda, attempting to connect the legitimacy of the state to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Some scholars take an approach in the middle, attempting to either find a connection between Axum and the South Arabian kingdom of Saba, or between Axum and the pre-exilic Kingdom of Judah. Due to lack of primary materials, it is not possible as of 2006 to determine which theory is the more plausible; the restored Solomonic dynasty, which claimed descent from the old Aksumite rulers, ruled Ethiopia from the 13th century until 1974, with on
The Solomonic dynasty known as the House of Solomon, is the former ruling Imperial House of the Ethiopian Empire. The dynasty's members claim the Queen of Sheba. Tradition asserts that the Queen gave birth to Menelik I after her biblically described visit to Solomon in Jerusalem. In 1270, the Zagwe dynasty of Ethiopia was overthrown by Yekuno Amlak, who claimed descent from Solomon and reinitiated the Solomonic era of Ethiopia; the dynasty would last until 1974, ended by a coup d'état and deposition of the emperor Haile Selassie. The Solomonic dynasty was a bastion of Judaism and of Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, it is claimed that this dynasty ruled Ethiopia as early as the 10th century BC, although there is no historical evidence to support this claim. Records of the dynasty's history were maintained by the Ethiopian Orthodox monasteries to near antiquity. Yekuno Amlak, an Amhara prince from the old province Bet Amhara, re-established the dynasty, tracing his ancestry to the last Solomonic King of Axum, Dil Na'od.
The Dynasty re-established itself on 10 Nehasé 1262 EC when Yekuno Amlak overthrew the last ruler of the Zagwe dynasty. Yekuno Amlak claimed direct male line descent from the old Axumite royal house that the Zagwes had replaced on the throne. Menelik II, his daughter Zewditu I, would be the last Ethiopian monarchs who could claim uninterrupted direct male descent from Solomon of Israel and the Queen of Sheba; the male line, through the descendants of Menelik's cousin Dejazmatch Taye Gulilat, still existed, but had been pushed aside because of Menelik's personal distaste for this branch of his family. The Solomonic Dynasty continued to rule Ethiopia with few interruptions until 1974, when the last emperor, Haile Selassie I, was deposed; the royal family is non-regnant. Members of the family in Ethiopia at the time of the 1974 revolution were imprisoned. In 1976, ten great grandchildren of Haile Selassie I were extracted from Ethiopia in an undertaking detailed in a book by Jodie Collins titled Code Word: Catherine.
The women of the dynasty were released by the regime from prison in 1989, the men were released in 1990. Several members were allowed to leave the country in mid 1990, the rest left in 1991 upon the fall of the Communist Regime. Many members of the Imperial family have since returned to live in Ethiopia. During much of the dynasty's existence, its effective realm was the northwestern quadrant of present-day Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Highlands; the Empire expanded and contracted over the centuries, sometimes incorporating parts of modern-day Sudan and South Sudan, coastal areas of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Southern and eastern regions were permanently incorporated during the last two centuries, some by Shewan kings and some by Emperors Menelek II and Haile Selassie I. In the modern era, the Imperial dynasty has several cadet branches; the elder Gondarine Amhara line, starting with Susenyos in 1606 ended its rule with the fall of the powerless Yohannes III in 1855 and the coming to power of Tewodros II, whose claims of Solomonic descent were never accepted.
Following Tewodros, Wagshum Gobeze claimed the throne linking himself to the last independent Gondare emperors through his mother, Aychesh Tedla, a descendant of Iyasu I, reigned as emperor of Ethiopia with the title Tekle Giorgis II for some years investing in the renovation of churches and monuments in Gondar. Being an heir to the Zagwe throne, his reign was meant to be a unification of both dynasties in the enthronement of a king bearing both lineages. Tekle Giorgis II fought a battle with the Tigrean Claimant Kassai Mercha, the latter, who had retrieved superior weaponry and armament from the British in return for his assistance in the defeat of Tewodros II, would be able to defeat Tekle Giorgis II's army and killing him; the Tigrean line came to power with the enthronement of Yohannes IV in 1872, although this line did not persist on the Imperial throne after the Emperor was killed in battle with the Mahdists in 1889, the heirs of this cadet branch ruled Tigre until the revolution of 1974 toppled the Ethiopian monarchy.
The Tigrean Cadet branch traces its lineage to the main Solomonic line of Emperors through at least two female lines. The more recent link was through Woizero Aster Iyasu; the Shewan line was next on the Imperial throne with the coronation of Menelik II Menelik King of Shewa, in 1889. The Shewan Branch of the Imperial Solomonic dynasty, like the Gondarine line, could trace uninterrupted male line descent from King Yekonu Amlak, though Abeto Negassi Yisaq, the grandson of Dawit II by his youngest son Abeto Yaqob; the direct male line ended with Menelik II –, succeeded first by the son of his daughter Lij Iyasu from 1913 to 1916 by his daughter Zewditu until 1930, by the son of a first cousi
Na'akueto La'ab was negus of Ethiopia, a member of the Zagwe dynasty. According to Taddesse Tamrat, he was the son of Kedus Harbe. Richard Pankhurst credits him with the creation of the church located in a cave a half-day's journey from the town of Lalibela. According to a manuscript Pedro Páez and Manuel de Almeida saw at Axum, Na'akueto La'ab ruled for 40 years, a suspiciously round number. A Gadla or hagiography of Na'akueto La'ab exists, in a manuscript written in the 17th century. According to Huntingford, it documents that Zagwe power had extended into Gojjam, credits the king with building two churches: one at Sewa'a "which is said to have been called Wagra Sehin'among Celestrial', Ashetan or Asheten'among Terrestrials'", which Huntingford identifies with an existing church named Ashetan Maryam, a monolithic structure located a few kilometers east of Lalibela. Tradition states that queen Masqal Kibra convinced her husband, King Lalibela, to abdicate in favor of Na'akueto La'ab, but 18 months when the young king's soldiers appropriated a poor farmer's only cow for the king's dinner table, she convinced Lalibela to resume the throne.
Taddesse Tamrat suspects. He argues that this tradition masks a brief period when Na'akueto La'ab "was no doubt a rallying point for disaffected elements in the country, although kept under close watch managed to usurp the throne for a brief period until Yetbarak managed to take his father's throne." The Dictionary of Ethiopian Biography: Nä'akweto-Lä-'Ab
A dynasty is a sequence of rulers from the same family in the context of a feudal or monarchical system, but sometimes appearing in elective republics. Alternative terms for "dynasty" may include "family" and "clan", among others; the longest-surviving dynasty in the world is the Imperial House of Japan, otherwise known as the Yamato dynasty, whose reign is traditionally dated to 660 BC. The dynastic family or lineage may be known as a "noble house", which may be styled as "royal", "princely", "ducal", "comital" etc. depending upon the chief or present title borne by its members. Historians periodize the histories of numerous nations and civilizations, such as Ancient Egypt and Imperial China, using a framework of successive dynasties; as such, the term "dynasty" may be used to delimit the era during which a family reigned, to describe events and artifacts of that period. The word "dynasty" itself is dropped from such adjectival references; until the 19th century, it was taken for granted that a legitimate function of a monarch was to aggrandize his dynasty: that is, to expand the wealth and power of his family members.
Prior to the 20th century, dynasties throughout the world have traditionally been reckoned patrilineally, such as under the Frankish Salic law. In nations where it was permitted, succession through a daughter established a new dynasty in her husband's ruling house; this has changed in some places in Europe, where succession law and convention have maintained dynasties de jure through a female. For instance, the House of Windsor will be maintained through the children of Queen Elizabeth II, as it did with the monarchy of the Netherlands, whose dynasty remained the House of Orange-Nassau through three successive queens regnant; the earliest such example among major European monarchies was in the Russian Empire in the 18th century, where the name of the House of Romanov was maintained through Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna. In Limpopo Province of South Africa, Balobedu determined descent matrilineally, while rulers have at other times adopted the name of their mother's dynasty when coming into her inheritance.
Less a monarchy has alternated or been rotated, in a multi-dynastic system – that is, the most senior living members of parallel dynasties, at any point in time, constitute the line of succession. Not all feudal states or monarchies were/are ruled by dynasties. Throughout history, there were monarchs. Dynasties ruling subnational monarchies do not possess sovereign rights; the word "dynasty" is sometimes used informally for people who are not rulers but are, for example, members of a family with influence and power in other areas, such as a series of successive owners of a major company. It is extended to unrelated people, such as major poets of the same school or various rosters of a single sports team; the word "dynasty" derives from Latin dynastia, which comes from Greek dynastéia, where it referred to "power", "dominion", "rule" itself. It was the abstract noun of dynástēs, the agent noun of dynamis, "power" or "ability", from dýnamai, "to be able". A ruler from a dynasty is sometimes referred to as a "dynast", but this term is used to describe any member of a reigning family who retains a right to succeed to a throne.
For example, King Edward VIII ceased to be a dynast of the House of Windsor following his abdication. In historical and monarchist references to reigning families, a "dynast" is a family member who would have had succession rights, were the monarchy's rules still in force. For example, after the 1914 assassinations of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his morganatic wife Duchess Sophie von Hohenberg, their son Duke Maximilian was bypassed for the Austro-Hungarian throne because he was not a Habsburg dynast. Since the abolition of the Austrian monarchy, Duke Maximilian and his descendants have not been considered the rightful pretenders by Austrian monarchists, nor have they claimed that position; the term "dynast" is sometimes used only to refer to agnatic descendants of a realm's monarchs, sometimes to include those who hold succession rights through cognatic royal descent. The term can therefore describe distinct sets of people. For example, David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowdon, a nephew of Queen Elizabeth II through her sister Princess Margaret, is in the line of succession to the British crown.
On the other hand, the German aristocrat Prince Ernst August of Hanover, a male-line descendant of King George III of the United Kingdom, possesses no legal British name, titles or styles. He was born in the line of succession to the British throne and was bound by Britain's Royal Marriages Act 1772 until it was repealed when the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 took effect on 26 March 2015. Thus, he requested and obtained formal permission from Queen Elizabeth II to marry the Roman Catholic Princess Caroline of Monaco in 1999. Yet, a clause of the English Act of Settlement 1701 remained in effect at that time, stipulating that dynasts who
The Zagwe dynasty was the ruling dynasty of a Medieval kingdom in present-day northern Ethiopia. The kingdom itself was called Begwena, after the historical name of the Lasta province. Centered at Lalibela, it ruled large parts of the territory from 900 to 1270, when the last Zagwe King Za-Ilmaknun was killed in battle by the forces of the Abyssinian King Yekuno Amlak; the name of the dynasty is thought to derive from the ancient Ge'ez phrase Ze-Agaw, meaning "Dynasty of the Agaw" in reference to the Agaw people that constituted its ruling class. Zagwe's best-known King was Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, credited with having constructed the rock-hewn monolithic churches of Lalibela. David Buxton has stated that the area under the direct rule of the Zagwe kings "probably embraced the highlands of modern Eritrea and the whole of Tigray, extending southwards to Waag and Damot and thence westwards towards Lake Tana." Unlike the practice of rulers of Ethiopia, Taddesse Tamrat argues that under the Zagwe dynasty the order of succession was that of brother succeeding brother as king, based on the Agaw laws of inheritance.
Around 960, Queen Gudit destroyed the remnants of the Kingdom of Aksum, causing a shift in its temporal power centre that regrouped more to the south. For 40 years she ruled over what remained of the kingdom passing on the throne to her descendants. According to other Ethiopian traditional accounts, the last of her dynasty was overthrown by Mara Takla Haymanot in 1137, he married a daughter of the last king of Aksum, Dil Na'od, putting control of Ethiopia in Agaw hands. Since he married Emperor Dil Na'od's daughter, a member of the Solomonic Dynasty, the Zagwes are technically part of the Solomonic lineage. Emperor Mara Tekla Haymanot's marriage and off-spring thereof makes him the only Emperor without known ties to the Biblical King Solomon and Makeda, the Queen of Sheba. Mara Teklehaimanot's ancestry is in the province called Hamasien, his name starts with Mara or Mirarah because he came from the place in Hamasien called Fishey Mirarah. The Zagwe period is still shrouded in mystery; some sources give the names of eleven kings.
Paul B. Henze reports the existence of at least one list containing 16 names. According to Carlo Conti Rossini, the shorter length of this dynasty was the more one, he argues that a letter received by the Patriarch of Alexandria John V shortly before 1150 from an unnamed Ethiopian monarch, in which the Patriarch is asked for a new abuna because the current office holder was too old, was from Mara Takla Haymanot, who wanted the abuna replaced because he would not endorse the new dynasty. The mystery of the Zagwe dynasty is darkest around its replacement by the revived Solomonic dynasty under Yekuno Amlak; the name of the last Zagwe king is lost—the surviving chronicles and oral traditions give his name as Za-Ilmaknun, a pseudonym, employed soon after his reign by the victorious Solomonic rulers in an act of damnatio memoriae. Taddesse Tamrat believes that this last ruler was Yetbarak; the end of the Zagwe came when Yekuno Amlak, who proclaimed himself the descendant and rightful heir of Dil Na'od, acting under the guidance of either Saint Tekle Haymanot or Saint Iyasus Mo'a, pursued the last king of the Zagwe and killed him at the church of St. Qirqos in Gaynt on the north side of the Bashilo River.
Ethiopian aristocratic and court titles Ethiopian historiography History of Ethiopia Kings of Axum List of Emperors of Ethiopia Ethiopian History Zagwe Genealogy Tekeste Negash, "The Zagwe period re-interpreted: post-Aksumite Ethiopian urban culture" Derat, M.-L.. L'énigme d'une dynastie sainte et usurpatrice dans le XIe-XIIIe siècle. Brepolis. ISBN 978-2-503-57908-5
Emperor Yekuno Amlak was an Amhara prince from Bet Amhara province who became king of kings of Ethiopia following the defeat of the last Zagwe king. He was restorer of the Solomonic dynasty, he traced his ancestry through Tasfa Iyasus, to Dil Na'od, the last King of Axum. Much of what is known about Yekuno Amlak is based on medieval hagiographies. Yekuno Amlak was educated at Lake Hayq's Istifanos Monastery near Amba Sel, where medieval hagiographies state Saint Tekle Haymanot raised and educated him, helped him to depose the last King of the Zagwe Dynasty. Earlier hagiographies, state that it was Iyasus Mo'a, the abbot of Istifanos Monastery in Lake Hayq, who helped him achieve power. G. W. B. Huntingford explains this discrepancy by pointing out Istifanos had once been the premier monastery of Ethiopia, but Tekle Haymanot's Debre Libanos eclipsed Istifanos, from the reign of Amda Seyon it became the custom to appoint the abbot of Debre Libanos Ichege, or secular head of the Ethiopian Church. However, neither of these traditions is contemporary with any of the individuals involved.
There was the story, related in both the "Life of Iyasus Mo'a" and the Be'ela nagastat, that a rooster was heard to prophesize outside of the house of the Yakuno Amlak for three months that whoever ate his head would be king. The king had the bird killed and cooked, but the cook discarded the rooster's head—which Yekuno Amlak ate, thus became ruler of Ethiopia. Scholars have pointed out the similarity between this legend and one about the first king of Kaffa, who learned from mysterious voice that eating the head of a certain rooster would make him king, as well as the Ethiopian Mashafa dorho or "Book of the Cock", which relates a story about a cooked rooster presented to Christ at the Last Supper, brought back to life. Traditional history further reports that Yekuno Amlak was imprisoned by the Zagwe King Za-Ilmaknun on Mount Malot, but managed to escape, he gathered support in the Amhara provinces and in Shewa, with an army of followers, defeated the Zagwe king. Taddese Tamrat argued that this king was Yetbarak, but due to a local form of damnatio memoriae, his name was removed from the official records.
A more recent chronicler of Wollo history, Getatchew Mekonnen Hasen, flatly states that the last Zagwe king deposed by Yekuno Amlak was none other than Na'akueto La'ab himself. Yekuno Amlak is said to have campaigned against the Kingdom of Damot, which lay south of the Abbay River. Recorded history affords more certainty as to his relations with other countries. For example, E. A. Wallis Budge states that Yekuno Amlak not only exchanged letters with the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII, but sent to him several giraffes as a gift. At first, his interactions with his Muslim neighbors were friendly. A letter survives that he wrote to the Mamluk Sultan Baibars, suzerain over the Patriarch of Alexandria, for his help for a new Abuna in 1273; when one did not arrive, he blamed the intervention of the Sultan of Yemen, who had hindered the progress of his messenger to Cairo. Taddesse Tamrat interprets Yekuno Amlak's son's allusion to Syrian priests at the royal court as a result of this lack of attention from the Patriarch.
Taddesse notes that around this time, the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch were struggling for control of the appointment of the bishop of Jerusalem, until the prerogative of the Patriarch of Antioch. One of the moves in this dispute was Patriarch Ignatius III David's appointment of an Ethiopian pilgrim as Abuna; this pilgrim never attempted to assume this post in Ethiopia, but—Taddesse Tamrat argues—the lack of Coptic bishops forced Yekuno Amlak to rely on the Syrian partisans who arrived in his kingdom. Yekuno Amlak is credited with the construction of the Church of Gennete Maryam near Lalibela, which contains the earliest surviving dateable wall paintings in Ethiopia, his descendant Emperor Baeda Maryam I had Yekuno Amlak's body re-interred in the church of Atronsa Maryam