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Mohammed Hassen Ali

king of one of the five Oromo states of the Gibe region in southwestern Ethiopia during the first half of the nineteenth century. He was the richest prince, whose reign marked the golden age of the Gibe states. He was born in 1802 in Sappa, the first capital of the kingdom of Limmu Ennarya, where he received a rudimentary form of Islamic education. As a young man, the tall, handsome, well-built, and eloquent Abba Bagibo is said to have possessed a considerable share of his father Abba Mogol’s vigor. He spent many years in learning the art of war in his father’s army. It was during those years of training that Abba Bagibo demonstrated his exceptional qualities of leadership, organizational ability, management of information, and wise use of resources.

In 1825 Abba Bagibo overthrew his father seized power and adopted a commercial policy that made his new capital Saqqa ...

Article

Mohammed Hassen Ali

Oromo king of the Gibe region, in southwestern Ethiopia, was crowned in 1878. A year after his accession to power, Abba Jifar invaded the neighboring Oromo state of Gera with around twenty thousand men. This attack on a flimsy pretext was a show of force for the neighboring Oromo leaders, demonstrating his determination to dominate the political landscape of the Gibe region through threat or use of military power, diplomacy, and marriage alliances. He was not destined to dominate the Gibe region as the king of Shewa soon occupied it. Though Abba Jifar could mobilize tens of thousands of men for war, his army suffered from major weaknesses and lack of modern firearms and training.

In fact Abba Jifar came to power at a time of dramatic change in modern Ethiopian history when the clouds of conquest and destruction were hanging thick and low over the future of all ...

Article

Born Nzinga Mbemba, Afonso I ascended the throne in 1506 after the death of his father, Nzinga a Nkuwu. Unlike his father, who had rejected Catholicism and limited contact with the Portuguese explorers, Afonso had been baptized as a Christian when the Kongo court converted in 1491. During his time as governor of Kongo's Nsundi province, Afonso entertained Portuguese priests and gained a reputation for Christian piety. When his father died, around 1590, Afonso returned to Mbanza Kongo, the capital, to seek the throne. His half brother, Mpanzu Kitima, raised a provincial army to remove Afonso from the capital. Afonso characterized the struggle as being between Christian and anti-Christian forces and later maintained that the Christians had won through the intervention of Saint James.

From the beginning of his reign Afonso sought to Christianize Kongo creating a financial base a school system a parish organization and a naturalized ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

king of Kongo, was born in the middle of the sixteenth century. His birth name was Nimi a Lukeni Lua Mvemba. Little is known of his early life, and the name of his father has not survived. His mother, Isabel Lukeni Lua Mbemba, remarried King Henrique I of Kongo after Álvaro’s father had passed away. Henrique I died fighting Téké warriors from the northern Anziku kingdom only a year after ascending to the throne in 1567. The Kongolese people already had suffered greatly during a civil war for the succession of the kingdom following the death of Diogo i in November 1561. It is unclear how Álvaro gained the throne. Between 1584 and 1588 the Kongolese ambassador to the Vatican Duarte Lopes claimed that Álvaro had been acclaimed king by a majority of the major noble families but some historians believe he wrested power through force In ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

king of Kongo, was born in the middle of the sixteenth century to King Álvaro I and a slave wife. At the death of his father in 1587 Álvaro had to struggle against a number of male and female members of the royal family in order to ascend to the throne According to a Jesuit at the court Álvaro II defeated one of his brothers in a single combat duel in order to claim the crown To strengthen his power Álvaro created a large army of Tio slave soldiers that grew to over sixteen thousand men They were purchased at the Malebo Pool of the Congo River on the outskirts of Kongolese territory With this force Álvaro could dominate the aristocratic families and the provinces in a much more centralized fashion than his predecessors For example Álvaro appointed royal judges to oversee tribunals in each province Upon the death ...

Article

Gianfranco Fiaccadori

Christian king (negus) of Aksum, was contemporary to the Prophet Muhammad, who is said to have recited the ritual prayer (salat) for al-Asham upon his death. The original Ethiopic (Geez) form of his name is Elle Seham or, by approximative rendering of the latter’s pronunciation, Ille Tsiham. The Arabic Chronicle of al-Tabari (d. 923) gives the text of two letters allegedly exchanged between the Prophet and al-Asham(a), called here al-Najashi, from Ethiopic negasi, an alternative form of negus that became specific for the ruler of Aksum linked to the so-called first hijra (emigration). In and after 615 two streams of early followers of the Prophet, including such prominent Islamic figures as the later caliph ʿUthman ibn ʿAffan and Muhammad’s daughter Ruqaya, fled to al-Habasha (Abyssinia). They went possibly to Aksum, the Najashi’s capital city, named also Zar(a)f(a)r(a)ta by al ʿUmari d 1348 ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

king of the sultanate of Songhai, was born sometime in the early decades of the fifteenth century. He ascended to the throne of the kingdom of Songhai in 1464. In the previous century, Songhai had been a vassal of its larger neighbor to the west, Mali, but Ber’s immediate predecessors had reestablished Songhai’s independence, and ruled from the city of Gao on the Niger River. Another form of his name is Sunni Ali Ber.

Ber was a tremendous military strategist He developed a large fleet on the Niger amassed a large army of slave warriors and was the head of one of the most skilled and fearsome cavalry units in West Africa in his lifetime Soldiers on horseback patrolled the entire kingdom and often surprised Ber s numerous political enemies Ber launched numerous invasions of territories to the west and south When Umar the Tuareg governor of Timbuktu insulted ...

Article

Robert Fay

Lebna Dengel, who was born in Ethiopia, assumed the throne at the age of twelve, after the death of his father. During his early reign his mother, Helena, served as regent. In 1516 the Muslim sultanate of Adal rebelled against Ethiopian domination, but Lebna Dengel’s forces defeated the rebellion. The queen regent, however, feared Muslim expansion, and turned to Portugal for aid. A Portuguese mission arrived in 1520. Some accounts suggest that the emperor sought a relationship with the Portuguese as a means of ending Ethiopia’s isolation and acquiring European technology. Others sources, however, imply that Lebna Dengel was unimpressed by the Portuguese visitors, whom he allegedly treated with cool disregard. Sources also disagree about the nature of Lebna Dengel s reign Some scholars emphasize his devotion to Christianity and claim that his rule was based on justice and mercy while others assert that he was ...

Article

Diogo I  

Jeremy Rich

king of Kongo. Diogo Nkumbi a Mpudi was the grandson of Afonso I, the monarch who ruled the Kongo kingdom from 1506 to 1543. Afonso’s son Pedro I took the throne in Mbanza Kongo (São Salvador), the capital of the Kongolese state, at the death of his father. He was the Portuguese favorite to take the throne because he was the eldest son of Afonso, but many noble families rejected his claims to power and primogeniture. These families supported Diogo, the son of Afonso I’s daughter Nzinga, and pushed Pedro I from power in 1545. Pedro I fled into a church at Mbanza Kongo and received protection from some religious leaders and aristocrats.

To overcome this opposition Diogo I developed his own networks of clerical support that he adeptly manipulated throughout much of his reign For example he welcomed the arrival of Jesuit Catholic missionaries to Kongo in ...

Article

Wolfgang Hahn

king of Aksum, who adopted Christianity, is one of the very few Aksumite rulers who is attested by several authentic, independent sources: monumental inscriptions set up in the capital that announce his victories; coins struck in gold, silver (partially gilt), and copper in huge quantities, of which hundreds are known today; and, as a diplomatic document, a copy of a letter, probably written in 356 by the Roman emperor Constantius II and addressed to Ezana and his co-regent, on the subject of missionary policies. All other literary sources—including the details of the report on Ethiopia’s conversion to Christianity by Frumentius, an emissary of St. Athanasius, the patriarch of Alexandria, in Rufinus’ Church History (written c. 402)—are legendary, as is the tradition of the Ethiopian church based on this story.

Ezana s place within the sequence of Aksumite kings most of which are known only from coins can be firmly established ...

Article

Anaïs Wion

king of Ethiopia (1632–1667) under the names Seltan Seged and Alem Seged, was the son of King Susenyos (1607–1632) and Queen Wald Sa’ala in Mugar (Shewa). As a young prince, and with his younger brother Gelawdewos, he joined his father’s government, which was not the usual practice among close male relatives of Ethiopian kings. The Chronicle of Susenyos depicts him as leading various military campaigns and sustaining the pro-Catholic policy of his father. By 1630 he was recognized as the legitimate heir by Pope Urban VIII. He succeeded Susenyos after his abdication. Other forms of his name are Fasilides, Fasilidas, and Basilide.

Although Fasiladas’s reign was long and his religious, cultural, and economic policies left a permanent mark on the country, he left no chronicle of his own. Information about his reign is known through the so-called Abridged Chronicles written at least a century after Fasiladas ...

Article

Anaïs Wion

king of Ethiopia (1540–1559) under the name Asnaf Seged, was the first son of King Lebna Dengel (1508–1540) and Queen Seble Wengel.

When Gelawdewos inherited the throne from his father, the Christian kingdom had been greatly weakened by more than ten years of war against the Muslim armies led by the imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi, de facto ruler of Harar, and known by the Christians as “Grañ,” or “The Left-Handed.” The royal court and its troops were at this time relegated to the northern part of the realm.

In 1540 four hundred Portuguese soldiers, under the direction of Christovão da Gama, landed on the Ethiopian shore with a thousand muskets and harquebuses as well as some artillery. While the new Portuguese allies joined Christian Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Muslim armies were helped by the Ottomans and some Yemenite and Arab mercenaries. In February 1543 al Ghazi was killed in ...

Article

Idris  

Ronald Bruce St John

king of Libya, Libyan religious and political leader, descendant of a distinguished North African family that traced its ancestry to the Prophet Muhammad, was the first head of state after Libya won independence in 1951. Born at Jaghbub in eastern Libya, Sayyid Muhammad Idris al-Mahdi al-Sanusi was the eldest son of Sayyid Muhammad al-Mahdi al-Sanusi, in turn the eldest son and successor to Sayyid Muhammad bin ʿAli al-Sanusi, the founder of the Sanusi Order, a strictly orthodox order of Sufis established in Libya in 1842. Idris was schooled in traditional Islamic studies at the Kufrah Oasis, a Sanusi center in southeastern Libya, where he earned a reputation for piety and scholarship. After Italy invaded Libya in 1911, an occupation the Sanusi Order resisted with force, Idris assumed leadership of the order in 1916 Idris tried to reach a peaceful accommodation with the Italians but when his ...

Article

Iyasu I  

Claire Bosc-Tiessé

also known as Iyasu the Great, king of Ethiopia (r. 1682–1706) under the name Adyam Seged, was the son of King Yohannes I (r. 1667–1682) and Queen Seble Wengel. After the death in June 1676 of his eldest brother, Yostos, who was intended to succeed their father, he inherited the government of the region of Semen, in the north of Gonder. In 1677–1678, he accompanied his father on a military campaign against the Lasta region but rebelled against him in 1681. Iyasu then negotiated his succession, so when Yohannes died on 19 July 1682, he came to throne.

In September 1683 in Gonder Iyasu married Walatta Seyon who was from the northern region of Hamasen They had only one daughter Walatta Rufael Iyasu s four sons who later came to the throne were children of his concubines Tekle Haymanot was the son of Melekotawit who later encouraged ...

Article

João I  

Jeremy Rich

also known as Nzinga Nkuwu, ruler of the Kongo kingdom, was born in the middle of the fifteenth century, most likely in the capital of Mbanza Kongo (São Salvador). Very little is known about him prior to the arrival of Portuguese sea captain Diogo Cão in 1483 at the coastal Kongolese province of Nsoyo, although he appears to have been king since the 1470s. According to royal traditions, he was either the fourth or fifth ruler of the kingdom. João I’s father was the Kongolese king Nkuwu a Ntinu, but little else is known of his early family life.

Cão was forbidden from visiting Mbanza Kongo, but did take four Kongolese back to Lisbon so that they later could serve as interpreters, including a noble named Kasuta. Once Cão returned to Nsoyo with the Kongolese hostages, João I sent one of the chief diviners of the kingdom, the Mani ...

Article

Kashta  

A. K. Vinogradov

one of the earliest rulers of the Kushite kingdom (Ancient Sudan) attested in written sources. His reign is conventionally dated to the end of the first half of the eighth century BCE. Kashta’s personal name is usually considered as Meroitic and is supposedly interpreted as “the Kushite” (from “Kush/Kash,” one of the main appellations of the country), but due to the peculiarities of its writing and in view of some semantic parallels, its rendering as the Egyptian appellative “the Secret/Inaccessible Bull” or “(My) Spirit/Double (is) Secret” seems preferable.

The written attestations of Kashta are rather numerous about fifty and a few of them are on objects that are alleged to be his personal belongings Nevertheless definitive information about him is still more deficient than that about his semi mythological predecessor Alara so that most of the historical considerations in his regard are mere guesswork From indirect genealogical data it is ...

Article

Neal W. Sobania

Ethiopian monarch, was one of Ethiopia’s best-known Christian monarchs of the Zagwe dynasty; he reigned from circa 1185 to 1225; his regnal name was Gebre Mesqel. His father, Zan Seyyum, and his mother, Kerwerna (in later tradition, said to be a maid in Zan’s house), were of noble birth, and Lalibela’s (half?)-brother, Harbay, was king before him. Today Lalibela is revered as a saint by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and said to be the creator of Ethiopia’s greatest architectural wonder, the eleven churches carved from solid rock at the town that now bears his name. Formerly known as Roha, this small town where Lalibela made his capital is in the remote, mountainous region of Lasta in the central Ethiopian highlands, alongside major north–south communication routes.

Lalibela came from a line of rulers the Zagwe 1137 1270 who have traditionally been identified as usurpers of the true Solomonic line of rulers ...

Article

Steven Kaplan

Emperor of Ethiopia in the early sixteenth century at the time of the Muslim conquest of the country, ruled from 1 August 1508 until his death. He was the son of Emperor Naod, who died while engaged in a military campaign against the Muslims of Adal. Since Lebna Dengel was only about twelve when he assumed the throne, his effective rule only began a few years later. Even then he was largely in the shadow of more experienced courtiers, including his step-grandmother, Eleni (Helena), and mother, Naod Mogesa.

During the almost forty years from the reign of Zera Yaqob 1434 1468 to the assumption of Lebna Dengel the Christian kingdom of Ethiopia had suffered a gradual decline Several of the rulers of this period were ineffective either because of their youth or their character As a result imperial control of the periphery deteriorated as did revenue from taxes and tribute ...

Article

Menes,  

Jacco Dieleman

legendary Egyptian pharaoh. According to Egyptian tradition, Menes was the first human to rule Egypt as king after the succession of gods and heroes, and he is considered the founder of the pharaonic state for having united Upper and Lower Egypt into one political and cultural unity. As a cultural hero, he is not a historical figure but the product of historical imagination and cultural memory.

No written records contemporary with the period of Egyptian state formation c 3300 3000 BCE mention Menes s name In fact his name is not attested in writing before the Ramesside period c 1302 1198 BCE when his name occurs in king lists the Abydos King List the Turin Canon and the Min Festival reliefs in the Ramesseum However earlier annals are fragmentary and may have contained his name The king lists place him at the head of royal succession but give no biographical ...

Article

Wlodzimierz Godlewski

was king of Makuria in the early eighth century. Dates of birth and death are uncertain. During his reign Makuria had good relations with the caliphate and a stable economy capable of supporting rapid growth of the agglomeration of Dongola and other settlements in the kingdom. Upon incorporating the kingdom of Nobadia in the north and normalizing relations with the Arab world, Makuria became undoubtedly the most powerful Nubian kingdom. More attention was attached to relations with the kingdom of Alodia (Alwa) south of Makuria. The king probably introduced some changes in state administration, instituting the position of eparch (chief bishop) of the kingdom, held in his time by Marcos.

Merkurios also played an important role in providing a firm foundation for the church in Makuria which originally Byzantine Chalcedonian was subordinated to the Monophysite bishop of Alexandria at the end of the seventh century preserving local authority over the ...