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Amda, Seyon I  

Steven Kaplan

emperor of Ethiopia (1314–1344), whose regnal name was Gebre Meskel (“Servant of the Cross”), was one of the outstanding rulers of the early Solomonic period (1270–1527) in Ethiopia. While his grandfather, Yekunno Amlak (r. 1270–1284), is credited with establishing a new dynasty, Amda Seyon (“Pillar of Zion”) can be said to have established the medieval Ethiopian state.

Amda Seyon is generally believed to have succeeded his father, Wedem Re’ad, as emperor in 1314. The first years of his reign were devoted to wars against Muslim populations in the southwest of Ethiopia. Around 1320 he turned his attention to the northern parts of Ethiopia particularly to Tigray province in the north and the areas around the ancient capital of Aksum where his dynasty s claim to be the legitimate successors to the Solomonic kings of Aksum had not been accepted Amda Seyon s victories ...


Artaxerxes, III  

Eugene Cruz-Uribe

Persian emperor (359–338 BCE), was the son of Artaxerxes II, who ruled the Persian empire from 404 to 359 BCE. He is also known as Artaxerxes III Ochus. His mother was Stateira. Artaxerxes III was one of three legitimate children of Artaxerxes II; the other two, Darius and Ariaspes, both were put to death near the end of their father’s reign. Ochus, as he is known from most of the Greek sources, came to the throne after his father’s death in 359 BCE; the exact date is not certain. He is rumored to have killed most of his living half brothers, their families, and most of his other relatives in order to prevent any disruptions, palace intrigues, or revolts.

During Ochus s reign he undertook to return the Persian empire to its former limits To control the satraps governors of the provinces he ordered them to disband their mercenary armies ...



Ronald Mellor

first emperor of the Roman Empire, was born as Gaius Octavius. He was the great-nephew of the childless Julius Caesar, who invited the boy to ride in his triumphal chariot in 46 BCE. Two years later, after Caesar’s assassination and Octavius’ posthumous adoption as his heir, the eighteen-year-old youth took the name Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus and began to recruit troops to avenge the murder of his “father.” Thus, modern historians call him “Octavian.”

In 43 BCE Octavian and Mark Antony, Caesar’s former deputy, formed an alliance called the “Second Triumvirate” (for it also included Marcus Lepidus). The triumvirs ruled quite brutally, enforcing proscriptions of their personal and political enemies. Under Antony’s military leadership the triumvirs soon defeated Caesar’s assassins Brutus and Cassius at Philippi in northern Greece in 42 BCE.

The aftermath of civil war left Octavian with the difficult task of resettling troops in Italy and dealing with ...


Cambyses II  

Eugene Cruz-Uribe

Persian emperor, ascended to the throne of the Persians in 529 BCE. He was the eldest son of Cyrus the Great (ruled c. 559 to 529 BCE) and was proclaimed his heir before Cyrus began his final campaign in central Asia in 530 BCE. Cyrus expanded the Persian hegemony over significant areas of western Asia, subjugating Babylon in 539 BCE. With this conquest, the Persian empire now held claim to the lands touching upon Egypt. In 526 BCE Cambyses began the Egyptian campaign, and thus brought a portion of Africa under Persian control.

Some scholars argue that the Egyptian campaign of Cambyses was an effort to control the southern flank of the eastern Mediterranean in preparation for a final push against the Greek city states Militarily this makes sense but the actions of Cambyses in Egypt suggest that other factors especially economic ones were a significant reason for the scope ...



Tsegay Berhe Gebrelibanos

Ethiopian emperor (r. 518–535), was the son and successor of the Aksumite king Taezena (r. 486–493) and the first Ethiopian emperor to assume a biblical name. His early history remains obscure. However, some Ethiopian sources (epigraphy, coins, and hagiographies) and foreign sources give insights into his overall challenges and achievements. They all agree that he was an enlightened, inquisitive, and wise leader, a protector of scientific and religious knowledge. Both hagiographic and Byzantine sources referred to Kaléb by another name, “Ella Asbeha,” in his capacity as king of Aksum, Noba, Raydan, Sabba, the Arabites, and Yemenites. The list of tributary countries suggests that Kaléb ruled a much more extensive empire than his predecessors had ever done. Some of these places were situated within the Red Sea region within the present-day states of the Sudan, Eritrea, and Yemen.

Internally during the reign of Kaléb ancient Ethiopia reached new heights in many ...


Musa, Mansa  

David C. Conrad

ninth emperor (mansa) of the West African kingdom of Mali and its monarch in its golden era (1312–1337), was a grandson of Sunjata Keita’s brother Manding Bori (also known as Abu Bakr; in local usage Bakari/Bogari is Bori); his mother was Kanku. There are no details available about Musa’s life prior to his famous pilgrimage to Mecca via Cairo in 1324 to 1325.

For information about Mansa Musa, we rely mainly on the Arabic sources. A North African merchant named al-Dukkali who spent several decades in Mali described Mansa Musa’s kingdom to the Syrian geographer al-ʿUmari, who resided in Cairo. Ibn Battuta visited Mali in 1352 and 1353, and the historian Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406) recorded oral historical traditions from Malian informants. An important West African source is Ta’rikh al-fattash (Chronicle of the Searcher) by the seventeenth- century Timbuktu historian Ibn al-Mukhtar (written c. 1665).

Al ...


Septimius Severus, Lucius  

Duane W. Roller

Roman emperor (193–211ce) was born at Leptis Magna in Libya on 11 April 146 ce. His ancestry was probably indigenous or Phoenician, although his family had become part of the Roman provincial elite. He came to Rome as a young man, attracted the notice of the emperor Marcus Aurelius (ruled 161–180ce), and was promoted from the equestrian to the senatorial class. He married Paccia Marciana, also from Leptis, around 175 ce, and after she died married (in 185 ce) Julia Domna, from Emesa in Syria. She was the highly educated daughter of a priest of the sun, who became a patron of the arts and culture and accompanied her husband on campaign. They had two sons, Septimius Bassus (the future emperor Caracalla) and Septimius Geta, who ruled briefly as emperor.

Septimius held a series of positions both in Rome and abroad and ...


Sulayman, Mansa  

David C. Conrad

eleventh emperor (mansa) of Mali, ruled during the latter part of its so-called golden era (1341–1360). He was the brother of Mansa Musa (1312–1337), and hence of the Keita lineage. Much information is available about Mansa Sulayman ibn Abi Bakr’s court because it was visited by the Arab geographer Ibn Battuta in 1352–1353. Additionally, we rely on the historian Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406), who recorded historical traditions from Malian oral informants, and Al-ʿUmari (1301–1349), a Syrian geographer who lived in Cairo and gathered information from merchants who had lived in Mali.

Mansa Sulayman commanded the largest army in the Western Sudan which accounts for his reputation as the most powerful of Muslim rulers He was also the wealthiest with more than a dozen kingdoms in his empire Among the resources contributing to Mali s prosperity were goldfields of Buré to the south that were controlled by non Muslim peoples ...


Zera, Yaqob  

Neal W. Sobania

emperor of Ethiopia (r. 1434–1468). One of Ethiopia’s most formidable rulers, he was notable for his use of religion and military might to forge a fractious state and church into a coherent polity. Ethiopia, at the time of Zera Yaqob, consisted of the mountainous central highlands, surrounded by Muslim principalities in the lowlands to the east and traditionally ruled societies to the south and west. Although the highlands was a Christian land from the time of the conversion of Emperor Ezana at Aksum in the early fourth century, theological differences led to intractable variations in practice.

Zera Yaqob came to the throne as part of the restored “Solomonic” line—“restored” because after the fall of the Aksumite Empire, the medieval dynasty that followed, the Zagwe (overthrown in 1270 by Yekuno Amlak could not lay claim to the widely accepted belief that legitimate royal succession was through Menilek I the ...