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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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Ruramisai Charumbira

emperor/ruler and army general in what is present-day Zimbabwe, was born to the army general Nyandoro, who declined the throne from Mutapa Chisamharu Negomo Mupunzagutu. Gatsi Rusere ascended to the throne as the mutapa (emperor/king) in 1589. He went on to have an illustrious, if tumultuous, reign until his death in 1623. Gatsi Rusere, according to most accounts, was a usurper to the throne as the mutapa. However, he could claim some right to the throne, as his father had been a mukomohasha (army general) in the preceding mutapa’s army. At the time, army generals tended to be uncles of the ruling mutapa and could succeed a mutapa as ruler. In this case, Nyandoro declined mutapaship, preferring his military career; instead, his son Gatsi Rusere maneuvered himself to the throne.

Unlike the preceding mutapa Gatsi Rusere was opposed to Portuguese Christian proselytizing and settlement in the interior of ...

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Richard Pankhurst

Emperor of Ethiopia, 1930–74, and exile in Britain, 1936–40. Born in Harar province, eastern Ethiopia, in 1892, he was the son of Ras Makonnen, Emperor Menelik's governor of the region, and until his accession to the imperial throne was called Tafari Makonnen. Educated by French Catholic missionaries, and at Ethiopia's first modern school, the Menelik, he succeeded his father as Harar's governor in 1910.

Menelik's young grandson and successor Lij Iyasu adopted a pro‐Muslim attitude, and favoured the Germans and Turks in the First World War. This alienated the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the nobility, and the local representatives of the Allied Powers, Britain, France, and Italy. Iyasu was overthrown by a coup d'état in 1916, whereupon Menelik's daughter Zawditu was appointed Empress, while Tafari became heir to the throne and regent. He was responsible for foreign affairs, while Zawditu presided over court cermonial.

Tafari emerged ...

Article

Robert Fay

Haile Selassie was born Lij Tafari Makonnen in Ejarsa Goro, Ethiopia. His father was Ras (Prince) Makonnen—the governor of Harer Province and a cousin, close friend, and adviser to Emperor Menelik II—and his mother was Yishimabet Ali. Young Tafari received a traditional religious education from Ethiopian Orthodox priests, who also taught him French.

Tafari proved his ability and responsibility in 1905 at the age of thirteen when his father appointed him governor of one of the regions of Harer Province. Upon his father's death the following year, Tafari was summoned to the court of Emperor Menelik, who appointed him the governor of a small province. Tafari set out to modernize the government by instituting a paid civil service, lowering taxes, and creating a court system that recognized the rights of peasants. Menelik rewarded Tafari's success by giving him a larger province to govern in 1908.

Upon Menelik s death ...

Article

Christopher Clapham

emperor of Ethiopia, was born Tafari Makonnen; his father was Ras Makonnen, first cousin of Emperor Menilek II and governor of Harar in southeast Ethiopia. Educated by Jesuit missionaries and at secondary school in Addis Ababa, he was appointed governor of Harar at the age of 17. In September 1916 Menilek’s grandson and successor Yasu was ousted in a palace coup, and his daughter Zawditu installed as empress, with Tafari (whose role in the coup has remained obscure) as regent and heir to the throne with the title of ras, thus gaining the name by which he was to be known to the Rastarafians.

Over the next fourteen years, Tafari gradually built up his power through a capacity for skillful political maneuver that he never lost, steadily reducing the power of formerly quasi-independent regional governors. He was instrumental in securing Ethiopia’s admission to the League of Nations in 1923 ...

Article

Kaléb  

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Ruramisai Charumbira

Southern African emperor, was born to Nyatsime Mutota and Mazvarira, founders of the Mutapa dynasty, in what we now call Mashonaland East and Central Provinces, lands located up the Zambezi escarpment and valley. He was also known as Nebedza. Much of the history we have on Nyanhehwe is based on oral traditions, as well as sixteenth-century Portuguese documents, scant as those may be, which tell the history and traditions of Africans in the interior of the continent since the mid-1500s.

Nyanhehwe Nebedza is generally designated the second mutapa however some historians count him as the third or even fifth mutapa because he was not the second in line after the death of his father Nyatsime Mutota had three sons of whom Nyanhehwe was the youngest According to traditions before Mutota died he was unable to resolve the succession issue as the region into which he had immigrated held social ...

Article

Peter Garretson

ruler of Shewa (Ethiopia), was born in Menz. As the hereditary ruler of Shewa from 1813 to 1847, he confirmed its role as a major player on Ethiopia’s national political scene. Given the name of Haylu Welde Kiros at birth, he succeeded his father ras Wessen Seged after his assassination in June 1813 becoming first ras and later adopting the title of negus (king).

Since the power of the monarch rested largely on the allegiance of his subjects especially the powerful ones the first years of his rule were unsettled and rebellion was rife among his Amhara and Oromo subjects They had recognized the legitimacy of his father but not of him He acted swiftly and ruthlessly to crush this opposition re establishing the central authority in his province The Amhara nobles were placated and he continued his predecessors tactics of divide and rule to undermine any unified Oromo ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Faustin Elie Soulouque was elected president of Haiti by the National Assembly, under the belief that he could be easily manipulated. On the contrary, Soulouque established a strong and repressive regime. In 1849 he unsuccessfully attempted an invasion of the neighboring Dominican Republic which had won its independence from ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

At a time when the collapse of the once powerful Mali empire left a power vacuum in western and central Sudan, Sunni Ali undertook a series of military campaigns that united the area under a new power—the Songhai empire. Through military acumen and skillful leadership he amassed an empire that, by the time of his death in 1492, spanned most of present-day Mali and parts of pres-ent-day Niger, Nigeria, and Benin. He conquered important trading centers such as Djenné and Tombouctou. Sunni Ali’s empire continued to control the area until the late sixteenth century, when it was destroyed by Moroccan invaders.

A Songhai state had existed since the seventh century, and in 1335 it declared independence from the enfeebled Mali empire. Its rulers, however, had done little to strengthen and expand the state before Sunni Ali ascended the throne in 1464 He immediately launched a campaign against Tuareg ...

Article

Bahru Zewde

emperor of Ethiopia (r. 1855–1868), was born about 1820 in the northwestern Ethiopian frontier district of Qwara. Until he assumed his throne name of Tewodros in 1855, he was known as Kasa Haylu. At the time of his birth, Ethiopia was going through a turbulent phase of its history, known as the Zamana Masafent (“Era of the Princes”), when regional lords held political sway and the emperors led a shadowy existence in the imperial capital, Gondar. In many ways a product of the Zamana Masafent, Kasa ultimately proved to be its antithesis.

Qwara provided Kasa with the political base that eventually catapulted him to imperial power From his half brother Kenfu Haylu he inherited the border skirmishes with the Egyptians who were then expanding into the Sudan and its borderlands But in contrast to Kenfu who dealt a decisive blow to the Egyptians at the Battle of Wad ...

Article

Tsegay Berhe Gebrelibanos

emperor of Ethiopia (1872–1889), was the coronation name for the former Dejazmach (military commander) Kassa otherwise Abba bazbez. Kassa was the son of Mercha, who was the Shum (governor) of Temben, and Weyzero (dame) Silas Dimtsu. At his birth, he had the advantage of uniting the rival princely houses of Tigray of the preceding century; including Ras Mikael Sehul of Adwa, Ras Welde Selassie of Enderta, and Dejazmach Subagadis of Agame. In 1864–1865, Kassa went with his brothers, Gugsa and Maru, to the court of the then Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros II (r. 1855–1868). Gugsa was given the title of dejazmach and Kassa that of the lower office of balambaras. Both brothers were given jurisdictions over eastern Tigrayan districts.

In 1865 1866 Kassa openly rebelled against Tewodros and controlled most of Tigray by defeating the central government s appointees In the years 1867 1868 he cooperated with the British expeditionary ...

Article

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 ...