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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 ...



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 ...


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 ...


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 ...