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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 ...

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Mohammed Hassen Ali

last king of the kingdom of Jimma in Ethiopia, scholar, was born in Jiren, the political capital and commercial center of southwestern Ethiopia. As a young man Abba Jobir received the best Muslim education under several prominent Muslim scholars who settled in Jimma during the reign of his famous grandfather Abba Jifar II (r. 1878–1932).

His grandfather was the most famous, wealthiest, and most popular Oromo king throughout Ethiopia during the second half of the nineteenth century. He was a very foresighted politician who had an excellent grasp of the importance of firearms in warfare. He sent agents to the expanding kingdom of Shewa and realized that King Menilek had superiority in weapons; therefore, he peacefully submitted to Menilek. Although four other Oromo kings who resisted Menilek were destroyed, Abba Jifar II signed a peace treaty with the Christian king of Shewa in 1882 In exchange for local ...

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Jeremy Rich

king of Dahomey, was born sometime in the middle of the eighteenth century. His father was Agonglo, king of Dahomey from 1789 to 1797. Adandozan was the eldest son of Agonglo. Oral narratives collected later in the nineteenth century presented him as incompetent and mentally deranged, but it should be kept in mind that rival royal family members eventually ousted Adandozan from power and would have had a vested interest in deriding his achievements. Adandozan ascended to the throne of Dahomey in 1797, in a time marked by difficulties for the kingdom. The royal slave-trading monopoly ran aground on international difficulties, particularly the decision of the French government to abandon the slave trade from 1794 to 1802 and the British and US governments’ decision to abandon the slave trade in 1807 and 1808 respectively The British government began to send warships to stop other countries from purchasing ...

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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 ...

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Jeremy Rich

leader of the Kongo kingdom, was born in the mid-fourteenth century. His birth name was Mvemba a Nzinga and he was the child of King João I Nzinga Nkuwu of Kongo and Nzinga a Nlaza, one of the king’s wives. When the Portuguese ship captain Diogo Cão first arrived in 1483, Afonso was a high-ranking officer in the kingdom. He consented to be baptized by Catholic missionaries. When a royal court faction opposed to Christianity arose after João I’s baptism in 1491, Afonso developed his authority in his own province of Nsundi. He allowed two Portuguese priests, Goncalve Vas and Rodrigue Anes, to live in his court.

Not surprisingly Portuguese missionaries and officials gave Afonso support especially after his father renounced Christianity In Nsundi Afonso used his privileged access to European trade goods to gain access to valuable high grade copper located north of the Congo River and ...

Article

Agaja  

Jeremy Rich

king of Dahomey, was born sometime in the later decades of the seventeenth century. According to oral traditions collected in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Agaja succeeded his brother Akaba to the throne in large part because of his support from influential royal women. Na Geze, a royal princess married to the ruler of the city-state of Ouidah located directly south of Dahomey, supported Agaja’s claims to power. Likewise, his eldest sister and Akaba’s twin Na Hangbe also intervened on the behalf of Akaba’s son Agbo Sassa. According to European slave traders’ accounts and oral narratives, Agaja battled Agbo Sassa for the throne around 1718. Apparently, Hangbe denounced Agaja as a usurper, to no avail; and her son was forced to flee to the north.

Once Agaja had seized the throne he launched a series of reforms within the kingdom and led numerous campaigns against Dahomey s neighbors One ...

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Agaja  

Elizabeth Heath

The third ruler of the Dahomey Kingdom, Agaja succeeded his brother, Akaba, in 1708. Agaja was a shrewd and powerful king, expanding the kingdom and making it one of the most powerful in West Africa. He spent much of his early reign instituting administrative reforms that centralized and strengthened the kingdom: he created an elite corps of female guards, enlarged the royal army, and employed a group of military spies who acquired information about neighboring groups. These innovations proved crucial to his victorious conquest of the Allada and Whydah Kingdoms in the 1720s. The acquisition of these coastal kingdoms gave the previously landlocked Dahomey access to the sea and, consequently, European trade.

Agaja's ambition to control the transatlantic slave trade that flowed through these ports brought him into rivalry with the neighboring Yoruba kingdom of Oyo, whose attacks on Dahomey forced Agaja to surrender in 1730 and ...

Article

Agonglo  

Robin Law

king of Dahomey (in modern Benin), was the son of Kpengla, his predecessor as king of Dahomey (r. 1774–1789). His official “Queen Mother” (kpojito), appointed as such after his accession to the throne, was a woman called Senume, but it is not clear whether she was also his biological mother. Contemporary European sources give his name as Wheenoohew, but this is not recognized in Dahoman tradition. He was also alternatively called Adarunza, but this seems to be a generic surname which (also in other variants, such as Adahoonzou) was applied by Europeans to all kings of the dynasty (Agonglo being counted as Adarunza VIII).

Agonglo s accession to the throne was contested with two other princes presenting themselves as candidates and his political position at the beginning of his reign appears to have been insecure requiring him to conciliate his senior officials and the populace more generally ...

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Akitoye  

Jeremy Rich

ologun (king) of the city of Lagos (in present-day Nigeria), was born early in the nineteenth century in the city that he would later rule. His father, Ologun Kuture, reigned over the port from roughly 1780 to around 1803. Akitoye’s elder brothers Adele and Osinlokun battled for power in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Eventually Osinlokun won this struggle. Akitoye only entered the competition for the throne in the 1830s, after the death of Osinlokun and his son and successor Idewu. The latter had no children. When Idewu’s ambitious brother Kosoko tried to seize the crown, his numerous opponents in Lagos sought to find other candidates to prevent Kosoko from taking power. The aging Adele was named ologun but only lived two years Then various family leaders and chiefs selected Adele s son Oluwole to block Kosoko from becoming the king but he only lived ...

Article

Stanley M. Burstein

The thirteen-year reign of Alexander III of Macedon fundamentally changed the political and cultural structure of western Asia and North Africa. The Persian Empire, whose rule had extended from the Mediterranean to the borders of India, disappeared and was replaced by a system of competing Macedonian-ruled kingdoms. As a result, the region’s center of gravity shifted westward from its ancient focus in Mesopotamia and southwestern Iran to the shores of the Mediterranean. Equally important, Greek became the language of government and Greek culture became the new elite culture throughout this vast region.

Writing the history of Alexander s brief but remarkable reign is difficult Primary sources are few Of the many accounts written by his contemporaries and the numerous documents issued by his government that once existed only fragments quoted by later writers and a few inscriptions survive Therefore historians depend for their reconstructions on five Greek and Latin biographies ...

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 ...

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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

Abdulai Abubakari

king of Dagombas and victim of murder at Yendi, the capital of the Dagomba traditional area, was born in August 1945 at Saganarigu, a suburb of Tamale in present-day northern Ghana. His father was Andani Yakubu, also the king of Dagbon, who reigned from 1968 to 1969, and his mother was Zenabu Mahama, who hailed from Savelugu. He was named after his grandfather, Na Yakubu I (1824–1849). He was the first son of his father, who had about thirty children, and the only child of his mother. He attended Yendi Primary and Middle schools and taught as a pupil teacher for several years.

He became the Ya-Na, the title given to the king of the Dagombas, in 1974. The previous incumbent, Ya-Na Mahamadu Abdulai IV (1969–1974 was said to have been improperly installed as king The matter was contested in court amid great tension ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

king of the Merina state of central Madagascar and a pivotal figure in its eighteenth-century expansion, was born around 1745 in the northern Malagasy town of Ikaloy. His father, Andriamiaramanjaka, was a member of the Zafimamy royal family of the northern independent kingdom of Alahamadintany. His mother, Ranavalonandriambelomasina, was the daughter of Merina monarch Andriambelomasina, who ruled Merina from roughly 1730 to 1770. He also was the nephew of Andriambelomasina’s successor, Andrianjafy, who was the king of Merina from 1770 to 1787.

He stayed with his father in Ikaloy until he was roughly twelve when he moved to the Merina court As a young man Andrianampoinimerina became a wealthy merchant and probably engaged in slave trading At the same time he presented himself as a defender of ordinary commoners fearful of slave raiding threats from neighbors like the Sakalava kingdom and unjust officials Supposedly Andriambelomasina had stipulated that ...

Article

Ari Nave

Oral traditions recorded by Jesuit missionaries in the late eighteenth century suggest that Andriambélomàsina, ruler of the Imerina (the territory of the Merina ethnic group) from 1730 to 1770 , directed that his eldest son Andrianjàfy succeed him, followed by his grandson Ramboàsalàma, son of his eldest daughter. Andrianjàfy, however, intended for his own son to take his place and plotted to kill Ramboàsalàma, who, fearing for his life, fled to the north. Supported by a dozen Merina chiefs, Ramboàsalàma returned in 1787, overtaking the city of Ambohimànga and exiling his uncle, who was later killed.

Ramboàsalàma was crowned Andrianampoinimerina, “the prince in the heart of Imerina.” After consolidating power through treaties and marriage alliances and establishing a capital at Antananarivo in about 1795 Andrianampoinimerina also known as Nampoina began to expand the Merina Empire Eventually he controlled much of the island conquering and consolidating the Betsileo Sihanaka ...

Article

Duane W. Roller

Seleucid king of Syria (175–164 BCE), is an important figure in African history because of his involvement with Ptolemaic Egypt during the Sixth Syrian War of 170–168 BCE; although this was only a small portion of his career, it was nonetheless a significant moment in Egyptian history.

Antiochus was the youngest son of Antiochus III ruled 222 187 BCE His date of birth is not known but was around the end of the third century BCE Like many members of the royal families of the Hellenistic East he spent time in Rome in the 180s BCE officially as a hostage This was a typical procedure of the era but it allowed a growing closeness between the Roman elite and eastern royalty and laid the ground for eventual Roman control of all the eastern kingdoms When Antiochus III died in 187 BCE his successor was his son Seleukos IV the elder ...

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Salim Faraji

Kushite king of the Meroitic period was a contemporary of Egyptian pharaoh Ptolemy IV and the fifth successor of Arkamaniqo Ergamenes I who was most noted for leading the Kushite expansion and reoccupation of Lower Nubia in the years 205 186 BCE After Ptolemy II s ascent to power circa 274 BCE Ptolemaic Egypt gained control over the long disputed area of Lower Nubia and thereby provoked a retaliatory stance from Upper Egypt and the Meroitic Empire Based on surviving inscriptions it is clear that Arkamani styled himself as a restorer of Meroitic cultural traditions and political supremacy in Lower Nubia He achieved this primarily through two principal activities First he embarked upon an aggressive building campaign in which he continued and completed construction of temples at Philae Kalabsha and Dakka all located in Lower Nubia Second he provided military support to Upper Egyptian nationalists who launched an independence and ...

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Salim Faraji

whose name was translated as “Ergamenes” by contemporary Greeks, was a Kushite king who is considered the founder of the Meroitic period of ancient Nubian history. The transliteration of his name in ancient Egyptian is ir ka imn, which roughly translates as the “the active spirit of Amen.” Arkamaniqo lived during the second quarter of the third century BCE; this assertion is primarily based upon his identification by the Hellenistic historiographer Agatharchides of Cnidus, who wrote that the “Ethiopian king Ergamenes” was a contemporary of Ptolemy II. There are also epigraphic sources that attest to his existence and reign in Kush at his pyramid burial at Begarawiya near Meroe City. His name is in cartouches inscribed in the mortuary cult chapel of this royal superstructure.

Arkamaniqo s pyramid was the first royal burial site in the region of Meroe City this suggests that his rule represented a transitional period ...

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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 ...