Battle of the Dindar River

The Battle of the Dindar River was fought near the Dinder River in 1738, between the forces of the Ethiopian Emperor Iyasu II and the Sennar army under King Badi IV. The battle was a disaster for the Ethiopians and for Iyasu.[1]

Battle of the Dindar River
DateMarch/April 1738
modern Sennar, Sudan
Result major Ethiopian defeat
Kingdom of Sennar Ethiopia
Commanders and leaders
Hamis of Darfur Emperor Iyasu II
4000 cavalry 18,000 infantry

Stung by lampoons which called him Iyasu Tannush ("Iyasu the Little", in contrast to his earlier namesake "Iyasu the Great") and described him as more interested in pursuing his pleasures and amusements than to the well-being of his own subjects, Emperor Iyasu decided to conquer the Kingdom of Sennar. He summoned the army of Ethiopia, and marched west from Gondar into Sennar, following the course of the Dindar River.

The inhabitants of Sennar fell back before the overwhelming force of the Ethiopians, although some under Nail Wad Agib defected to the Ethiopians and saved their lives for the moment. Some local inhabitants along the Dindar (whom Wallis Budge describes as "Arabs") opposed the invaders, but Iyasu's general Waragna, commanding the vanguard of the army, scattered them "with great slaughter".

Although King Badi had assembled an army, he was unnerved at the size of the Ethiopian army before him. However, Hamis, a prince of Darfur in western Sudan, proposed a strategy to defeat the invaders. On his advice, the main part of the Sennar army feigned a retreat from the Ethiopian army, drawing them forward. Meanwhile, Hamis led 4000 horsemen around and behind the army and fell upon the main body of 18,000 men under the command of Wolde Leul. Welda Uhlo escaped with some of his officers, and a number of soldiers found safety in the nearby woods, but the rest were slaughtered in Hamis' attack. Hamis also captured a number of relics that Emperor Iyasu had brought with him, which included an icon of Christ and a piece of the True Cross.[2] While a follower of Nail Wad Agib brought word of the ambush to the vanguard with Emperor Iyasu, it was clear that they would be unable to reach the fighting in time to save them.[3]

Instead, Emperor Iyasu followed the main stream of the Nile north to where the Tekezé River entered it, wreaking destruction upon the villages he encountered, burning houses and capturing cattle, aware that he had been defeated. Once he reached the Tekezé, Iyasu followed that river upstream into his realm. Upon entering Gondar, the Emperor paraded the cattle his soldiers had captured proclaiming his campaign a success. However, he quietly sent his courtier Tensa Tammo to Sennar who ransomed the captured relics for 8,000 ounces of gold.


  1. ^ The following account, unless otherwise stated, is based on E. A. Wallis Budge, A History of Ethiopia: Nubia and Abyssinia, 1928 (Oosterhout, the Netherlands: Anthropological Publications, 1970), pp. 454f.
  2. ^ Remedius Prutky claims that Iyasu also lost his "golden crown", but Richard Pankhurst is skeptical about this claim (J.H. Arrowsmith-Brown [trans.], Prutky's Travels in Ethiopia and other Countries with notes by Richard Pankhurst [London: Hakluyt Society, 1991], p. 150 n.7)
  3. ^ James Bruce, Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (1805 edition), vol. 4 p. 127