Emperor of Ethiopia

The Emperor of Ethiopia (Ge'ez: ንጉሠ ነገሥት, nəgusä nägäst, "King of Kings") was the hereditary ruler of the Ethiopian Empire, until the abolition of the monarchy in 1975. The Emperor was the head of state and head of government, with ultimate executive, judicial and legislative power in that country. A National Geographic article called imperial Ethiopia "nominally a constitutional monarchy; in fact [it was] a benevolent autocracy".[2]

Emperor of Ethiopia
Imperial
Imperial coat of arms of Ethiopia (Haile Selassie).svg
Haile Selassie (1969).jpg
Last to reign
Haile Selassie

2 April 1930 – 12 September 1974
Details
StyleHis Imperial Majesty
First monarchMenelik I
Last monarchHaile Selassie
Formationc. 980 BC[1]
Abolition21 March 1975
ResidenceMenelik Palace
AppointerHereditary
Pretender(s)Zera Yacob Amha Selassie
Lebna Dengel, nəgusä nägäst (Emperor) of Ethiopia and a member of the Solomonic dynasty.

Title and styleEdit

 
Emperor Tewodros II (1855–1868)

The title of "King of Kings", often rendered imprecisely in English as "Emperor", dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, but was used in Axum by King Sembrouthes (c. 250 AD). However, Yuri Kobishchanov dates this usage to the period following the Persian victory over the Romans in 296–297.[3] Its use, from at least the reign of Yekuno Amlak onward, meant that both subordinate officials and tributary rulers, notably the gubernatorial vassals of Gojjam (who ranked 12th in the states non-dynastic protocol as per 1690), Welega, the seaward provinces and later Shewa, received the honorific title of nəgus, a word for "king."

The consort of the Emperor was referred to as the ətege. Empress Zauditu used the feminized form nəgəstä nägäst ("Queen of Kings") to show that she reigned in her own right, and did not use the title of ətege.

SuccessionEdit

At the death of a monarch any male or female blood relative of the Emperor could claim succession to the throne: sons, brothers, daughters and nephews all inherited at times. Practice favoured primogeniture but did not always enforce it. The system developed two approaches to controlling the succession: the first, employed on occasion before the 20th century, involved interning all of the Emperor's possible rivals in a secure location, which drastically limited their ability to disrupt the Empire with revolts or to dispute the succession of an heir apparent; the second, used with increasing frequency, involved the selection of Emperors by a council of the senior officials of the realm, both secular and religious.

Ethiopian traditions do not all agree as to exactly when the custom started of imprisoning rivals to the throne on a Mountain of the Princes. One tradition credits this practice to the Zagwe king Yemrehana Krestos (fl. 11th century), who allegedly received the idea in a dream;[4] Taddesse Tamrat discredits this tradition, arguing that the records of the Zagwe dynasty betray too many disputed successions for this to have been the case.[5] Another tradition, recorded by historian Thomas Pakenham, states that this practice predates the Zagwe dynasty (which ruled from ca. 900 AD), and was first practiced on Debre Damo, which was captured by the 10th-century queen Gudit, who then isolated 200 princes there to death; however, Pakenham also notes that when questioned, the abbot of the monastery on Debre Damo knew of no such tale.[6] Taddesse Tamrat argues that this practice began in the reign of Wedem Arad (1299–1314), following the struggle for succession that he believes lies behind the series of brief reigns of the sons of Yagbe'u Seyon (reigned 1285–1294). A constructivist approach[which?] states that the tradition was used on occasion, weakened or lapsed sometimes, and was sometimes revived to full effect after some unfortunate disputes – and that the custom started in time immemorial as Ethiopian common inheritance patterns allowed all agnates to also succeed to the lands of the monarchy – which however is contrary to keeping the country undivided.

The potential royal rivals were incarcerated at Amba Geshen until Ahmed Gragn captured that site in 1540 and destroyed it; then, from the reign of Fasilides (1632–1667) until the mid-18th century, at Wehni. Rumors of these royal mountain residences were part of the inspiration for Samuel Johnson's short story, Rasselas.

Although the Emperor of Ethiopia had theoretically unlimited power over his subjects, his councillors came to play an increasing role in governing Ethiopia, because many Emperors were succeeded either by a child, or one of the incarcerated princes, who could only successfully leave their prisons with help from the outside. As a result, by the mid-18th century the power of the Emperor had been largely transferred to his deputies, like Ras Mikael Sehul of Tigray (ca. 1691 – 1779), who held actual power in the Empire and elevated or deposed Emperors at will.

IdeologyEdit

The Emperors of Ethiopia derived their right to rule based on two dynastic claims: their descent from the kings of Axum, and their descent from Menelik I, the son of Solomon and Makeda, Queen of Sheba.

The claim to their relationship to the Kings of Axum derives from Yakuno Amlak's claim that he was the descendant of Dil Na'od, through his father, although he defeated and killed the last Zagwe king in battle. His claim to the throne was also helped by his marriage to that king's daughter, even though Ethiopians commonly do not acknowledge claims from the distaff side. The claim of descent from Menelik I is based on the assertion that the kings of Axum were also the descendants of Menelik I; its definitive and best-known formulation is set forth in the Kebra Nagast. While the surviving records of these kings fail to shed light on their origins, this genealogical claim is first documented in the 10th century by an Arab historian. Interpretations of this claim vary widely. Some (including many inside Ethiopia) accept it as evident fact. At the other extreme, others (mostly interested non-Ethiopians) understand this as an expression of propaganda, attempting to connect the legitimacy of the state to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Some scholars take an approach in the middle, attempting to either find a connection between Axum and the South Arabian kingdom of Saba, or between Axum and the pre-exilic Kingdom of Judah. Due to lack of primary materials, it is not possible as of 2006 to determine which theory is the more plausible.

HistoryEdit

The Solomonic dynastyEdit

The restored Solomonic dynasty, which claimed descent from the old Aksumite rulers, ruled Ethiopia from the 13th century until 1974, with only a couple of usurpers. The Amhara (Amara) warrior turned Emperor, Kassa of Quara, Gonder, in 1855 took complete control over Ethiopia and was crowned Tewodros II. After him, one of the many rebels leaders that helped the British in their expedition into Abyssinia was Dejazmatch Kassai, he was rewarded with articles of war for his services and went on to assume power through his claim of Solomonic decedent by his mothers from the Gondar branch and was crowned Yohannes IV. Menelik of Shewa, who descended from Solomonic Emperors but a slave woman, in the direct male line (junior only to the Gondar line), ascended the imperial throne following Yohannis IV's death, thus purporting to restore the male-line Solomonic tradition.

The Emperor Theodore (Tewodros) spent his youth fighting with invading Egyptians and 'Turks', then unifying the Empire after the dark ages of 'Zemane Mesafint' (time of Judges). Emperor Menelik II achieved a major military victory against Italian invaders in March 1896 at the Battle of Adwa. Menelik signed a treaty allowing the Italians to take Eritrea and sold Djubouti to France. After Menelik, all monarchs were of distaff descent from Solomonics. The male line, through the descendants of Menelik's cousin Dejazmatch Taye Gulilat, still existed, but had been pushed aside largely because of Menelik's personal distaste for this branch of his family. Menelik's Solomonic successors ruled the country until the military coup in 1974.

Italian occupation of EthiopiaEdit

Italy under Benito Mussolini attacked Ethiopia in 1935, starting the Second Italo-Ethiopian War. Italian successes in the war caused Emperor Haile Selassie to flee abroad into exile in 1936; he pled Ethiopia's case against Italy before the League of Nations, but aid from the League was not forthcoming. Italy added Ethiopia to its already existing colonies of Eritrea and Italian Somalia, creating the new dependent state of Italian East Africa. On 9 May 1936, King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy proclaimed himself Emperor of Ethiopia, replacing Haile Selassie.

Victor Emmanuel's claim to Emperorship was not entirely accepted, with the Soviet Union never considering the Italian conquest legitimate, and Haile Selassie continuing to contest the occupation from exile in the United Kingdom. With Italy's entry on the side of the Axis Powers in World War II, the African part of the British Empire aided Haile Selassie and anti-Italian Ethiopian forces in the East African campaign. Italy was defeated and Selassie restored to the throne, with most combat in Ethiopia ending in 1941. The Armistice of Cassibile was signed in September 1943 with the Kingdom of Italy's surrender, and Victor Emmanuel III officially renounced his title as Emperor of Ethiopia in November 1943.

Return of Haile Selassie, post-war period, and end of the monarchyEdit

In January 1942, Selassie was officially reinstated to power in Ethiopia. The position of the Emperor and the line of succession were strictly defined in both of the constitutions adopted during the reign of Haile Selassie: the one adopted on July 16, 1931; and the revised one of November 1955.

Haile Selassie was the last Solomonic monarch to rule Ethiopia. He was deposed by the Derg, the committee of lower-ranking military and police officials on September 12, 1974. The Derg offered the throne to Haile Selassie's son Amha Selassie, who – understandably mistrustful of the Derg – refused to return to Ethiopia to rule. The Derg abolished the monarchy on 21 March 1975. In April 1989, Amha Selassie was proclaimed Emperor in exile at London, with his succession backdated to the date of Emperor Haile Selassie's death in August 1975 rather than his deposition in September 1974. In 1993 a group called the "Crown Council of Ethiopia", which included several descendants of Haile Selassie, affirmed Amha as Emperor and legal head of Ethiopia. However, the 1995 Constitution of Ethiopia confirmed the abolition of the monarchy.

SymbolsEdit

Family treeEdit

Family of Emperor of Ethiopia
Legend
  EMPEROR (bold, capital letters)


Marriage
Descent


Uncertain/purported/legendary descent
HOUSE OF DAVID
 
SOLOMON
King of Israel

MAKEDA
Queen of Sheba
  
MENELIK I
Semi-legendary first emperor
KINGS OF AXUM
(mostly ahistorical,
legendary genealogy)
DIL NA'OD
Last King of Axum
 
MARA TAKLA
HAYMANOT

(1)
Masoba WarqMkhbara Widam
(Mahbere-Widam)
ZAGWE DYNASTY
 
TATADIM
(2)
 
JAN SEYUM
(3)
 
GERMA SEYUM
(4)
Agba Seyun
(Yakob)
 
KEDUS HARBE
(6)
 
GEBRE MESQEL
LALIBELA

(7)
 
YEMREHANA
KRESTOS

(5)
Sinfa Ar'ad
 
NA'AKUETO LA'AB
(8)
 
YETBARAK
(9)
Negus Zaré
Asfiha
Yakob
Bahr Seggad
Zagwe Dynasty[7]Adam Asgad
(Widma Asgad)
Tasfa Iyasus
 
YEKUNO AMLAK
1270–1285
SOLOMONIC
DYNASTY
 
Yagbe'u Seyon
(SALOMON I)

1285–1294
 
WEDEM ARAD
1299–1314
Prince
Qidma Seggada
 
SENFA ARED IV
1294–1295
 
HEZBA ASGAD
1295–1296
 
QEDMA ASGAD
1296–1297
 
JIN ASGAD
1297–1298
 
SABA ASGAD
1298–1299
 
AMDA SEYON I
1314–1344
 
NEWAYA KRESTOS
1344–1372
 
DAWIT I
1382–1413
 
NEWAYA MARYAM
1372–1382
 
TEWODROS I
1413–1414
 
YESHAQ I
1414–1429
 
TAKLA MARYAM
1430–1433
 
ZARA YAQOB
1434–1468
 
ANDREYAS
1429–1430
 
SARWE IYASUS
1433
 
AMDA IYASUS
1433–1434
 
BAEDA MARYAM I
1468–1478
 
ESKENDER
1478–1494
 
NA'OD
1494–1507
 
AMDA SEYON II
1494
 
DAWIT II
1507–1540
 
GELAWDEWOS
1540–1559
 
MENAS
1559–1563
Prince Yakob
SOLOMONIC
DYNASTY

GONDAR BRANCH
SOLOMONIC
DYNASTY

SHEWA BRANCH
 
SARSA DENGEL
1563–1597
Prince
Lesana Krestos
Prince FasilidasPrince
Segwa Qal
 
YAQOB
1597–1603
1604–1606
 
ZA DENGEL
1603–1604
 
SUSENYOS I
1606–1632
Warada Qal
 
FASILIDES
1632–1667
Lebsa Qal
 
YOHANNES I
1667–1682
Negasi Krestos
Ruler of Shewa
Princess Amlakawit 
IYASU I
1682–1706
 
TEWOFLOS
1708–1711
Sebestyanos
Ruler of Shewa
Delba Iyasus
Dejazmatch of Tigray
 
TEKLE HAYMANOT I
1706–1708
 
BAKAFFA
1721–1730
 
DAWIT III
1716–1721
 
YOHANNES II
1769
Qedami Qal
Ruler of Shewa
 
YOSTOS
1711–1716
 
IYASU II
1730–1755
 
TEKLE
HAYMANOT II

1769–1770
1770–1777
 
TEKLE GIYORGIS I
1779–1784; 1788–1789
1794–1795; 1795–1796
1798–1799; 1800
Amha Iyasus
Ruler of Shewa
Prince AdigoPrince Atsequ 
IYOAS I
1755–1769
 
HEZQEYAS
1789–1794
 
SALOMON III
1796–1797
1799
 
YOHANNES III
1840–1841; 1845
1850–1851
Asfa Wossen
Ruler of Shewa
 
SALOMON II
1777–1779
 
IYASU III
1784–1788
 
EGWALE SEYON
1801–1818
 
IYOAS II
1818–1821
 
IYASU IV
1830–1832
Unascertainable claims
of descent from Fasilides

(intermediate generations omitted)
Wossen Seged
Ruler of Shewa
(alleged sons of Iyasu II)
 
BAEDA MARYAM II
1795
 
SUSENYOS II
1770
 
GIGAR
1821–1826
1826–1830
 
YONAS
1797–1798
Gabre Masai 
DEMETROS
1799–1800
1800–1801
 
GEBRE KRESTOS
1832
 
SAHLE DENGEL
1832–1840; 1841–1845
1845–1850; 1851–1855
Sahle Selassie
Ruler of Shewa
BAEDA MARYAM III (1826)
(unknown parentage)
TIGRAY
DYNASTY
TEWODROS
DYNASTY
Mirtcha Wolde Kidane
Shum of Tembien
 
TEWODROS II
1855–1868
Haile Melekot
Ruler of Shewa
Princess
Tenagnework
ZAGWE DYNASTY
(RESTORED)
 
TEKLE GIYORGIS II
1868–1872
Empress Dinqinesh 
YOHANNES IV
1872–1889
Woizero Altash 
MENELIK II
1889–1913
Other wivesRas Makonnen
Governor of Harar
Araya Selassie
King of Tigray
 
ZEWDITU I
1916–1930
Princess
Shoagarad
 
HAILE SELASSIE I
1930–1974
 
IYASU V
1913–1916
AMHA SELASSIE
1989–1997
Crown Prince
Titular Emperor
ZERA YACOB
1997–present
Crown Prince
Titular Emperor

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ "The Ark of the Covenant: The Ethiopian Tradition". Retrieved 2013-02-16.
  2. ^ Nathaniel T. Kenney, "Ethiopian Adventure", National Geographic, 127 (1965), p. 555.
  3. ^ Yuri M. Kobishchanov, Axum, translated by Lorraine T. Kapitanoff, and edited by Joseph W. Michels (University Park: University of Pennsylvania State Press, 1979), p. 195. ISBN 0-271-00531-9.
  4. ^ Francisco Álvares, The Prester John of the Indies, translated by Lord Stanley of Alderley, revised and edited with additional material by C.F. Beckingham and G.W.B. Huntingford, (Cambridge: The Hakluyt Society, 1961), p. 237ff.
  5. ^ Taddesse Tamrat, Church and State in Ethiopia (1270–1527) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 275, n. 3. ISBN 0-19-821671-8.
  6. ^ Thomas Pakenham, The Mountains of Rasselas (New York: Reynal & Co., 1959), p. 84. ISBN 0-297-82369-8.
  7. ^ Zagwe Dynasty continued to rule in Lasta for centuries; restored to imperial throne in 1868.

External linksEdit