Menas of Ethiopia

Menas (Ge'ez: ሜናስ mēnās) or Minas, throne name Admas Sagad I (Ge'ez: አድማስ ሰገድ admās sagad, Amharic: ādmās seged, "to whom the horizon bows") (died 1563), was nəgusä nägäst of Ethiopia from 1559 until his death, and a member of the Solomonic dynasty. He was a brother of Gelawdewos.

Emperor of Ethiopia
SuccessorSarsa Dengel
HouseHouse of Solomon
ReligionEthiopian Christian

According to a genealogy collected by James Bruce, Menas' father Lebna Dengel arranged Menas to be married to the daughter of Robel, governor of Bora and Selawe; upon becoming empress she took the name Adimas Moas. They had two children, Fiqtor and Theodora.[1]

During Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi's invasion of Ethiopia, Menas had been captured but treated well as a valuable prisoner. The typical fate of prisoners of war at the time was to be castrated and enslaved.[2] This clemency came to an end in 1542, when the Imam, desperate for help from his fellow Muslims, included Menas in an assortment of extravagant gifts to the sultan of Yemen in return for military aid. However, Imam Ahmad's son was later captured in the aftermath of the Battle of Wayna Daga, Gelawdewos used his prisoner to recover his brother Menas; according to Pankhurst, "when the royal family was reunited there were many days of celebrations."[3]

His reignEdit

Menas was made emperor at Mengista Samayat, now called Mengisto, southwest of Debre Werq in Gojjam, and shortly afterwards he campaigned against the Falasha in Semien province.[4]

He banished the Jesuit bishop André de Oviedo and his companions to a village between Axum and Adwa called Maigwagwa (Tigrinya may gwagwa, 'noisy water'), which the Jesuits optimistically renamed Fremona, after the missionary Frumentius.

About one year into his reign, Bahr negus Yeshaq rose in revolt in Tigray against Menas, proclaiming Tazkaro, the illegitimate son of Emperor Menas' brother Yaqob as negus. Tazkaro was supported by the leader of the Portuguese who had followed Cristóvão da Gama into Ethiopia, and allegedly by "the Prime Men of the Kingdom."[5] This revolt occupied Menas' attention for the remainder of his short reign. He marched into Lasta, at which point Yeshaq retreated into Shire. The emperor found him there and defeated Yeshaq, then turned south to Emfraz where he defeated the remaining supporters of Tazkaro on 2 July 1561. Tazkaro was captured, and Menas afterwards ordered him thrown from the rock of Lamalmon to his death.[6]

Bahr Negash Yeshaq then obtained the support of Özdemir, the Ottoman Pasha of Massawa, and proclaimed Tazkaro's infant brother, Marqos, nəgusä nägäst. Menas marched north again, but was defeated at Enderta by Yeshaq. According to the Royal Chronicle of his reign, which Bruce follows in his account, the Emperor fell back to Atronsa Maryam to regroup for another assault on the Bahr Negash, but came down with a fever during the march, and died at Kolo on 1 February 1563.[7] However, some European writers, such as Hiob Ludolf and Baltazar Téllez write that Menas was slain fleeing from the battlefield.[8]


  1. ^ James Bruce, Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (1805 edition), vol. 4 p. 97, editor's note
  2. ^ R.S. Whiteway, The Portuguese Expedition to Abyssinia in 1541-1543, 1902 (Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus Reprint Limited, 1967), p. xxxiv.
  3. ^ Richard K.P. Pankhurst, The Ethiopian Royal Chronicles (Addis Ababa: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 72f.
  4. ^ G.W.B. Huntingford, The historical geography of Ethiopia from the first century AD to 1704, (Oxford University Press: 1989), p. 136
  5. ^ Letter of Emanuel Fernandez to James Leynez, dated 29 July 1562, cited in Baltazar Téllez, The Travels of the Jesuits in Ethiopia, 1710 (LaVergue: Kessinger, 2010), p. 142
  6. ^ Bruce, Travels, vol. 3 p. 231
  7. ^ Bruce, Travels, vol. 3 p. 234
  8. ^ Tellez, Travels, p. 145
Preceded by
Emperor of Ethiopia
Succeeded by
Sarsa Dengel