Sarsa Dengel

Sarsa Dengel (Ge'ez: ሠርጸ ድንግል; 1550 – 4 October 1597), also known as Sarsa the Great; throne name Malak Sagad I (Ge'ez: መለክ ሰገድ) was Emperor of Ethiopia from 1563 to 1597, and a member of the Solomonic dynasty who is considered one of the greatest Warrior-Kings to occupy the throne.[1]

Sarsa Dengel
Emperor of Ethiopia
Died4 October 1597(1597-10-04) (aged 46–47)
Regnal name
Malak Sagad I
DynastyHouse of Solomon
MotherAdmas Mogasa


The son of Emperor Menas and Empress Admas Mogasa, Sarsa Dengel was elected Emperor by the great lords of the Empire and the Dowager Empress. Upon his coming of age Bahr Negus Yeshaq, who had rebelled against his father, submitted to him.

Sarsa Dengel, assisted by his Muslim allies, crushed his cousin Hamalmal's rebellion in 1563 at the Battle of Endagabatan, rescuing his captured mother and consoloditaing his power.

He defeated, captured and executed Sultan Muhammad IV of Adal at the Battle of Webbi, delivering the demise of the Sultanate of Adal.[2]

Yeshaq once again revolted with support of the Ottoman Empire. Sarsa Dengel then marched to Tigray in 1578, where he defeated and killed the Bahr Negash and his ally, Ahmad Pasha at the Battle of Addi Qorro.[3][4]

In 1589, Sarsa attacked and captured the Ottoman fort at arqiqo[5] but failed to take Massawa due to lack of supplies despite killing most of its defenders. He returned to Tigray, defeated a Tigrayan chief who collaborated with the Ottomans, and went back to Debarwa where the Ottoman commander Kedwart Pasha appeased him by sending lavish gifts, thus gaining his permission to stay in the small island.[6]

Sarsa Dengel defeated the Oromo in a battle near Lake Zway. He campaigned against them again in his 15th (1578) and 25th (1588) regnal years.

Sarsa Dengel campaigned against the Beta Israel in Semien province in 1580, and again in 1585. He also campaigned against the Agaw in 1581, and in 1585. He campaigned against the Gambo who dwelled in the lands west of the Chomen swamp in 1590. He made a punitive expedition against the Ottoman Turks in 1588, in response to their raids in the northern provinces. Sarsa Dengel campaigned in Ennarea twice, the first time in 1586, and the second time in 1597. On the final campaign against the Oromo, his Chronicle records,[7] a group of monks tried to dissuade him from this expedition; failing that, they warned him not to eat fish from a certain river he would pass. Despite their warning, when he passed by the river, he ate the fish, came down with a sickness, and passed away.[8]

His body was interred in Medhane Alem church on Rema Island. When Robert Ernest Cheesman visited the church in March 1933, he was shown a blue-and-white porcelain jar, which his entrails were brought from the place of his death.[9]


  1. ^ J.S Trimmingham, Islam in Ethiopia, pp.95
  2. ^ J.S Trimmingham, Islam in Ethiopia, P.96
  3. ^ J.S Trimmingham, Islam in Ethiopia, p.97
  4. ^ Turkish Studies Association Bulletin, vol. 1, no. 2, 1977, pp. 13–15. ,
  5. ^ Richard Punkhurst, History of Ethiopian towns, pp. 89
  6. ^ J.S Trimmingham, Islam in Ethiopia, pp. 98
  7. ^ Partially translated by Richard K.P. Pankhurst in The Ethiopian Royal Chronicles. Addis Ababa: Oxford University Press, 1967.
  8. ^ G.W.B. Huntingford, Historical Geography of Ethiopia (London: British Academy, 1989), p. 149.
  9. ^ R.E. Cheesman, "Lake Tana and Its Islands", Geographical Journal, 85 (1935), p. 498
Preceded by
Emperor of Ethiopia
Succeeded by