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Yaqob I (Ge'ez: ያዕቆብ yāʿiqōb, Amharic: yā'iqōb), (c. 1590 – 10 March 1606) whose throne name was Malak Sagad II, (መልአክ ሰገድ mal'ak sagad, "to whom the angel bows") (1597–1603; 1604–1606) was Emperor of Ethiopia, and a member of the Solomonic dynasty. He was the eldest surviving son of Sarsa Dengel. According to E. A. Wallis Budge, Yaqob's mother was Empress Maryam Sena; others sources suggest she was Emebet Harego of the Beta Israel. Because Yaqob had at least three sons before his death, it is likely he was born no later than 1590. Most Ethiopian sources including Tekle Tsadik Mekuria however state that his mother was Harego, but that Empress Maryam Sena championed his right to the throne as she only bore Emperor Sarsa Dengel daughters, and hoped to dominate a long term regency for the boy monarch.

Reign1597–1603; 1604–1606
PredecessorSarsa Dengel
SuccessorSusenyos I
IssueCosmas, Saga Krestos
DynastySolomonic dynasty
FatherSarsa Dengel


Sarsa Dengel had intended to make his nephew Za Dengel his successor, but under the influence of his wife Maryam Sena and a number of his sons-in-law, he instead chose Yaqob, who was seven when he came to the throne, with Ras Antenatewos of Begemder as his regent. Za Dengel and the other rival for the throne – Susenyos I, the son of Abeto Fasilides – were exiled, but Za Dengel escaped to the mountains around Lake Tana, while Susenyos I found refuge in the south amongst the Oromo.

When Yaqob came to adulthood six years later, he quarrelled with Ras Antenatewos, and had him replaced with Ras Za Sellase. However, Za Sellase deposed Yaqob, exiling him to Ennarea, and made his cousin Za Dengel Emperor. When Za Dengel proved more troublesome than Yaqob, Za Sellase recalled Yaqob from exile.

Not long after Za Dengel was defeated and killed in battle, Susenyos I marched north at the head of an army raised amongst the Oromo, and sent a message to Ras Antenatewos proclaiming himself as emperor and demanding support from Antenatewos. Unable to communicate with Za Sellase, the Ras sent his troops to support Susenyos I. A similar message to Za Sellase only served to steel Za Sellase into action: he marched on Susenyos I, who, sick from fever, retreated into the mountains of Amhara. This lack of resolve convinced Ras Antenatewos to waver in his support, and as the rainy season passed Za Sellase began to negotiate his submission to Susenyos I. At this moment Yaqob revealed himself in Dembiya and both Ras Antenatewos and Za Sellase flocked to his side.

Susenyos I managed to first surprise and decimate the forces of Za Sellase at Manta Dafar in Begemder; when Za Sellase escaped to Yaqob's camp, the Emperor's derision caused Za Sellase to defect to Susenyos I. For several days, the armies of the two rival emperors maneuvered in the mountains of Gojjam, to at last meet in the Battle of Gol 10 March 1606, where Yaqob and the Coptic Archbishop Abuna Petros II were killed in battle, and his troops slaughtered.[1]


Yaqob had married some years before a foreigner named Nazarena, by whom he had three sons, one of whom had died before the Battle of Gol. Nazarena sent her surviving sons to safety in exile: Cosmas, the older, went south and was not heard of again; the younger, Saga Krestos, went to the safety of the Kingdom of Sennar where he was treated well and came of age. When King Rabat proposed that Saga Krestos marry his daughter, Saga Krestos refused, and was forced to flee to another refuge, adopting Roman Catholicism while at Jerusalem. Eventually he found his way to Rome (1632), and eventually to Paris, where he was given lodgings by Cardinal Richelieu. Saga Krestos died of pleurisy in 1638 at the age of 38. Thomas Pakenham provides a brief sketch of Saga Krestos' European life in his The Mountains of Rasselas, and the book ends with a description of Pakenham's visit to Saga Krestos' grave in Rueil-Malmaison.[2]

However, O. G. S. Crawford has cast doubts on this story. In an article that discusses the surviving sources for the story of Saga Krestos, he points out a number of problems in his story which include a discrepancy over the possible date of his birth (i.e., Saga Krestos is likely to have been born in either 1610 or 1616, whereas Yaqob died in 1607), and the story of three Ethiopian monks who report that Saga Krestos was an apostate monk who wandered from place to place begging for money.[3]


  1. ^ The date of this battle is taken from G.W.B. Huntingford, The historical geography of Ethiopia from the first century AD to 1704, (Oxford University Press: 1989), p. 158
  2. ^ Pakenham, The Mountains of Rasselas (New York: Reynal & Co., 1959), p. 192. Pakenham transliterates his name as "Zagachrist".
  3. ^ Crawford, "The Strange Adventures of Zaga Christ", Sudan Notes and Records, 31 (1950), pp. 287-296. Online copy at Sudan Open Archive (accessed 24 October 2014)
  • Partly based on the narrative of E. A. Wallis Budge, A History of Ethiopia: Nubia and Abyssinia, 1928 (Oosterhout, the Netherlands: Anthropological Publications, 1970). The sections about Yaqob and his cousin Za Dengel cover pp. 375–383.
Preceded by
Sarsa Dengel
Emperor of Ethiopia
Succeeded by
Za Dengel
Preceded by
Za Dengel
Emperor of Ethiopia
Succeeded by
Susenyos I