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1769-1855 - Era of the Princes

Era of the Princes
41 Yohannes II HannesJohn1769
42 Takla Haymanot II 1769
43 Salomon Solomon1777
44 Takla Giyorgis1st reign1779
45 Iyasu III Jesus III1784
Takla Giyorgis2nd reign1788
46 Hezekiyas 1789
Takla Giyorgis3rd reign1794
47 Be'ada Maryam II1795
Takla Giyorgis4th reign1795
48 Walda Salomon1st reign1796
49 Yonas Jonas1797
Takla Giyorgis5th reign1798
Walda Salomon2nd reign1799
50 Demetros Demetrious1st reign 1799
Takla Giyorgis 6th reign 1800
Demetros Demetrious2nd reign 1800
51 'Egwala SeyonEguala Izeion 1801
52 Iyo'as II 1818
53 Gigar 1st reign 1821
54 Ba'eda Maryam III 1826
Gigar 2nd reign 1826
55 Iyasu IVJesus IV 1830
56 Gabra Krestos 1st reign 1832
57 Sahla Dengel 1st reign 1832
Gabra Krestos 2nd reign 1832
Sahla Dengel 2nd reign 1832
58 Yohannes III Hannes IIIJohn III1st reign 1840
Sahla Dengel 3rd reign 1841
Yohannes III Hannes IIIJohn III2nd reign 1850
Sahla Dengel 4th reign 1851

The Zamana Mesafent (literally the Era of the Princes, or 'the Judges', in the biblical sense), lasted from 1769 until 1855. The period of trials that resulted from the Muslim invasions, the Oromo migrations, and the challenge of Roman Catholicism had drawn to a close by the middle of the seventeenth century. The kingdom gradually fell into a state of anarchy, which about the middle of the 18th century was complete. The Negus received no obedience from the provincial governors, who besides were at feud with one another and severally assumed the royal title. Abyssinia thus became divided into a number of petty independent states and, save for visits from occasional explorers such as James Bruce in 1769, remained shut off from the world until the 19th century.

For 600 years from the time of Yekweno Amlak, the throne of Ethiopia was occupied by the lineal descendants of that monarch, whose power and authority kept however gradually on the wane; till at length, towards the close of the eighteenth century, the once absolute and independent Emperors of Ethiopia, like the last Merovingian Kings of France, became mere tools in the hands of their Maires du Palais, who bore the title of Ras, a dignity which for more than half a century was hereditary in the family of Ras Guksa.

The monarchs lost all control over the great chiefs, who set up as independent rulers in their several provinces. In the 24th year of Yasous' reign, he was taken ill, and died on 06 June 1753, after a very short illness. As he was but a young man, and of a strong constitution, there was some suspicion he died by poison given him by the queen's relations, who were desirous to secure another minority rather than serve under a king, who, by every action showed he was no longer to be led or governed by any, but least of all by them. At length Michel Sohul, the ruler of Tigre, put the reigning monarch Joas to death. Joas, after a troublesome reign from 1753 to 1768, was assassinated in his palace, and buried in the church of St. Raphael.

Having put the reigning monarch Joas to death, and setting up a member of the royal family as nominal sovereign, Michel Sohul exercised at Gondar the powers of sovereignty under the name of Has or prime minister. The golden Gonderian period gave way to the era of anarchy and rivalry that arose among various regional warlords and local chiefs mostly from Tigray, Gonder, Gojam and Showa as none was able to emerge King of Kings.

Hannes was the second son of Yasous the Great, by his celebrated mistress Ozoro Keduste, the mother of David IV. A man past seventy years of age, Hannes made his entry into Gondar, the 3d of May, 1769. Hannes, besides his age, was very feeble in strength ; and having had no conversation but with monks and priests, this had debilitated his mind as much as age had done his body. Hannes was brother to Bacuffa, and having in his time escaped from the mountain, and been afterwards taken, his hand was cut off by order of the king, his brother, and he was sent back to the place of his confinement. It is a law of Abyssinia, derived from that of Moses, that no man can be capable either of the throne, or priesthood, unless he be perfect in all his limbs ; the want of a hand, therefore, certainly disqualified Hannes, and it was with that intent it had been cut off. Michael, who had already seen the danger of leaving a king behind him while he was in the field, finding Hannes inexorable, had recourse to poison, which was given him in his breakfast; and the Ras, by this means, in less than six months became the deliberate murderer of his two sovereigns.

Since the death of the Emperor Tekla Haimanot II [Tekla Haimanot was the Patron saint of Abyssinia], the degenerate descendants of Yekweno Amlak ceased to occupy the throne of their illustrious ancestors by succession, having been placed on it and removed from it at the caprice of every powerful chief who could gain possession of the capital, and desired the title of Ras or Vizier as a cloak to his actual power. So frequent indeed were these changes that there were as many as six Emperors living at one time, despised and neglected; and the existing members of this family become so thoroughly lowered and contemptible, and their right to the throne so completely ignored, that not one of them could hope to bring a dozen soldiers to rally round the standard of "the Lion of the Tribe of Judah," were he to unfurl it, an act of madness which would inevitably insure his immediate and violent death. Under these circumstances, the line of Yekweno Amlak may be considered as virtually extinct; and the existing hereditary Prince of Waag, Gobazye, as the descendant and representative of the Emperor Nakwetolaab, had consequently a right to resume the throne abdicated by his ancestor, under the contract which reserved that throne to his descendants in the event which may be regarded as having now occurred.

Has Michel was soon driven from power by a Galla chief, who acquired the dominion of Amhara and the control of the titular sovereign, and transmitted his power to his son and grandson. The latter, Has Ah, held sway in Amhara as vicegerent of the empire, when, about 1850, the adventurer Kasa or Kassai, afterwards known as Theodore, began to excite attention. The form of placing a puppet Emperor on the throne was continued till Ras Ali, Guksa's grandson, was conquered by his son-in-law, Dedjatz Kassai, of Kwara, who having subjugated all his rivals, and scorning the secondary title of Ras, caused himself to be crowned Emperor, by the name of Theodore the Second.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:39:04 ZULU