Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tewodros II
Tewodros II (Ge'ez ቴዎድሮስ, also known as Theodore II) (1818 -suicide April 13, 1868) was an Emperor of Ethiopia (1855 - 1868).
His name at birth was Kassa Haile Giorgis, but was more regularly referred to as Kassa Hailu (Ge'ez ካሳ ኃይሉ — meaning "restitution" and "His [or the] power"). His rule is often placed as the beginning of modern Ethiopia, ending the decentralized Zemene Mesafint (Era of the Princes).

Early Years
He was born into a country rife with civil war, and he destroyed many provincial warlords before becoming emperor. The times were known as the Zemene Mesafint or "Age of the Princes". During this era, warlords, regional princes and noble houses, vied with each other for power and control. They divided up the Empire into personal fiefs and fought each other continuously. A puppet Emperor of the dynasty was enthroned in Gondar by one warlord, only to be dethroned and replaced by another member of the Imperial dynasty when a different warlord was able to seize Gondar and the reins of power. Regions such as Gojjam and Shewa were ruled by their own branches of the Imperial dynasty, and in Shewa, the local prince went as far as assuming the title of King. Kassa of Qwara began his career in this era as a bandit, and after amassing a sizable force of followers, was able to not only restore himself to his father's previous fief of Kwara, but was able to control all of Dembiya, garnering the notice of the current warlord in control of Gondar, Ras Ali II of Yejju. Ras Ali had enthroned Emperor Yohannes III, forcing the Emperor to marry Ali's mother, the formidable Empress Menen Liben Amede. Empress Menen was the true power behind her son and her hapless husband, and it was she who arranged for Kassa of Qwara to marry her granddaughter, Tewabech Ali and the grant to Kassa of the title of Dejazmach. She awarded him all of Ye Maru Kamas in the hopes of binding him firmly to her son and herself. Although the marriage was a success, Kassa's relationship with his new in-laws deteriorated largely because of the disdainful treatment he repeatedly received from the Empress Menen. He ended up rebelling against Ras Ali, and both the Ras and the Empress send numerous military campaigns to subdue him, all of which he handily defeated. Finally, he captured Empress Menen, and Ras Ali fled and went into hiding. Kassa announced that he was deposing Yohannes III, and then marched on his greatest remaining rival, Dejazmach Wube Haile Maryam of Simien. Following the defeat of Dejazmach Wube, Kassa was crowned Emperor by Abuna Salama III in the church of Derasge Maryam on February 11, 1855. He took the throne name of Tewodros II, to fulfill a prophesy that a man named Tewodros would restore the Ethiopian Empire to greatness. Tewodros refused to acknowledge an attempt to restore the former Emperor Sahle Dengel in the place of the hapless Yohannes III who had acknowledged Tewodros immediately. Yohannes III was treated well by Tewodros who seems to have had some personal sympathy for him. His views on Sahle Dengel are not known, but are not likely to have been sympathetic.

His Reign
The widowed Empress Tiruwork and the young heir of Tewodros, Alemayehu, were also to be taken to England. However, Empress Tiruwork died on the journey to the coast, and little Alemayehu made the journey alone. The Empress was buried at Sheleqot monastery in Tigrai among her ancestors. Although Queen Victoria subsidised the education (at Rugby) of Dejazmatch Alemayehu Tewodros, Captain Speedy was appointed as his guardian. He developed a very strong attachment to Captain Speedy and his wife; however, Prince Alemayehu grew increasingly lonely as the years went by, and his compromised health made things even harder, and died in October 1879 at the age of 19 without seeing his homeland again. He left a warm impression on Queen Victoria who seemed to have been truly saddened at his untimely death.

Popular culture

Paul B. Henze. "The Empire from Atrophy to Revival: The Era of the Princes and Tewodros II" in Layers of Time: A History of Ethiopia. New York: Palgrave, 2000. ISBN 0-312-22719-1

No comments: