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Eskender (or Alexander, Ge'ez እስክንድር iskindir) (July 15, 1471 - 1494) was nəgusä nägäst (1478 - 1494) of Ethiopia (throne name Constantine II), and a member of the Solomonic dynasty. He was the son of Emperor Baeda Maryam by Romna.

Reign

Due to his young age, his authority required a regent; a council was formed of his mother Queen Romna, Tasfa Giyorgis (the abbot of the monastery of Lake Hayq), and the Bitwoded Amda Mikael. However, Queen Romna withdrew from this arrangement early on, entering a convent near Debre Libanos where she lived until her death; Abbot Tasfa Giyorgis proved no match for the experienced Bitwoded, and according to Taddesse Tamrat Amda Mikael "ruled the kingdom almost single handed."[1] Betwoded Amda Mikael's rule came to an end around 1486 when a palace coup led by the Emperor's step-grandmother Queen Mother Eleni resulted in his deposition and execution. Queen Eleni thereafter played a leading role in the Emperor's government.

According to James Bruce, Eskender responded to the predations of Mahfuz of Zeila with a campaign of his own. He commanded Zasillus, governor of Amhara, to mobilize while he himself raised levies from Angot and Tigray; the combined forces marched south against Muhammad ibn Azhar ad-Din, the sultan of Adal, at the end of the rainy season. After destroying the village of Arno, which had murdered its imperial governor, Eskender's army encountered the Sultan's army and the two forces engaged. The battle was hard fought but without advantage on both sides until Zasillus withdrew his troops; abandoned, the Emperor and his immediate command redoubled their efforts. Eskender is said to have slain the enemy standard bearer then with the pole killed the son of the Sultan, which sent the Adalian army to disengage and retreat to their camp. The Emperor Eskender attempted to engage the enemy army once more, but they refused to leave their encampment, and after a long wait the Emperor led his men back to Shewa.[2]

Emperor Eskender was killed at 22 fighting the Maya, a vanished ethnic group known for using poisoned arrows, east of Enderta.[3] He was buried in the church of Atronsa Maryam, which his father had begun construction on.[4] His early death immediately led to civil war. While the court kept the Emperor's death a secret, one major noble, Zasillus, immediately marched to the royal prison of Amba Geshen, freed Na'od, and proclaimed him Emperor. Another noble Tekle Kristos, who had remained at the Imperial court, championed Eskender's son Amda Seyon II as emperor. Although Tekle Kristos' forces defeated the followers of Zasillus, warfare continued through the realm.[5]

European influence

European influence was noticeable during his reign. In a manuscript written by Francesco Suriano (dated to 1482 by Somigli), Suriano describes finding 10 Italians "of good repute" residing at Eskender's court, some who had been living there for 25 years. Suriano adds that since 1480, seven more had travelled to the Ethiopian court. They had travelled there "to seek jewels and precious stones", but "since the king did not allow them to return, they were all ill content, although they were all well rewarded, each in accordance with his rank."[6]

It was in the last years of Eskender's reign that Pedro de Covilham arrived in Ethiopia, as an envoy from king John II of Portugal. However, da Covilha was not allowed to return to Portugal, and was forced to live out his days in Ethiopia -- although as a trusted advisor to the Emperors.

Notes

  1. ^ Taddesse Tamrat, Church and State in Ethiopia (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 286.
  2. ^ Bruce, Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (1805 edition), vol. 3, pp. 144f
  3. ^ G.W.B. Huntingford, The historical geography of Ethiopia from the first century AD to 1704, (Oxford University Press: 1989), p. 109. However, the explorer Richard Burton states that Mahfuz had him assassinated at Tegulet, but does not provide his source for this. (First Footsteps in East Africa [New York: Praeger, 1966], p. 179)
  4. ^ "Local History in Ethiopia" The Nordic Africa Institute website (accessed 28 January 2008)
  5. ^ Taddesse Tamrat, Church and State, p. 292.
  6. ^ O.G.S. Crawford, Ethiopian Itineraries, circa 1400-1524 (Cambridge: Hakluyt Society, 1958), pp. 40-54.
Preceded by
Baeda Maryam
Emperor of Ethiopia Succeeded by
Amda Seyon II
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