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Yeshaq I of Ethiopia: Wikis


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Yeshaq I or Isaac (Ge'ez ይሥሓቅ yisḥāḳ, Amh. yishāḳ; throne name Gabra Masqal II ገብረ መስቀል gabra masḳal "slave/servant of the cross," Amh. gebre mesḳel) was nəgusä nägäst (1414 - 1429) of Ethiopia, and a member of the Solomonic dynasty. He was the second son of Dawit I.

During his reign, the Falashas revolted; Emperor Yeshaq marched into Wogera where he defeated them at Kossoge, ending the revolt; he had the church Debre Yeshaq built there to commemorate his victory.[1] Yeshaq also invaded the Shanqella region beyond Agawmeder, and to the southeast he fought against the sons of Sa'ad ad-Din II who returned from exile in Arabia.

During his reign, according to the Islamic historian al-Maqrizi, a group of Mameluks led by al-Tabingha made their way to Ethiopia where he taught Yeshaq's soldiers how to make flame-throwers and fight with swords. About the same time another Egyptian visitor, a Copt, "reorganized the kingdom," according to al-Maqrizi, "and collected so much wealth for the Hati [the Emperor] that he enjoyed the king's authority." This unnamed Copt also introduced the practice of the Emperor dressing in "splendid" clothes and carrying a cross, which made him stand out from his subjects.[2]

Yeshaq made the earliest known contact from post-Axumite Ethiopia to a European ruler. He sent a letter by two dignitaries to Alfonso V of Aragon, which reached the king in 1428, proposing an alliance against the Muslims and would be sealed by a dual marriage, that would require the Infante Don Pedro to bring a group of artisans to Ethiopia, where he would marry Yeshaq's daughter. It is not clear how or if Alfonso responded to this letter, although in a letter that reached Yeshaq's successor Zara Yaqob in 1450, Alfonso wrote that he would be happy to send artisans to Ethiopia if their safe arrival could be guaranteed, for on a previous occasion a party of 13 of his subjects travelling to Ethiopia had all perished.[3]

A notable example of Ethiopian literature that has survived from this period is a panegyric addressed to Yeshaq, which Enrico Cerulli singled out as a gem of Ethiopian poetry.[4]

Tadesse Tamrat believes that the primary sources mask Yeshaq's death in battle against the Muslims. E. A. Wallis Budge states that he was assassinated, and "buried in Tadbaba Maryam".[5]


  1. ^ James Bruce, Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (1805 edition), vol. 3, p. 97
  2. ^ Richard Pankhurst, The Ethiopians: A History (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), pp. 75f
  3. ^ O. G. S. Crawford (editor), Ethiopian Itineraries, circa 1400 - 1524 (Cambridge: the Hakluyt Society, 1958), pp. 12f.
  4. ^ David Buxton, The Abyssinians (New York: Praeger, 1970), p. 131
  5. ^ Budge, A History of Ethiopia: Nubia and Abyssinia, 1928 (Oosterhout, the Netherlands: Anthropological Publications, 1970), p. 303.
Preceded by
Tewodros I
Emperor of Ethiopia Succeeded by


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