The story of the life of Emperor Tewodros II of the Abyssinian Kingdom is one of tragedy and heroism Some claim he was the African reincarnation of Ivan the. Tewodros II’s origins were in the Era of the Princes, but his ambitions were not those of the regional nobility. He sought to reestablish a cohesive Ethiopian state . Emperor Tewodros was born as Kassa Hailu in Quara (Gonder) for Ato Hailu and . Emmett Atitegeb in .. became controversial in Ethiopian history. In order to.

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Theodore II ; c. He was born Kassa Hailegiorgis Ge’ez: His rule is often placed as the beginning of modern Ethiopiaending the decentralized Zemene Mesafint Era of the Princes.

Tewodros II

Tewodros II’s origins were in the Era of the Princes, but his ambitions were not those of the regional nobility. He sought to reestablish a cohesive Ethiopian state and to reform its administration and church. He sought to restore Solomonic hegemony, and he considered himself the Elect of God. Tewodros II’s first task was to bring Shewa under his control.

During the Era of the Princes, Shewa was, even more than most provinces, an independent entity, its ruler even styling himself Negusa royal title denoting monarchy. In the course of subduing the Shewans, Tewodros imprisoned a Shewan prince, Menelik IIwho would later become emperor himself. Despite his success against Shewa, Tewodros faced constant rebellions in other provinces. In the first six years of his reign, the new ruler managed to put down these rebellions, and the empire was relatively hisotry from about tobut the energy, wealth, and manpower necessary to deal with regional opposition limited the scope of Tewodros’s other activities.

Tewodros II never realized his dream of restoring a strong monarchy, although he took many important initial steps. He sought to establish the principle that governors and judges must be salaried appointees.

He also established a professional historh army, rather than depending on local lords to provide soldiers for his expeditions. He introduced the collection of books in the form of a library, tax codes, as well as a centralized political system with respective administrative districts.

His confiscation of these lands gained him enemies in the church and little support elsewhere. Essentially, Tewodros was a talented military campaigner. Kassa was the son of a Christian nobleman of the Qwara district of the province of Dembiya named Hailegiorgis Woldegiorgis. His paternal grandfather, Dejazmatch Woldegiorgis, histor a widely respected figure of his time.

Dembiya was part of the large territory known as Ye Maru Qemasor “the taste of the honey”. It was the personal fief of Dejazmach Marua powerful warlord, and relative of Kassa Hailu possibly a half-uncle.

Kassa’s mother, Woizero Atitegeb Wondbewossen, was of the upper nobility, and was originally from Sayint Wollo. Tewodros II, in his reign, claimed that his father was descended from Emperor Fasilides by atsse of a daughter. When Kassa was very young, his parents divorced and Woizero Atitegeb moved back to Gondar taking her son with her.

Not long after their departure, news reached them that Kassa’s father had died. Popular legend states that Kassa’s paternal relatives split up the entire paternal ethlopian, leaving young Kassa and his mother with nothing and in very dire circumstances financially.

In these hard times, his enemies came with a saying that his mother, Woizero Atitegeb, tehiopian reduced histkry selling ” Kosso histofy, a native herbal remedy used to purge patients of intestinal worms a common aatse because of the Ethiopian love of raw beef steaks.

There is actually no evidence that Woizero Atitegeb was ever a Kosso seller, and several writers such as Paulos Ngo Ngo tewodroos stated outright that it was a false rumor spread by her detractors.

Evidence indicates that Woizero Atitegeb was fairly well to do, and indeed had inherited considerable land holdings from her own illustrious relatives to lead ethiipian comfortable life.

In this asylum he took refuge until it was sacked by a defeated Galla chief named Dejazmatch Maru, who by burning and cutting to pieces children, took tewofros vengeance on their victories parents! Kassa escaped and fled to the protection of his kinsman, Dejazmatch Kenfuprobably his uncle but believed to be his half-brother.

He continued teworros formal education and became familiar with the Bible and Ethiopian literature. For his time, Kassa was a well-educated man; later he went on to acquire a knowledge of both ancient and modern European history, as well as some acquaintance with Shakespeare.

He also received instruction on the techniques of Ethiopian warfare from Kenfu. When Kenfu died, and his two sons were defeated by another Dajazmach earlDajazmach Goshu of Damot and GojjamKassa was forced to make another start in life, and offered his services to Goshu. Kassa Hailu was born into a tehiopian rife with civil warand he defeated many regional noblemen and princes before becoming emperor during time aste as the Zemene Mesafint or “Age of the Princes”.


During this era, regional princes, and noble lords of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds vied with each other for power and control of the Gondarine Emperor. A puppet Emperor of the Solomonic dynasty was enthroned in Gondar by one tewodfos, only to be dethroned and replaced by another member of the Imperial dynasty when a different regional prince 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. Nevertheless, a semblance of order and unity was maintained in northern Ethiopia during the era of the Princes by the powerful rases of the Were Sheik dynasty of Wollo such as Ras Ali the Great and Ras Gugsa who controlled Gondar and the Emperor.

Kassa began his career in this era as a shifta outlawbut after amassing a sizable force of followers, was able to not only restore himself to his father’s previous fief of Qwara but hisgory able to control all of Dembiya.

Moreover, he gained popular ethikpian by his benevolent treatment of the inhabitants in the areas he controlled: She awarded him all of Ye Meru Qemas in the hopes of binding him firmly to her son and herself. Although all sources and authorities etjiopian that Kassa truly loved and respected his wife, his relationship with his new in-laws deteriorated largely because of the disdainful treatment he repeatedly received from the Empress Menen.

Byhe rebelled against Ras Ali and, in a series of victories — Gur AmabaTakusaAyshaland Amba Jebelli — over the next three years he handily defeated every army the Ras and the Empress sent against him. Xtse 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 xtse.

Tewodros Ii |

His views on Sahle Dengel are not known but are not likely to have been sympathetic. He took the throne name of Tewodros II, attempting to fulfill a prophecy that a man named Tewodros would restore the Ethiopian Empire to greatness and rule for 40 years. His half brother died in and Qwara was lost to the family and claimed by Empress Menen of Gondar. Kassa Hailu resorted to become a shifta, one who refuses to recognize his feudal lord. Kassa Hailu organized his own army in the plains of Qwara.

When he became too powerful to ignore, as a way to deal with him with out using force, he was named Dajazmach of Qwara and given the hand of Tawabach, the daughter of Ras Ali of Begemder, in Kassa was very close to Tawabach and devoted to his marriage but his submission to Empress Menen was short-lived.

In Octoberhe attacked and plundered Dembea, a city located due south of Gondar, and in January he went on to occupy Gondar. Kassa easily defeated the histort and took the Empress as prisoner Marcus However, when conflict re-emerged yet again inTewodors retreated back to Qwara to re-strengthen his troops.

Tewodros sought to unify and modernise Ethiopia. However, since he was nearly always away on campaign during his tenure as emperor, disloyal leaders frequently tried to dislodge him while he was away fighting. Within a few years, he had forcibly brought back under direct Imperial rule the Kingdom of Shewa and the province of Gojjam. He crushed the many lords and ethipoian of Wollo and Tigray and brought recalcitrant regions of Begemder and Simien under his direct rule.

Tewodros ended the division of Ethiopia among the various regional lords tewodris princes that had vied among each other for power for almost two centuries.

With all of his rivals apparently subdued, he imprisoned them and their relatives at Magdala. Tewodros doted on the young prince, and married him to his own daughter Alitash Tewodros. Menelik would eventually escape from Magdala, and abandon his wife, offending Tewodros deeply. Increasingly erratic and vengeful, he gave full rein to some of his more brutal tendencies now that the calming influence of his wife was absent.


For instance, after the murder of the English traveller, John Bell, who had become the emperor’s close friend and confidante, the emperor, in revenge, had prisoners beheaded in Debarek. Tewodros II remarried, this time to the daughter of his imprisoned enemy Dejazmatch Wube. The new Empress, Tiruwork Wube was a proud and haughty woman, very aware of her illustrious Solomonic ancestry. She is said to have intended on the religious life and becoming a nun, especially after the fall of her father and his imprisonment along with her brothers at the hands of Tewodros II.

However, Tewodros’ request for her hand in marriage was seen by her family as an opportunity to get Dejazmatch Wube and his sons freed from imprisonment, and so they prevailed on her atsf marry the Emperor.

However, while the conditions of their imprisonment were eased, Dejazmatch Wube and his sons were not released, deeply imbittering Empress Tiruwork against Tewodros. Already feeling that she had married far beneath her dignity to a usurper, the failure of the Emperor to free her family did not help their marital relationship.

The marriage was very far from a happy one, and was extremely stormy. They did have a son, Dejazmatch Alemayehu Tewodroswhom the Emperor adored and whom he regarded as his heir. By OctoberEmperor Tewodros’ position as ruler had become precarious, much of Ethiopia was in revolt against him, except for a small area stretching from Lake Tana east to his fortress at Magdala.

He was engaged in constant military campaigns against a wide array of rebels. Tewodros wrote a letter [15] to Queen Victoria as a fellow Christian monarch, asking for British assistance in the region. Tewodros asked the British Consul in Ethiopia, Captain Charles Duncan Cameronto carry a letter to Queen Victoria requesting skilled workers to come to teach his subjects how to produce firearms, and other technical skills.

Cameron traveled to the coast with the letter, but when he informed the Foreign Office of the letter and its contents, the Foreign Office instructed him simply to send the letter to London rather than take it himself. He was to proceed to the Sudan to make inquiries about the slave trade there.

After doing this, Cameron returned to Ethiopia. On Cameron’s return, the Emperor became enraged when he found out that Cameron had not taken the letter to London personally, had not brought a response from the Queen, and most of all, had spent time traveling through enemy Egyptian and Turkish territories. Cameron tried to appease the Emperor saying that a reply eethiopian the letter would arrive shortly.

There the letter stayed for a year. It is alleged that when the letter arrived in India, officials filed it under Not Even Pending. Britain had several reasons for ignoring the letter.

The English did not want to conduct an Christian “crusade” against Islam but instead to cooperate politically, strategically and commercially with the Ottoman EmpireEgypt and the Sudan.

This was not only to protect the route to India but also to ensure that the Ottoman Empire continued to act as a buffer against Russia’s plans for expansion into Central Asia.

More-so, as a result of the American Civil Wardeliveries of cotton from the Confederate States of America to the British textile industry were declining making the British increasingly dependent on Egyptian-Sudanese cotton.

The British did not wish to see a conflagration in the region which would upset the status-quo. After two years had passed and Tewodros had not received a reply, he imprisoned Cameron, together with all the British subjects in Ethiopia and various other Europeans, in an attempt to get the queen’s attention. His prisoners included a missionary named Mr.

Stern, who had previously published a book in Europe describing Tewodros as a barbaric, cruel, unstable usurper.

‘Mad king Tewodros’ of Abyssinia

When Tewodros saw historry book, he became violently angry, pulled a gun on Stern, and had to be restrained from killing the missionary. He then beat tswodros death the two servants Stern had brought with him. Tewodros also received reports from abroad that foreign papers had quoted these European residents of Ethiopia as having said many negative things about him and his reign. The British sent a mission under an Assyrian -born British subject, Hormuzd Rassamwho bore a letter from the Queen in response to Tewodros’ now three-year-old letter requesting aid.

He did not bring the skilled workers as Tewodros had requested.