Upon the death of Emperor Minas in 1563, the nobles of the land congregated to decide who should succeed him. There was aparently some dispute as to who was the best candidate for the throne. Although most championed the rights of the late Emperor’s eldest son, Prince Sertse Dengel, there was a strong bid made in favor of Hamelmal, son of Romanework, sister of Emperor Libne Dengel. Finally, the supporters of Sertse Dengel carried the day, and he was proclaimed King of Kings with the additional nom-de-guere of Melek Seged, which translates as “He to whom kings bow”, Melek being a version of the Arabic Malik, which means king. The new Emperor was only 13 years of age upon sitting on the throne of Solomon, and he would have a long 34 year reign. However, he was immediately challenged by his cousin Hamelmal, who had made a strong bid for the throne, and who now rose up in rebelion in order to sieze the crown by force. Soon the major nobles of Gojjam and Dembia, not wanting to be ruled by a mere boy of 13, had joined forces with Hamelmal. Sertse Dengil enjoyed the support of much of the clergy, and of his grandmother Empress Seble Wongel, as well as his mother Empress Silus Haila. After an initial defeat, the fortunes of Sertse Dengel looked rather bleak, but soon, more and more nobles began to flock to his banner, and eventually he achieved the upper hand. Finally, Hamelmal surrendered to the young Emperor, who granted his cousin all of Gojjam as his fief. Hamelmal died soon after recieving Gojjam, and it was whispered that he was poisoned at the Emperor’s order. Hamelmal’s lasting legacy was that he founded the Gojjam branch of the Imperial Dynasty. Emperor Sertse Dengel continued to consolidate his power throughout the Empire. He led military campaigns to enforce his rule in Gurage,Hadiya, Enaria, Kenbata and Bale. In Enaria however, the local king Sebenhi recieved him peacefully and paid him homage. During his 34 years on the throne, Sertse Dengel was constantly at war. Sertse Dengel would also have to deal with the continued rebelion of Bahir Negash Yisaq, who relied on the Turks for support. He was constantly trying to enforce his rule over the Oromo (then called the Gallas), who had begun to migrate further and further north in the aftermath of the Gragn wars. This did not prevent the Emperor’s niece, Mena Israel, from marrying an Oromo chief and having 7 children by him. Constant Oromo raiding and lootin in Gojjam and Shewa prompted the Emperor to launch a campaign against them near Lake Zewai which would last a year. He was ultimately victorious.
After the death of Gragn, the City State of Harrar was unable to restore itself to it’s former glory. The old Welasma dynasty had died out, and various claimants calling themselves Imams(decendents of Gragn), Sultans or Emirs, representing three lines of claimants, fought for supremacy. The Oromos had taken advantage and reduced the rule of the Harraris to the immediate environs of the city of Harrar itself. The Qottu Oromos occupied the surrounding territories, and although they adopted islam from the Harraris, they remained distinct from them. The Imam, Mohammed decided to march into Shewa and fight the Emperor, leaving his brother Ahmed as Vizier of the City. The Imam’s army was crushed in Shewa, and he himself was captured and killed. Upon hearing of his death, the Qottus stormed the city of Harrar and killed the Vizier, ending once and for all, the Imamate of Harrar. The muslim seat of power moved north to the Afar lowlands, and the Ausa Sultanate. In the north, after repeated entreaties, Bahir Negash Yisaq joined forces with the Turks and challenged the Emperor by sending him a cannon ball with a letter declairing his defiance of the crown. The Emperor marched north and began a campaign in November of 1578 through January of 1579. During this campaign, the Turkish Pasha of Massawa, Kedawir, was slain by the Emperor’s cousin, Abeto Yonael. Shortly afterwards, the Bahir Negash was also killed and his constant rebelion through two reigns came to an end. The severed heads of both the Pasha and the Bahir Negash were brought before the Emperor, and displayed to the notables of the north to disuade them from further rebellion and aid to the Turks. Sertse Dingel then drove the Turks from Adi Korro, and accepted the surrender of the Turkish garrison at Debaroa. Sertse Dingel then went to Axum to finally be crowned amid great pomp and lavish ceremony. Following his coronation, Sertse Dingel moved on to Beghemider in 1579. The reason was the raids being carried out by the Falasha Jews of Simien on the district of Wegera. The Emperor marched to the Falasha stronghold in Simien commanded by the Jewish leader Goshen. The mountain fortress was surrounded by the Imperial forces, and the water supply captured. Goshen sent emmisaries to the Emperor assuring him of his peaceful nature and his loyalty to the crown. Then late at night he launched a suprise attack, killing the Emperor’s favored commander Iqube Michael and many soldiers. The Emperor appointed Mekabis to go and avenge Iqube Michael. Mekabis recaptured the water supply and the lower fort of the Falasha Jews who retreated into their upper fort. From there they sent messages to the Ethiopian camp that if the Emperor’s cousin Yonael (who had once been the ruler of their native Simien) was sent to negotiate with them, they would lay down their arms. The Emperor instructed Yonael not to take any revenge on the Falasha if they were truely willing to lay down their arms. When he conveyed this command to the Falasha, many were pleased and accepted the terms brought by Yonael. Some others however tried to escape with their weapons and were persued, engaged in battle by Yonael and his men, and crushed. To the prominent religious leader of the Falasha Jews who had tried to escape with the disidents, Yonael had a demand. He told him that if he were to beg him for mercy in the name of “The Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God”, he would spare his life. The devout Jew replied that it would be better for a Falasha to die than beg for mercy in the name of Mary. Yonael promptly beheaded him on the spot. This caused the truce with the remaining Falashas to collapse, and the Jewish leaders Goshen and Gideon pledged to fight to the death. As the battle raged, the Emperor ordered a cannon captured from the Turks to be fired into the mountain fort of the Jews. When the explosion killed some Falasha’s, the defenders of the fort having never seen a cannon before are said to have believed that lightning had come down and killed their fellow warriors, and panic set in. Amid their panic, the Imperial forces were able to rush in and storm the fort. The Jews tried to fight valiantly, but their cause was lost. Many killed themselves by throwing themselves over the cliffs around their fort, including the leader Goshen. Gideon escaped and fled the battle field. In a particularly brutal episode, a vicious pogrom was then initiated at the order of a priest named Aba Newai who instructed the soldiers to leave not a single man, woman, child or beast alive among the Falasha, just as the ancient Israelites had been told not to spare a single man,woman, cild or beast of the Moabites during the times of Samuel the Prophet. A brutal massacre ensued, and the Falasha rebellion was brutally put down.
The Emperor then marched south through Gojjam, Wellega, Limmu, Kembatta and Jimma, putting down rebellions and punishing bandits and outlaws along the way to his destination, Enaria. The old king of Enaria, Sebenhi had died and his son Bandecho was now king in his place. The new king recieved the Emperor with great pomp, paying homage to his liege lord and throwing a huge feast to celebrate the arrival of the Emperor and his army. It is said that the army did not molest the peasantry during the Emperor’s stay in Enaria, and Sertse Dingel was well pleased by Bandecho and his governing of Enaria. During his stay in Enaria, Bandecho converted to Christianity along with many of his officers, and the Emperor stood as his godfather. In an act that moved the Emperor deeply, Bandecho chose the new Christian name of Ze Mariam, which was the name of the Emperor’s recently deceased infant son. It is said a tearful Emperor put a gold cross around the neck of his new godson before his departure. The priests were busy converting droves of the local people to Christianity. Due to the eager and loyal response the Enarians had shown to the Emperor and his church, their annual tribute to the Imperial throne was reduced by half. Soon the ruler of nearby Bosso also converted to Christianity and was baptized with the new name Giorgis (George) and the Emperor stood as his godfather as well. TO BE CONTINUED….. Sertse Dengel had many significant acomplishments other than military, among which was the founding of the City of Gondar, which would later serve as the capital of the Empire.