Emperor Susenyos the Catholic (part 2)

Upon the death of Emperor Sertse Dingel, a crisis of succession occured. The Emperor did not have any sons with is legal wife, Empress Mariam Senna, only daughters. However, he did have a 7 year old son Yacob by his concubine, Emebet Harego. Empress Mariam Senna together with the husbands of her daughters, Ras Atnasios of Beghemidir and Ras Kifle Wahid of Tigre placed this child on the throne as Emperor Yacob. Ras Atnasios was declaired guardian of the Emperor, and the Empress and Ras Kifle Wahid joined him and the powerful Dejazmatch Ze Silassie on a regency council. Emperor Sertse Dingel’s nephew Ze Dingel had been considered the most likely heir since he was fully grown, and had considerable support from the nobility, and Susenyos had been considered the most likely alternative to Ze Dingel. With this coup engineered by the Empress however, both princes were greatly endangered. She knew that she and her sons-in-law could rule as they pleased with a child Emperor, something that they could not hope to do with the grown princes. Abeto Ze Dingel was siezed and imprisoned on an island on lake Tana. He would soon escape and flee to Gojjam where he went into hiding. Abeto Susenyos escaped and fled to the south where he took refuge with the Oromo people. However, Emebet Harego, mother of the Emperor and concubine of the late Sertse Dingel resented the control over affairs that the Empress and her clique had, and is said to have whispered advice in her son’s ear over the next few years. Emperor Yacob began to exert himself against the regents. First he announced the elevation of Dejazmatch Ze Silassie to Lord of his home province Enaria, and sent him back to his home province. Although it wasannounced as an elevation to higher office, it was actually a banishment, and caused panic among the other regents. The regents began whispering that it was not right that such a young boy should be crowned to begin with, and that he was not old enough to be Emperor. They also spread a rumor that the boy had gone insane. Soon both the nobility and the army were in foment, and the Emperor tried to flee to his mother’s native Simien, but was captured and taken in chains to Enaria in the custody of Dejazmatch Ze Silassie who was elevated to Ras. Empress Mariam Senna then sent out an aggressive search for Abeto Ze Dingel, found him in Gojjam, and brought him back to court at Danqaz, and had him crowned Emperor Ze Dingel with the additional name of Atnaf Seged. Ze Dingel developed a close relationship with the Catholic Portuguese and Spanish clerics and soldiers who had settled in Ethiopia. He hoped to establish strong ties with the Vatican and with Spain (whose king had inherited the Portuguese throne as well).


Rumors spread that the Emperor Ze Digel was a Catholic, and the Coptic Archbishop of the day, Abune Petros issued an edict anathemizing anyone who continued in obedience to the Emperor Ze Dingel. Ras Ze Silassie took advantage of this edict of the Archbishop and rose in rebellion marching north from Enaria. The supporters of the Orthodox Church rallied to his banner while the Catholics marched south from Danqaz with the Emperor. After a bitter battle, Ras Ze Silassie was victorious. It is said he himself aimed for and shot the Emperor Ze Dingel, who fell and was then attacked by swarms of foot soldiers. This horde of regicides then finished the Emperor by removing his fingers to get at his jeweled ring, poked out his eyes, and then had him trampled by a heard of horses. His body was tossed under a tree, and left there for the wild animals to feed on. This was justified by his enemies as the treatment he deserved as a man who had betrayed the Orthodox Church. Some peasants however came and took the Emperor’s body and buried it in a church nearby. Ze Silassie then announced, that his long time prisoner, the ex-Emperor Yacob had been restored to his rightful throne. Empress Mariam Senna quietly accepted this turn of events. Abeto Susenyos, along with his Oromo allies in Shewa did not. Susenyos was still considered a rebel ever since he had fled Empress Mariam Senna upon the first enthronement of Yacob. However, having grown up together with Ze Dingel, it is said that Susenyos and Ze Dingel had loved each other as brothers, and Susenyos never directly challenged his right to the throne, staying in quiet exile while his cousin reigned. Now with news of Ze Dingel’s brutal death, Susenyos was enraged and fired with the need for vengance. He gathered the forces of the Oromos and Amharas of Shewa and marched into Beghemider. Arriving in Beghemidir, he called the former regent and ruler of Beghemidir, Ras Atnasios, to appear before him and pay homage. The Ras, resentfull of the ascendancy of Ras Ze Silassie obeyed, and submitted to Susenyos. He was followed by numerous nobles and the bulk of the Portuguese and Spanish community in Ethiopia. Abune Petros the Coptic Archbishop and the anti-Catholic party rallied to Emperor Yacob. The Emperor Yacob is said to have offered Susenyos half of Amhara, all of Shewa and Wellega to end his rebellion. Susenyos refused by sending the Emperor a message that said “All of Ethiopia has been given me by God, so I refuse this sort of offer from you.” Ras Ze Silassie tried to engage Susenyos in battle, but he failed miserably, his army anahilated. After barely escaping with his life, Ras Ze Silassie sued for peace, and submitted to Susenyos. The forces of Emperor Yacob and Abeto Susenyos then met in battle, probably at Checheho Ber. Susenyos himself is said to have fired the bullet that killed Emperor Yacob. Susenyos must have expected the Emperor’s forces to disintegrate upon the death of the Emperor. Instead much to his shock, the fighting intensified. Command was now assumed by none other than the Coptic Archbishop, Abune Petros, who raised his cross in his hand and ordered a new charge. As the battle intensified, a snipper (many say an arab)shot and killed the Archbishop, upon which the army of Emperor Yacob collapsed and fled. Many of the cavalry are said to have riden their horses over a cliff by accident in the dark and plunged to their deaths. Susenyos quickly captured Yacob’s son, Abeto Gelawdiwos, and had him strangled to death immediately. The younger son of Yacob, Abeto Tsega Christos fled to Sennar in the Sudan. From there he would make an attempt at launching an attack on Susenyos, which failed several years later. He would flee to Egypt and finaly made his way to the Holy land where he converted to Catholicism. He then moved to Europe, settled in France and died in Paris in 1648, the first exiled Ethiopian Prince to live in Europe. Yacob’s younger brothers, Kifle Mariam and Meteko had taken refuge with their maternal uncle, Gedewon, hereditary Prince of the Falashas. Gedewon had promptly rebled against Susenyos and declaired that Abeto Kifle Mariam was the legitimate Emperor as the son of Sertse Dengel and brother of Yacob. Susenyos marched out and defeated the Falshas, capturing both Abeto Kifle Mariam and Abeto Meteko. Both princes were beheaded at Susenyos’s order.

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