Menelik I – First Solomonic King of Kings of Ethiopia Menelik I was the son of Makeda, Queen of Sheba and King Solomon of Israel. He was the founder of the Solomonic Dynasty in Ethiopia, and is said to be the first monarch to use the title of King of Kings of Ethiopia. Makeda, according to the Kebre Negest, returned from her biblical visit to Jerusalem pregnant with Solomon’s son, as did one of her servants. (The Zagwe dynasty would later claim to be the descendants of the servant). When her son was born, she raised him as her heir, and then sent him to meet his father in Jerusalem when he came of age. After meeting his father, Menelik returned to his homeland. When Menelik returned, Solomon arranged for a copy of the Ark of the Covenant to be made for him to take with him, and ordered the eldest sons of all his nobels and priests to go with Menelik. The son of Zadok the High Priest, apparently reluctant to go off to a strange land with just a copy of the Ark, crept into the temple and exchanged the replica with the real Ark, and brought the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia. It is kept at the Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion to this day, in a special sanctuary Chapel that only one guardian monk is permitted to enter.
Emperor Ezana (Abraha) – First Christian Emperor Ezana was the son of Emperor Ella Amida. During his fathers reign, two Syrian youths were shipwrecked on the Red Sea Coast and brought to the Imperial Court. One of them, Adesius, became the trusted cup bearer and food taster for the Emperor, while the other, Fermentius, became his secretary. Upon the death of the Emperor Ella Amida, the widowed Empress begged the two Syrian Christians to remain in the country and help her rule until her son came of age. Fermentius remained, and assisted the Empress as well as becoming the tutor to the young boy Emperor. Fermentius converted Emperor Ezana to Christianity, and when the Emperor came of age, he replaced his coins that bore an emblem of the sun and moon along with his image, with new coins that bore the Holy Cross. They are the first coins in the world to bear the Christian emblem. Fermentius went to Alexandira to request that the Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, who at the time was St. Athnathius himself, to appoint the first Bishop of Ethiopia. Patriarch Athnathius sent Fermentius himself back as the first Bishop, with the new name of Abune Selamma. This bishop is known to the west as St. Fermentius of the Ethiopians. Ever since this event in the fourth century, Ethiopia has been identified as a Christian state in Africa, and one of the oldest Christian states in the world. Ethiopian tradition maintains that Ezana’s brother Shezana also served as a co-ruler with his brother, and the brothers are known in Ethiopia commonly as Abraha and Atsbeha. The brothers recieved a letter from the Byzantine Emperor Constantius that instructed them to expell the bishop Abune Salamma as he did not subscribe to the Arian doctrine supported by the Byzantine Emperor, and was a supporter of St. Athenathius, Patriarch of Alexandria who was the leading opponent of Arianism. The Ethiopian monarchs refused, and heald fast to the Orthodox doctrine supported by St. Athnathius. Ezana was a significantly successful soldier, whose military victories are recorded in numerous inscriptions at Axum. He is also credited with having brought the Ark of the Covenant from the island of Tana Kirkos in lake Tana, to the Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion which he built, removing it from the custody of the Bete Israel Jews (Falashas) and placing it in the hands of Ethiopia’s Christians.
Emperor and Saint Gebre Meskel During the reign of this monarch – St. Yared developed and composed the liturgical music and chants of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as well as a unique 5 note system and notation system for Ethiopian music. Emperor Gebre Meskel is said to have been so mesmerized by Yared’s music, that he accidentally pierced St. Yared’s food with his spear while listening to a recital by Yared. Gebre Meskel was a particularly pious Emperor who was himself eventually declared a saint of the Ethiopian Church.
Emperor Kaleb the Great
Emperor Armah – Welcomer of first Muslims The Emperor Armah is the Ethiopian monarch who was the first ruler to give sanctuary to the first Muslims. Soon after the Prophet Mohammed began his teaching in Arabia, the Kings of the region began to ruthlessly suppress and persecute his followers. Many fled across the Red Sea to the Axumite Empire, including members of the Prophet’s family. When the pagan Arab kings heard that many Moslem refugees had fled to Ethiopia, they sent messengers to Armah offering a large bounty for the return of these fugitives to them. The Axumite Emperor, hesitant and unsure of the nature of these exiles had them investigated by his officials, and was told that they were simple people who believed in one God, and were mostly poor women and children who had thrown themselves at his mercy. After seeing this for himself, he is said to have replied to the Arab Kings, “Even if you were to pay me a mountain of gold, I could not in good conscience betray these people and send them to you.” This act was possibly a key event in the survival of the young Islamic religion, and the Prophet deeply appreciated this act of compassion. He explicitly instructed his followers to leave the Ethiopians in peace, and exempted Ethiopia from Jihad. This in turn allowed Ethiopian Christianity to survive intact as the Nubian Christian kingdoms and the Christians in Egypt succumbed to eventual Muslim conquest. When news that Emperor Armah had died reached the Prophet Mohammed in Mecca, it is said that he wept and mourned for him. Muslims and Christians have lived side by side in Ethiopia ever since. Relations have not always been smooth, but there has been very little deep seated hatred or religious atrocity outside of the Gragn era and it’s aftermath. Muslims refer to Armah as Najashi (a variation of Negasi or Nigus, which means King).
Emperor Anbassa Widim and the Fall of the Axumite Empire – A Brief history of each of the preceding monarchs is being worked on. During the long reign of Anbassa Widim, a Jewish (Falasha or Bete Israel) woman named Yodit led an uprising that swept much of the land and fought to eliminate Christian hegemony and regain custody of the Ark of the Covenant for the Ethiopian Jews. Upon the death of Yodit, Anbassa Widim was restored breifly, but following his death, the weakened dynasty fell, and were replaced by the Zagwe dynasty.