Emperor Tewodros (1855 – 1869)

Posted: May 28, 2016 in Ethiopia - the Secret of Africa
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What is now Ethiopia was for a long time no more than a cluster of separate small ‘kingdoms’. But in 1855 however, there arose from among the fueding lords one who dreamed of unity: Kassa Haylu – who later crowned himself emperor Tewodros.

His intentions were good: he had been a type of ‘Robin Hood’ figure for a long time: stealing from the rich, to give to the poor. Quickly attracting followers, he began to defeat the rival feudal lords, one after another.

He became a strong leader, and also a unifier, innovator and reformer. He wanted to establish a national army and a great road network. His policies included major land reforms, the abolition of slave trade and the promotion of the Amharic language. But many reforms were deeply resented by the people and there was a great deal of opposition.

Despite his many good qualities and ideas, Tewodros was also intensely proud and ruthless and he had a fanatical believe in his cause. He had hoped to get support from the British for his modernising programmes and when this did not happen, he imprisoned some British functionaries present at his court. The British did not accept this and came with 32.000 men to free the hostages at Maqdala. The British were far better equipped and far superior in numbers and many of Tewodros’ men died in the battle. Refusing to surrender, Tewodros played the tragic hero to the end and killed himself.


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