The Middle Ages, Muslim-Christian wars & the Jesuits (1270-1629)

Posted: May 28, 2016 in Ethiopia - the Secret of Africa
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In the province of Shoa, the Solomonic Dynasty was established. Emperor Yekuno Amlak claimed to descend from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and these claims were later reaffirmed by the country’s national epic Kebra Negast.

The Middle Ages consisted of a series of powerful monarchies and influential clergy. But trade in these days was no longer carried out with money, but by means of barter: exchanging products and goods. And the kingdom’s capitals were ‘itinerant’ – large, but always-moving camps, staying in one place for a number of months.

During these times, contacts with European Christendom began to increase. With the increasing threat of well-equipped Muslim armies in the East, Europe was seen as a Christian superpower. And Europe, in return, realised the important strategic position of Ethiopia.

The first decades of the 16th century showed some of the most costly, bloody and wasteful fighting in Ethiopian history, and the empire and its culture came close to being wiped out.

Tension between Christian provinces and Muslim Ethiopian emirates was built up because of increasing competition for control of the valuable trade routes connecting the Ethiopian highlands with the Red Sea. Muslims and Christians fought each other for many years – different leaders on both sides tried to invade each others territory. Thousands of lives were lost, the Christian monarchy was nearly wiped out and the once mighty Muslim state of Adal lay in ruins. Many of the most beautiful churches and monasteries were destroyed.

A new threat to the Ethiopian empire arose: loss of territory. A Cushitic people, the Oromos, originating from the south (present day Kenya) began a great migration northwards. For some 200 years, there were many armed conflicts.

At the beginning of the 17th century, the Oromo threat lead several Christian emperors to seek an alliance with the Portuguese Jesuits, which was useful for some time, since the Portuguese were well armed. Two emperors even converted to Catholicism, but there was great rebellion when emperor Susenyos tried to impose this faith on the rest of the state and its people. Unfortunately, this also lead to much bloodshed: 32000 peasants who did not want to be converted, were killed.

The Orthodox faith was re-established and Susenyos’ son, Fasilides expelled the Jesuits and forbade all foreigners to set foot in his empire.

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