The Chronicle of the Emperor Zara Yaqob (1434-1468)

By Richard Pankhurst

In the name of the Trinity in
three persons equal in glory and in majesty, the Father, the Son and
the Holy Ghost, I herewith undertake to describe all the deeds of our
king the Lord’s annointed Zara Yaqob, who was named Quastantinos.1
May the glorious son of Mary, Jesus Christ, do him justice and admit
him to his celestial kingdom, in order that he may enjoy it as much
as he has desired and sought it, may he extend doubly His grace to
his grandson Lebna Dengel, that he may surpass him in glory and in
virtue—like Elisha, the disciple of Elijah, who received in
double measure the spirit of his master, when he ascended to Heaven
borne by the charges of the Spirit—and that he may
pro-long his days till heaven and earth disappear.—Amen. In the
reign of our king Zara Yaqob, there was great terror and great fear
in all the people of Ethiopia, on account of the severity of his
justice and of his authoritarian rule and above all because of the
denunciations of those who, after having confessed that they had
worshipped Dasak and the devil, caused to perish many innocent people
by accusing them falsely of having worshipped thus together with
them. For when the King did hear of such matters, he used to condemn
the accused on the testimony of these informers to whom he limited
himself to say, after having invoked the name of God: " May
their blood fall on you." Acting thus, the King did not pay heed but to his zeal for God. He did not even spare his sons, called
Galawdewos, Amda Maryam, Zara Abreham, Batra Seyon, nor his sons called, Del Samera, Rom Ganayala and Adal Mangesha, nor many others among his off­springs whose names I do not know. The princes suffered death as their punishment, a few princesses survived after having lost all their rothers.

At that time a herald3
announced at the palace the following news: " Learn, O you
Christian people, what Satan has done. Since we have prohibited the worship of idols and the adoration of Dasak and Dino, he has
insinuated himself into our house and has led astray our children." He had them punished severely, they were scourged before a crowd of people who gathered so that they could see their wounds and their torment. They shed tears when beholding this sight or when told about it. Thereafter he made known an edict enjoining on everybody the obligation to take an oath and to carry on their foreheads the following inscription: " From the Father, from the Son and from the Holy Ghost." on their right hand the words: "I renounce
the devil, in the name of the Christ who is God." and on their
left hand: " I renounce Dasak the accursed, I am the servant of Mary, the mother of the Creator of the universe." He who did not heed this prescription had his house pil­laged and corporal punishment was also administered to the guilty party, to recall that
the king should be obeyed by everybody.

A certain Zara Seyon, nicknamed
Zara Saytan, who by his false accusations had caused the death of a
large number of monks, canons and men and women, was, when God
revealed his crimes, forced to become a monk and exiled to Hayq4.

The office of Aqebe Saat5
was then confered on Amha Seyon6, who was greatly esteemed by our King. When this dignitary left or entered his house, nobody could see him. Two or three children alone had access to his quarters, which were contiguous to the royal enclosure,7 and when he needed anything brought from the outside, he would call one of his faithful monks and send him to look for what he wanted, near by or far away. He acted thus for the glory of the royal house, for he had access to the King at all times. All the pages who like him were attached to the court did not have any contact with anybody from the outside, neither did they have any houses and resided at the palace. When these young men used to go out, they were accompanied by a MalkaNa;8 they did not know any women, did not cut their hair without the King’s permission and were always well dressed; if they dared to visit the local inhabitants in order to eat, drink or converse with them, they were put to death as well as those who had received them.

The offices of Belit Wiedad9
of the right and of the left were at that time vacant at the palace.
The King conferred them on two of his daughters, Madhen Zamada, who
occupied the right hand position and Berhan Zamada, the left hand
one. The latter one re­placed her husband Amda Masqal, henceforth
called Amda Saytan, who had been arrested and condemned, when the
King learnt of his numerous crimes, his false­hood and ambitious
projects, shameful projects, un­worthy of the human heart, which
can only enter some­body accursed by the devil. In the same
manner as God expelled from his throne and profoundly humiliated the
devil; in the same manner the king of Israel removed Amda Saytan.

He had also committed another
crime, he had, though married to a princess of the house of Israel10,
married in secret another woman and then had given her in marriage to
the Sasargue11 Amha Iyasus. Berhan Zamada, the wife of
Amda Saytan, having learnt of this, informed the King, her father,
who summoned Amda Saytan to his presence and questioned him. When he
became certain of his guilt, he called together the notables of his
court before whom he exposed all Amda Saytan’s mis­deeds and had
him condemned to death, which he de­served. These judges ordered
a pit to be dug in which he was placed and shot through with arrows
.(?.), as well as Amha Iyasus, the Sasargue and Nob, the
administrator of Dabra Damo12 and of the convent of
Bakuer, who had been their accomplice and who subsequently received
the name of Kabaro Saytan13. Amda Saytan was deported to a
place in the province of Amhara known only to the King. Amha Iyasus
and Nob, called Kabaro Saytan, were exiled to Guasharo14.
The predecessor of Amda Saytan in the office of Belit Wiedad, who was
called Isayeyas and who filled this office when our King was at
Qesat, in the province of Amhara shared the same fate. I was not a
witness to his arrest, but I was told that he was seized, that a
great iron collar was placed around his neck and that he was deported
on account of his crimes to a place which is unknown to me.

After the deprivation of Amda
Saytan, I never again encountered anyone entrusted with the functions
of Belit Wiedad except for the two daughters of the King who had been
raised to this dignity. The King placed at the head of each province
one of his sisters, entrusted with administering the district in his
name. In the Tigre he placed Del Shamera; in Angot, Bahr Mangesha; in
Gedem, Sofya; in Ifat, Amda Giorgis; in Shoa, Rom Ganayala; in Damot,
Madhen Zameda; in Begamder, Abala Maryam, and he assigned the
province of Gan to Atnaf Sagadu, the daughter of one of his sisters.
As for those who were assigned to other provinces, I do not know
their names. Later, the King himself took in hand the government of
the whole of Ethiopia and set up in the provinces Adakshats whom he
appointed in the following manner: In Shoa, there will be a Raq
Masare15 and in Fatagar an Azaj16 and I do
appoint Amda Mikael MalkaNa over all the land of Fatagar and I
entrust to him Faragla Ademnat (?). The holder of the same office,
who was appointed Awrari17 Badjer in the province of Dawaro, was
called Hegano in those of Geber and of Wadj, Eraq Masere in the
province of Damot, Raq Masare in the kingdoms of Gojam, Begemder,
Tigre, Qeda and Angot and Tsahfalam18 in the kingdom of
Amhara, he was styled Raq Masara in Gan, Gedem and Ifat. All the
peoples trembled before the undaunted might of the King.

However, when he sent a
messenger to the Garad19 of Hadya20 in order to
summon him to come to pay his tribute this governor, called Mahiko,
who was the son of the Garad Mehmad and brother of Ite Jan Zela,21
Queen Qan Baltihat22, furnished the following reply:
" No I shall not go to your door23, and I shall not
leave my province," then he sent back the King’s messenger and
refused to comply with the royal order.

One of the officials in Hadya,
called Gadayto Garad2! having learnt of the rebellion of
the Garad of Hadya, set out in all haste to reach the King in order
to inform him of the madness of the latter: "He has made,"
he told the King, "extensive preparations for war and has asked
for help from the people of Adal to ravage the kingdoms of Dawaro and
Bali."25 "Who are his allies?" the King
said to Gadayto Garad, "all the men of Hadya or only a part of
them and what is it according to you, that I must do?"—Gadayto
Garad replied to him: "His allies are Gudola Garad, Diho Garad,
Hadabo Garad, Ganazo Garad, Saga Garad, Qaben Garad, Gogal Garad,
Halab Garad26, here you have all those who are with Mahiko
and, in opinion, the best thing to do, my lord, is to summon the
Garad Bamo, his uncle, who is at Dagen,27 and to make him
in his place Garad of the Hadya, so that he may cross his plans and
destroy his power." Our King Zara Yaqob followed the advice of
Gadayto Garad and sent for in all haste, from the land of Dagen, the
Garad Bamo, who come at once. Our King was then at Dabra Berhan. The
Garad Bamo was appointed Garad of the Hadya and was given rich robes
and Gadayto likewise. They were sent with a strong force composed of
Basar Shotal 28 from the province of Damot. All the men of
Dawaro and of Bali were sent for; the King said to them: " Take
care that he does not escape you and go into the land of Adal."
Then the trumpet sounded; a great number of monks and priests
and the King commanded them to offer prayers in their
churches, offering up much incense and distributing garments among
the poor and needy. On this same day, after inhaling incense, I had a
vision in which there appeared to me our king Zara Yaqob, saying to
the holy personages: " Bring me this rebel, bound with a strong
cord, and throw him prostrate at my feet." – The following night
I saw in my sleep our Holy Virgin Mary30. The holy
personages prayed and asked the Lord my God that this vision should
come to pass.

As for Bamo, the new Garad of
the Hadya, he left for his province and arrived there with the troops
which the King had given him. All the chiefs who had re­volted
came before him and made their submission. At this news, Mahiko
turned with his troops, towards the land of Adal; the men of Damot
pursued him up to Sega and caught up with him just when he was
mak­ing his entry into the amba.32 He had scattered
along the road many precious objects; Marwe33 and
Gemedja34, in the hope that his enemies would halt in
their pursuit to gather them. But they did not stop at them, they
made a vigorous charge, entered his amba at the same time as he,
killed him, cut off his head, his hands and feet. These tidings
reached the King with great rapidity, who rejoiced because of them as well as all of his court, and this feat was celebrated, as during
Holy Week at Easter, with a song and dance. All the holy personages
rendered to God many a thanksgiving for what He granted to their
prayers and that of His annointed Zara Yaqob, and because He had
struck down his enemy so quickly.

Bamo, Garad of Hadya, then came
with the men of Damot, carrying the head of the rebel, as well as his
hands and feet. They presented themselves to the King and told him
what had happened. The King thanked the Garad of Hadya, Gadayto
Garad and the men of Damot; they were given as much food and drink
as they wanted; as for the rebel, his head, his hands, and
his feet were hung at the right hand and left hand gates of the
palace and the Sargun,35 where dogs and hyenas devoured
them with pleasure. Thus the vision sent by our Holy Virgin Mary,
before all these events, and concerning our king Zara Yaqob, came to
pass. Some time afterwards, the King sent all these warriors back
to their provinces after having bestowed on them gifts of rich
garments; Gadoyto Garad was given immunity, as well as his children, till the third generation, from the authority of the Garad of Hadya and the Basar Shotal who had killed Mobiko received a grant of land in his province. Glory be to God who has sustained our King Zara Yaqob who, by the hand of his servant, has secured a swift victory. May he sustain in the same way our King Lebna Dengel, his beloved son, and may he exterminate from the face of the earth his enemies and those who, in the interior of their hearts, hate and execrate his king­ship, all the while flattering him on the exterior. May death strike them everywhere where they live and stay by day and night.

Our king Zara Yaqob then
commanded the con­struction at Dabra Berhan of a Jagual36
with a roof (?) of which the height was to be ten elbows and the
colour white.

He enjoined on the builders
that they should pay attention that it should be well set up, without
any deviation, and to the Raq Masarotj37 of the right and
of the left, and also to the Jan Masare38, who were
employed in the construction of the Jagual, not to take up their
tunics39 until the work was completed. He ordered the
construction of a great building at the gate of the House of the
Lion,40 which was very tall and through which he went in
and out mounted on horseback; at the Shelemat41 gate there
was also a small house and another one at the Mabil42
gate; as for the Sarwajat gate, there was no building near it and
no­body entered by that gate, except for the Aqabe Saat, the
pages and waiters: anybody else who approached it was run through
with a spear. The King commanded also the construction of a solid
palace and its decora­tion with care.

When the building was complete,
it was surmounted with a golden cross. It was then that crosses began
to be placed in the royal house, a usage which did not exist
hithertofore. At the foot of the royal palace, three tents were
erected: that in the middle was called Doulat Bet;43 the
one on the right, the tent of Baala Gemeja, and the one on the left,
the tent of Aqet. To the right and left of these tents, there was a
tall palisade which extended to the Jagual to which it was joined.
Because of its weight, length and thickness, each one of the trees
used for the con­struction of this enclosure and of the Jagual
needed no less than two or three hundred men to carry it; they were
brought from the land of Zega. In between these tree trunks which
were joined with care one to another, there was no chink through
which the eye could see and the bark had been stripped off in order
to produce a surface as white as snow. As for the height of this
palisade, some said it was twenty elbows, some others that it was
fifteen; as for me, I have not measured it.

Another avenue was constructed
leading from the palace to the gate of the church of Dabra Berhan and
bordered on each side by a palisade made in such a way that the King
might be shielded from onlookers when going in or out. Nobody used
that avenue except the King, the Aqabe Saat and young pages. When our
King went to the church to receive com­munion, no canon could
enter; only the choristers, monks and priors of Dabra Libanos’45
Dabra Maryam,46 Bizan,47 Dabra Galila,48
Holol,49 Qayasa, Malago, Daraba Abaye, Saade Amba50
Waldeba, Dabra Maryam, Gerealta and Hensa Maryam as well as
other clerics whose names I do not know and who do not eat meat nor
drink wine; however on feast days, canons were invited from all
places, from Dabra Berhan, Dabra Nagnadguad,51
Yala-bash,52 Garama, Iyasus, Gemedja Bet Maryam and
Masqal; they spent the whole day at divine service, though, as I have
mentioned above, they were sent away when the time for communion
came. No one approached the Euergetes,54 except for the
Aqabe Saat, his two children called Gabra Alfa55 and Takla
Maryam,56 the head canon Gabra Iyasus57 and a
poor man called Yesehaq. On the days when the King communicated,
there was no celebration without these five. When he left, the
canons, who had spent the day in chanting, were sent for. They were
led within the precincts of the palace and were conducted to a place
situated above and towards the middle of the three tents (?).

This place was called Laelaye
Fit,58 and the tent situated below which was the place for
the Jan Bet Tabaqi, was called Tahtaye Fit.59 In the
Laelaye Fit, these canons were served with as much food as they
wanted, they were given hot or cold drinks in great abundance, and
they took home what was left of the bread and drink. The food and
drink came from Beta Fatagar,60 Beta Gene Baaltihat,61
Beta Geber of the right and left and the King himself looked after
the service at the tables. The first was called Seruye, the second
Itarfed and the third went under the name of "the King’s table".
This last one was reserved for the King and at it no meats were
served to anyone without his orders. As for Sodj Yahaja, called Sodj
Alaza, and all the Tsewa Betsarwajet,61 Bodel Domanu,
Baadel Shotal (and to all whom he had granted this grace, they were
given their food from his table. The other Tsewa Becar Shotal), Deb
Meleat, Jan Meleat, Baamba, Baadel Wejat, Damana Amba, Ba Bahr Wogot,
Baadel Mabroq, that is to say all those who dwelt around the royal
enclosure, ate in the place called Laelaye Fit. A screen of sycamores
(?) stretched from the tent to the palace, which extended to the left
for a distance of a hundred and thirty or a hundred and fifty elbows.
It was there that royal justice was done, that the guilty were
punished and that the pleas were heard of those who came with

The Jan Bet Tabaqi did not
officiate at this place, but stayed in the Tahtaye Fit; in to the
Laelaye Fit went only the Seraq Tabaqi62 and Jan Daraba.63
It was there that the Azazotj and the Malkana chosen from among
faithful monks from the Tigre (?) gave their orders Sometimes they
went down to the Tahtaye Fit and there also they did much business,
but what was most important was done in the Laeleye Fit.

the Azazeyan64 entered the apartments where the King was
present and when they spoke to him, they went down on their knees and kissed the floor with fear and respect, as well as each time when they heard his voice. They did not wear white tunics, but Qalami, Kuafre and Shaqueta,65 and this dress was obligatory as much for the Azazeyan as for the Getotj,66 the Liqa Matara67 and his following, the Jan Masrotj, the
Iqaqetatja68 and his following and the Jan Hacana.69

The Jan Bet Tabaqeyan were not
attired in the same manner; by day and by night, without omitting one
single moment, they stood to the right and to the left in the Tahtaye
Fit where lamps burned during the night. In the Laelaye Fit, the
Seraq Tabaqi and the Jan Darabotj carried in their hands wax torches
during the day; but lamps were only lit in the Tahtaye Fit. When they
celebrated a feast, they held it in an apart­ment of the palace
and did not go down to the royal tent, but stayed where they were. As
for the canons, they put on again their white robes and, the
ceremonies, being over, they went home according to their usage. The
Jan Bet Tabaqi did not rest until after having cleared the table.

When the King used to go to
church in secret and without being seen by anyone, one of the pages
of the palace used to go out and give orders to all the Tshawa Baadel
Shotal, Baadel Domana, and to all the Orebasar Wadjet, Domona Amba,
Baadel Wodjet, Baadel Mabraq and Baadel Masqual;70 he
announced to them the King’s departure for the church; then these
marched forth, sounding their horns and beating their drums, up to
the door of the church which they did not enter. The Baadel Mabraq
and the monks of Bizan surrounded the palace on the inside of the
pali­sade (?); the monks carried swords and scabbards and the
Baadel Mabraq carried bows and javelins. During the holy sacrament,
all the Tshawa were given bread and beer, till they were completely
satisfied. Thereupon the King would leave the church and return to
his palace along the private way, without anybody seeing him or
knowing anything about it, according to usage, except for the Aquab
Saat and the pages of the court. There­upon these pages told the
Tshawa, by waving to them, that the King had left and returned to his
palace. Those then gave themselves up in emulation to frantic
dancing, uttering in the language of their countries cries which
could be heard far away, blowing their horns and beating drums, which
produced a mighty uproar and a great commotion. Then they were told
to return to their quarters.

Inside the palisade a Nazret
Bet71 had also been set up, containing thirty tershema72
to the right and as many to the left. There, revenues from the whole
of Ethiopia were gathered, precious objects and everything that was
useful; all that was not useful was placed in the Mangeshet Bet and
in the Barakat Bet.73 When the order was given, the loom
used to sew the shelamat74 and all that was needed by the
royal household was brought, as well as the gomedja and the marwe,
from the Nazret Bet to the Mangeshet Bet and to the Barakah Bet, in
order to sew and adorn them. The servants at the table came entirely
from the Beta Geber. Those who were admitted to it were those who
formed the train of all the queens, Gera Baaltehat, Qan Baaltehat,
Baaleta Shehena,75 Yagalagel Gazet, Waserbat Bet: the
Qaysa Hace76 and the Liqa Dabtara, the Serag Maasare,77
the Liqa Matsham, the Liqa Qaqetatj,78 Baaldjeho and Baal
Damo,79 Maryam Welta and the king undertook the
distribution. Everything was brought to the Nazret Bet to the right
and to the left, then they went forth to give to all the canons, to
all the Tshawa and all those signalled out by the King, bread
beer and mead, Wayedot, Shanome and Mogorya.80 Meats
prepared for festivities were stored in the Nazaret Bet; as for food
and drink left over from previous banquets, it was distributed to
everybody as I have stated it above.

Inside the right hand palisade,
above the way from the tent and at the foot of the palace, a building
was put up to house the great number of horses which were lodged
there to hide them from the gaze of strangers, and there were some
which were bridled and harnessed all day long at the approaches of
the palace.

sprinkled ceaselessly with holy water, from dusk to dawn, the King’s
palace inside of which they made their rounds. Among these priests
were some brought from Amhara and Angot in order to carry out these
functions. They recited the Gospels, the Psalms of David, formulas
denouncing Satan and chanted the psalm beginning with the words, "May God rule", without pause, from evening to morning, and, all the day long, they did not cease their sprink­ling with holy water; for the sorcerers, envious of the faith of the King and of the greatness of his justice, were plotting bad designs against him. The King him­self has said and written in his works how the evil ones cast spells on him at home and on the road when he was travelling, and how they disturbed a christening ceremony one Sunday,81
at Debra Berhan, after the conclusion of the ceremony. All this, and
how God delivered him from these spells, has been clearly told and
described by our King himself, Zara Yaqob, scion of Israel, full of
confidence in the name of the Trinity.

When the King learned of this
manoeuvre of the sorcerers against baptismal celebrations, he
immediately gave orders that a pit be dug in the ground in the
enclosure where the church stood, and ordered the builders to
construct in all haste a cistern and all the entourage of his court,
both men and women to draw water to fill it. His orders were carried
out and God accomplished thus what the King had desired and intended.
Since that day and for many years till his death, this cistern was
used for baptism, over which a building was erected which was secured
with a strong bolt. The holy water therein contained was of help for
the sick, till the time when this baptistry was destroyed by the fire
which consumed the church.

Our King decided that baptisms
should henceforth take place to the right and quite near the church,
giving us reason for this institution that had formerly found this
arrangement adopted for baptisms in the courtyard of the church of
Dabra Libanos, as well as in the temple erected by Gabra Masqual at
Hongung in the Tigre. Besides the King said, " I have read in the
Mashafa Kidan that baptisms should take place to the right of the
church; and henceforth, as a Christian people, see to it that in your
provinces and your districts, the law of God may come to pass and the
works of Satan and sorcery cease." He ordered the punishment of
those who would not observe his prescriptions and delivered their
houses to pillage.

When the King wanted to make a
Gueezo, there was a great commotion and a great agitation at the

of his departure from the palace: all recoiled before him and kept
their distance in a timorous and respectful attitude. Those who
carried the baldechin and there were three big men, marched near him,
as well as the fan bearers. Those who carried the Shamma (banner?)
unfurled marched at a certain distance and surrounded the King
mounted on his horse, for on the day of the Gueezo, he went forth not
mounted on a mule, but on horseback. Away in front and in the rear,
there was a great number of Meserqana and Deb Anbasa who according to
prescription, sounded their horns and beat their drums during the
royal progress and when he returned to his quarters.

The King stationed in Dawaro
numerous Tshawa who had the names of Arquaye Basar Wadjet, Badel
Sagana, Baadal Amba, Badel Deb, Badel Nad, Baadl Mbrq, Draqo Basar
Wadjet, Jan Godab and several others whose names are unknown to me.
These officers were appointed as a result of an act of
insubordination towards the King on the part of the previous Tshawa
Jan Sagona. In order to avoid his anger which they had provoked and
the remonstrances which were addressed to them they went to Adal and
stayed there for some time on some slight pretext. After the return
of these Tshawa, the King decided to humiliate them: "In your
pride," he said to them, "you have risen against us and
against the Azmatj which we had set over you. When he punished you
and made you obey, you took offence and went off to Muslim lands. We
have, as much as God has commanded us, appointed new Tshawa. Keep to
the right way and the right law and abandon the bad way to which you
have pledged yourselves. If you refuse, we will judge you and we will
deal with you as we think fit."

The King put immediately
numerous Tshawa in the provinces of Bali and of Hadya, as well as in
those of Bagemender, Gojam, Fatagier, Ifat, Gedem, Qan, Angot, Aseda,
Tigre, Bahr Amba and Sarawa Besar Wedjet (?). In all of these
provinces he stationed numerous Tshawa and gave them special names
accord­ing to the province where they were stationed.

increased the power of Bahr Nagash and raised him much above all the
shums: he gave him authority over those of Sire and of Sarawe as well
as over the two Hasemen Kantiba and over the shum of Bur. He thus set
him up as a prince over them. Our King Zara Yagob reorganised in a
befitting manner the administra­tion of Ethiopia and was in all
reality for this country a torch whose light dispelled darkness from
it. May God grant him a portion of the kingdom of heaven, without
judgement and examination, and that he may encompass by his
benevolence as by a shield his son Lebna Dengel for the sake of his
pure mother.

When our King Zara Yagob went
into the district of Aksum to fulfil the law and the rite of
coronation according to the rites followed by his ancestors, and when
he arrived at the confines of that locality, all of the inhabitants,
as well as the priests, went to meet him and welcomed him with a
great rejoicing; the shums and all the Tshawa of the Tigre were on
horseback, carrying shield and lance, and the women, in great
numbers, gave themselves up, according to their ancient
custom, to an endless dance. When he entered within the gates
of the town, the King had on his right and on his left the governor
of Tigre and the administrator94 of Askum who carried and
waved according to custom, olive branches; it is for this reason that
the governor of Tigre is called Aqabe Sensenga.95 After
arriving within the walls of Aksum, the King had brought to him much
gold which he scattered as far as the city gate on the carpets which
were spread along his route. This amount of gold was more than a
hundred ounces; as for more, I do not know whether it was thirty or
forty ounces. The King did this for the glory of Sion and distributed
largesse as the Kings his predecessors. On the 21st of the month of
Ter, the day of the death of Our Holy Virgin Mary, the rite of
coronation was carried out, during which the King was seated on a
stone throne. This stone, together with its supports, is only used
for the corona­tion. There is another one on which the King is
seated when he receives the blessing and several others, to the right
and left, on which are seated the twelve chief judges. There is also
the throne of the metropolitan bishop.

During his stay at Aksum, our
King regulated all the institutions of the Church and prescribed to
be recited each day, at canonical hours, prayers which up to that
time had been neglected. He convened to this purpose a great number
of monks, he founded a convent, the head­ship of which he
confined to an abbot who had the title of Pontif of Askum and who
received an extensive grant of land called Naeder. He accomplished
this work from devotion for the Virgin

Mary and to perpetuate his own
memory and that of his children and of the children of his children.
He summoned some catechists, who were attached to the convent, and
presented to the church a great number of ornaments and a golden
ewer, revived all the old traditions, spread joy in these places and
returned thence, satisfied.

Arriving in the land of
Tsahoya, in Amhara, he went up a high and beautiful mountain, the
aspect of which he found pleasing; at the top of this mountain and
facing east, he found a wall which had been raised by King Dawit, his
father, with the intention of raising at that place a shrine which he
did not have the time to finish: in the same way the ancient King
David, who planned raising a temple to the Lord, could not com­plete
his task which was completed by his son Solomon; our King, Zara Yaqob
fulfilled the intention of his father by raising a shrine to God to
the west of this mountain. All, poor and rich, and the shums
them­selves, were ordered to carry stone and this edifice was
speedily erected. They embellished this locality, which underwent a
great transformation and where two chur­ches were built, one
called Makame Gol and the other Dabra Nagnadguad. The King attached
to them a certain number of priests and canons to whom he gave grants
of land. Moreover, he founded a con­vent and placed in it monks
from Dabra Libanos, who he endowed in a similar manner.

After having settled all
matters relating to this foundation and its priests, consecrated
definitely to the celebration of the feast of the Virgin which takes
place there constantly, and, having made a gift to the monas­tery
of vestments adorned with gold and silver, he left
these parts, went into the land of Dago where he had
previously resided and there began the construction on top of a high
mountain, of a shrine dedicated to Our Lady Mary, having been
captivated by the beauty of this elevated site which dominated all
the neighbouring hills. He had for this shrine, which he named Makona
Maryam, a particular predilection, endowed it generously and
established priests there to celebrate the adoration of God. He gave
this foundation, in memory and that she should raise his tomb there,
to the Queen Gera Baaltehat, who was called Fre Maryam and who was
the mother of Berhan Zamada, Medhen Zamada, Sabala Maryam and Del
Debaba. It was there, in fact, that he was buried afterwards
according to the desires of our King Zara Yaqob.

In the seventh year of his
reign,103 (1441?) he left the province of Amhara and went
to Eguba, situated in the district of Tagulat, celebrating there the
ceremony of baptism105 and made halt in that land which he
much liked. While he was there he received a message from the
patriarch Abba Yohannes informing him that the Muslims had destroyed
by fire the monastery of Metmaq in Egypt, being enraged at Our Lady
Mary having appeared in that locality, and because a great number of
Muslims, who witnessed this miracle, had become converted to the
faith of the Christians. When he received this message, our King Zara
Yaqob burst into tears and was profoundly stricken, as well as all
his court and the pilgrims who had made formerly the voyage to
Jerusalem. Nevertheless, to console him­self and to restore his
courage and that of his people, he said to them: "Do not weep O
Christian people, and do not feel afflicted because the monastery of
Metmaq in Egypt has been destroyed. We will build here a church to
Our Holy Virgin Mary and will call it Dabra Metmaq." Our King
commanded at once the con­struction of a church at that place and
granted it land in the district of Tagulat. He caused ornaments to be
executed in it, brought its construction to a finish and installed
priests there. Following up his declaration and the oath he had made,
he called it Debra Metmaq. While he was in that province, news came
that Arwe Badlay was marching against him. At once he left Dabra
Metmaq and the district of Dago, crossed in turn the districts of
Azor Gabaya, Afof, Yalabasha, Agam Gabaya and arrived in the
Dawaro110 with a small force known by the name of Hasab
Bawasan. The messengers which he had despatched to the holy monks of
Dabra Libanos and to other monasteries, to an­nounce these events
brought to him the following exhortation: "Be without fear, for
God has heard the prayers of the saints and you will be victorious;
you will triumph over your enemy by the might of God."

The Garad of Hadya also sent
word to the King to tell him to summon him if he had need of his
help; he gave at the same time Arwe Badlay assurances of his loyalty
and of his support, but this was only a false promise.

Our King Zara Yaqob sent word
to the Garad of Hadya not to come, to stay at Ayfors, to set up his
camp there and to stay there until he summoned him. The King then
despatched a Malkana to him and, following the orders he had
received, the Garad of Hadya stayed at Ayfars. This Garad, called
Mehimad, was the father of Queen Eleni, Qan Baaltehat; he was not
trusted because he was Moslem as well as Arwe Badlay, and it was for
this reason that he was kept away from the fighting area, for his
intentions were suspect.

When our King Zara Yaqob came
across Arwe Badlay and his innumerable army, he was dismayed by it;
he invoked God, girded his loins with the power of the Holy Ghost and
made ready to do battle with his small force. The Aqabe Saat, Amha
Seyon, made the following remark to him: "Ate you not too eager,
O my master, to do battle without waiting that your army come to your
aid; for you have here only weak forces; you yourself are not
prepared and you have not put on your battle armour, nor disposed the
battle array? How can you take such a decision?" Our King took
up the conversation and said to him: "Know you not these words
of the prophet David": "The King is not succoured by a
numerous army, nor the hero by his personal valiance; the horse rears
not and delivers not by his own strength. As for me, I have put my
confidence in the Lord. He will come to my aid in His mercy."112
And immediately he gave the order to raise the umbrellas, sound the
Meserqana, beat the Deb Anbasa, and to advance the standards on all
sides, and all were impressed by this imposing and majestic
spectacle. Seeing this, Arwe Badlay, perplexed and seized by fear,
said to his people: "Did you not tell me that it was not the
King who was marching against us, but his shum Hasaba Wasan while it
is the King himself who is at the head of his troops?" While
they were thus discussing this, our King Zara Yaqob broke through to
this unbeliever and overthrew a part of his army. A soldier threw a
dart into the face of Arwe Badlay; the latter broke it with his hand
and threw himself at the King in order to seize him, but his rashness
was the cause for which God made him fall by the King’s hand. The
latter plunged his lance in his neck and cut his throat. All those
who were around the King rejoiced because of this, but he praised on
high the name of the Trinity. Thereupon all the Muslims who formed
the army of Arwe Badlay took to flight, and the Christians pursued
them killing them with their swords and lances or tumbling them down
precipices. The number of those killed was formidable; not a soldier
survived out of the enemy army. God had punished them according to
their pride. Arwe Badlay’s brother, Karadiu, fled and reached the
river Hawash; as the King was worried by what might have eluded him,
the Jan Segana began to pursue him and caught up with him at a place
where he halted. They cut his head off which they brought to the
King, our lord; at this sight, he rejoiced and danced a lot: "Today
is verily a day of gladness," he cried; "truly the glory of
the birth of Christ has worked a miracle." For it was the day of
the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the 29th of the month of Tahsas.

The King then had the dead
counted, the prisoners, as well as those who fell down precipices and
the horses which had been captured: their number was consider­able.
A large number of priests then arrived, intoning joyful canticles; in
each town there was a celebration for men and women who gave
themselves up to dancing and rendered thanks to God. The King
summoned the Garad of the Hadya, who had remained at Ayfars, so that
he might witness this miracle, and he gave him rich garments when he
had obtained proof that his intentions had been good. Then the head,
hands and feet of the unbeliever Arwe Badlay were cut off; his body
was cut up and pieces of it were sent to all the provinces: his head
to Amba and the other members to Aksum, Manhadbe, Washl, Djedjeno,
Lawo and Wiz. Dabra Nagnadguad received his accoutrements, his lance,
his sword, his umbrella, his Haykal as well as all the jewels
belonging to his wife, his effects and his shirts of many colours
were divided up between Dabra Metmaq, Seyon and other holy places.
And all the inhabitants of Ethiopia cast stones on what was left of
his body.

Glory to God who has fulfilled
the wishes of Zara Yaqob, His anointed, and who, by means of a
tre­mendous miracle, has granted the arm of our King the power to
overthrow his enemy; that He may fill him yet with joy in seating him
in His celestial abode to­gether with all of his elect, Amen. May
he doubly extend his grace to King Lebna Dengel, his son; may he
always afford him his aid to exterminate his enemies and may he
prolong his days! Amen and amen.

Our King Zara Yaqob then
returned full of joy and gladness and reached the province of
Fatager, at a place called Telq, where he had been born and where he
lived and began raising a shrine to Mikael. His father, Dawit, had
also established many foundations called Yalabasha where he had
lived; there also he built a great shrine which he called Martula
Mikael and another called Asada Mikael. Both these shrines were
served by one archpriest. The King en­dowed each with land,
installed priests there, regulated equitably that which concerned
them and ordered that they should be rapidly brought to completion.
And God fulfilled his desire. May He extend also to him His celestial
kingdom! Amen.

He then went into the land of
Euzarda, where too he raised a chapel which he called Dabra Sehin and to which he attached some canons chosen among cantors and those who were preparing for the priesthood. He granted an hereditary estate to secure their future, as well as lands to commemorate the memory of the Virgin and his many feast days.. After having settled the foundation of this church and its priests, our King left this
locality and went into the land of Kaleta where he stayed only for a
few days; then he crossed the river Warari and arrived at Iba; he
resolved to remain in that locality which appealed much to him
because of its beauty. Shortly after his arrival, there was an
uprising of the children of Estifa, who declared that they did want
to prostrate themselves before Our Lady Mary not before the cross of
her son. The King had them summoned before himself, made them repeat
what they had said and, during a discussion in which his priests took part, he confounded them and covered them with shame; but they did not abandon for all this their errors.

The King then had them judged,
convoked all his court and the pilgrims who had returned from
Jerusalem, and it was decided that " they should undergo special tortures till they died. Their noses and tongues were cut off and they were stoned to death on the 2nd of the month of Yaktit.
Thirty-eight days after their stoning, the 10th of Magabit, the day
of the feast of the Cross, a light appeared in the sky and remained
visible in all the land for several days, which caused that our King
took fancy to this locality which he named Dabra Berhan. He built
their a magnificent church which he placed under the invocation of
Our Lord Jesus Christ and which, through the efforts of the Aqete
Jar124 and of all the governors of Shoa, was finished in
eight days, for he had ordered haste. To roof this church, all the
inhabitants of the area without distinction brought straw from Gedem
up to Fatagar. The light appeared for a second time when the mass was being said, and for a third time during the night, when the
choristers were intoning in the church the hymn "God reigns".
This light was clearly seen by the choristers and by the King who
declared they had seen it descending on the church. Zara Yaqob, who
had from Queen Gera Baaltehat the land of Iba, made the vow to give
it to this church for its priests and its services. He resolved to
fix in this place his residence, ordered all his officials to settle
there as well and to set up there his residence, and to all the
Tshawa who were at court to take part in the building of the Jagual
and the enclo­sure; he ordered all the shums of Shoa to bring
trunks of wild olive to contribute to this construction. They did not bring any other trees except olive trees from which they stripped off the bark, as I have described above, so that the Jagual might be white. Nobody was allowed to approach this enclosure.

During his stay at Dabra Berhan, our King arranged all the institutions of his kingdom: it was then that men were put to death and that others were condemned to exile for crimes against God or against His anointed; it was then too that those who had carried out the will of God and obeyed the King were rewarded and heaped with honours.

It was already a long time that
the King had lived in that locality when a great plague came which
killed such a great number of people that none were left to bury the
dead. The King then began the construction of Beta Qirqos to the
right of Dabra Berhan, so that God might take the plague away from
the place, mindful of the promise of the Eternal One: "The
plague will not come to a place where a shrine be raised to your
memory and there will be there neither drought nor dearth." The
faith and confidence of our King Zara Yaqob drove the disease from
the gates of his palace as he had hoped. He accordingly commanded his
sons and his queens to present Beta Qirqos, Gemedja and books; he
resolved that sermons should only be held in that church and that
those who might want to hear them would not be able to hear them

regulated worship according to the Orthodox faith and made it known
that the old Sabbath day should be as religiously observed as Sunday, as accordingly the Apostles laid it down in their canons, where it is said: "We, Peter and Paul command that the slaves work for five days of the week and consecrate the two others to God." He also
commanded the celebration of the 29th of each month to glorify the
birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ and because he had that very day
vanquished Arwe Badlay; he demanded that the 32 feasts of Our Lady
should be, the same as Sunday, celebrated with the greatest
punctuality, just as the bishops and patriarchs have prescribed it,
under the pain of excommunication; he also instituted a monthly feast
in honour of Saint Michael, as well as feasts for all the priests and
arch-priests of heaven, for the four heavenly animals,131
the prophets and apostles, and recommended the sanctifica-tion of all
these feasts by alms, largesse and large distri­butions of bread
to the needy. He embodied these injunctions in his holy books, which
are entitled: " The Book of Incarnation," "The Book of
Light,"132 "The Book of the Birth,"133
"The Abjuration of Satan," "The Book of the
Substance,"134 "The Treasury of Mysteries"135
and "Reign of God."

While he was carrying out this
settlement, the King remained for 12 years without leaving Dabra
Berhan, and during the following two years, he limited himself to
going to Falago, Dabra Metmaq and to some other localities in the
neighbourhood, returning as soon as possible to Dabra Berhan, which
makes in all 14 years, after which our King Zara Yaqob died.

God, in His justice and His great mercy, divide with him the kingdom
of heaven; may He give him the celestial Jerusalem, which needs
neither the sun nor the moon to light it, and where he will joyously
find all the prophets, the apostles, the disciples, all the just and
all the martyrs; may He protect his son Lebna Dengel and watch over
his life and kingdom till the day that He comes down from heaven to
judge the living and the dead by His power; may He exterminate all
His enemies from the face of the earth, for the sake of the Virgin
Mary, His pure mother; may He, each day and at each hour, fill him
with joy and happiness, and that all the nation may say, invoking the
flesh and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ: "Amen, Amen!"

Chapter dealing with Justice and Faith.

During the reign of our King
Zara Yaqob, there was in the whole land of Ethiopia a great peace and
a great tranquility, for the King taught justice and faith, and he
can be compared to the prophets and apostles for the excellence of
his predictions and his doctrines. The Ethiopian people had, in fact,
neglected the precepts of their faith and the sanctification of the
Sabbath and feast days; I have witnessed myself, in my youth, that
the Sabbath was profaned and that everybody worked on that day.

It was only beginning from the
ninth hour,137 when the trumpet was sounded, that all
activity ceased and that people, starting their rest, used to say:
"It is now that the Sabbath begins." Other feast days were
no better observed; the King re-established them and pre­scribed
that the Sabbath should foe as holy as Sunday, without any
distinction, according to the prescriptions of the holy apostles.
Likewise, he ordered, that the 33138 feasts of Mary, the
monthly feasts of St. Michael and the Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
as well as other feasts should be observed punctually. Moreover, he
gave instructions that in churches there should not only be a single
altar, but two or several, and that among these there should be one
of them consecrated to Mary. He taught and prescribed to be taught
the Credo, the Pater­noster, the Decalogue and the six words of
the Gospel, the belief in one only God in three persons, the
spiritual birth of the Son from the Father without mother and the
second birth of the Son issued from Mary without father. All these
beliefs and these practices, as well as others of a similar nature,
were taught by our King, who ordered them to be taught to all men and
women by calling them ail together on Sabbath days and feast days, in
every locality. He ordered the shums to pillage the houses and seize
the goods of priests who would not follow these prescriptions and
would not provide this teaching in their churches.

Chapter on the Coronation and on the Organisation of Churches

After his accession to the
throne, our King Zara Yaqob went to Aksum, settled equitably the
affairs of that place, renewed the priests and went through there the
coronation ceremony, as did his ancestors, with the assistance of
legislators established for this purpose since a long time ago; then
he returned thence full of gladness and arrived in the land of Sahay.
He came across there an attractive site, where he had erected a
handsome residence.139 He had transported there from Seyon
the remains of his father Dawit in spite of the lively opposition of
the inhabitants of Mawaal, who refused to give up the coffin of this
king, because three Sasorgutj, called Ab Radai, Gabru and Metus had
told them: "Do not give up the sepulchre of our King Dawit, and
if they come to ask you for it, make no reply to the messengers of
the King and the pontiffs."

The King, angry with the
inhabitants of that locality, sent some Tshawa, picked among the
Baadal Jan, who seized, together with their wives and their children,
the people of that town who had refused to obey him and brought them
to the royal palace. These confessed that the three Sasorgutj had
advised them not to give up the remains of King Dawit. The King at
once summoned these three Sasorgutj whom he questioned in these
terms: "When I intimated to you my intention to transfer here
the remains of my father Dawit, you told me: ‘Yes, you do well.’ Why
have you then advised the inhabitants of the town to oppose what the
King desired?" for this reason he had these Sasorgutj severely
punished and condemned them to prison. They were struck off the roll
of the Dabtara and it was decided that their descen­dants could
not become either Sasargue nor Dabtara. As for the inhabitants of the
town, they were pardoned and returned to their district. The King
placed the remains of his father in a subterranean chamber which he
had made for this purpose at Dabra Nagnadguad. For the events which I
have just told, I refer to the evidence of the Serag Masare Yohannes
who lives among you and knows everything.

When the Queen Egzie Kebra, his
mother, began the construction of a church at Malza, our King begged
her and persuaded her by wise reasons not to continue
this task, so that they might not be separated from each other
after their death; for this reason, he demolished the church and had
it reconstructed at Dabra Nagnadguad, which pleased his mother. Our
King Zara Yaqob, who had already had the remains of his father
transferred to Dabra Nagnadguad and who later had his mother buried
there, wanted later to be reunited with them. It is for this reason
that he had a great attachment and a signal veneration for Dabra
Nagnadguad and gave to the priests of that church vast estates to
celebrate his memory, that of the King his father and of the Queen
his mother.

Having made these dispositions,
he raised in the province of Dago, where he had spent the first years
of his reign, another shrine to which he gave the name of Makana
Maryam;144 he fitted it out and made a present of it, with
full property rights, to Jan Hadya, the wife of his youth, who had
the title of Gera Baaltehat145. He left that place in due
course and came to the district of Tagulat, where he built a church
which he called Dabra Metmaq, and having learnt while he was in that
locality that Arwe Badlay was marching against him, he commanded
public prayers to be said everywhere, left in all haste with a few
troops, confident in the might of God and the aid of his mother, Our
Lady Mary, and arrived in the province of Dawaro, where Arwe Badlay

He did battle with him on the
the day of the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the 29th of the month
of Tahsas, and God, miraculously manifesting his power,
overthrew the unbeliever by the hand of our King, Zara Yaqob. The
latter rendered unto God many a thanksgiving for the aid that he had
so promptly afforded him.

He then ordered the seizure
of the garments of Arwe Badlay and those of his wife, had his
members cut off one by one, and ordered the count, of those, or the
enemy army, who perished by the sword or by falling down precipices.
Their number was so considerable that all those who had seen or heard
talk of the prodigies which God had accomplished by the hand of his
anointed, with such a small army, were full of wonder.

Our King presented the rich
garments of this unbeliever, his wife’s jewels and his umbrella, to
Dabra Nagnadguad and to other places. His head and his members were
sent to places where markets were held, so that the whole people
might see them and render thanks to God, and this event caused great
joy every­where. When our King, Zara Yaqob was returning with
contentment in his heart, priests from all parts came before him
chanting canticles, as well as the monks of Dabra Libanos, who had
previously sent him their wishes that he might be victorious with
their prior Abba Endreyas. Our King made this church
numerous presents: 150 ounces of gold, 30 genedja worked with gold, seven wagarat of pure silk, seven golden fans, several other precious objects and 2,000 oxen; he entered into a
covenant of friendship with the monks, sat down at table with them in the convent and gave them 100 measures of land in Alat to celebrate the 29th of each month, the glorious anniversary of the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and in memory of the victory which he had gained that very day; this foundation exists still in our days. He gave to this monastery, which was the called Dabra Asebo, the name of Dabra Libanos endowed it with still more properties and manifested for this foundation a profound attachment and great veneration.

Let us now return to our tale.
After his return from the province of Dawaro, our King came to
Yalabash, where his father had formerly lived and where he him­self
had been born; he raised there a handsome shrine which he called
Martula Mikael. On the spot of his birth itself, called Telq, he
raised another church to which he gave the name of Asadu Mikael. He
installed one high priest for these two churches and endowed their
priests with lands. Then he had constructed a magnifi­cent shrine
at Enzoredja, which he called Dabra Sahin. From there he went into
the land of Kaleta, where he stayed for a short time, and then came
to the district of Iba, where he set up his quarters and grew
attached to it. It was then, at that place, that there was an
appari­tion of Our Lord Jesus Christ and of the light which was
treated above and which was visible to all, in all the land, on the
day of the feast of the glorious Cross, after he had put to death the children of Estifa (Stephanites) for having refused to worship Our Lady Mary and the cross, and it is in memory of this apparition that he called Dabra Berhan the shrine which he had raised and which he had made a superb edifice. The construction of this shrine did not last longer than 60 days, for he had ordered all the Aqet Jar to make haste. The inhabitants of Gedem and of Gana, those of Ifat and of Fatagar, as well as all the shums of Shoa, brought materials to cover it. He established his residence at Dabra
Berhan and during his stay in that locality, he toiled at
strengthening the institutions of the kingdom. He had a royal
residence constructed, surrounded by a strong wall, such as had never been built by any of his predecessors: it is there that a great many of the regulations were framed.

When the plague decimated the
land, he commanded all the inhabitants of each locality to come
together in order to bury the dead, carrying a stick and tree
branches and sprinkling holy water. He gave to this gathering of men
the name of "Congregation of the Gospel and called their sticks
the " Stick of Moses." The shums were given the order to
pillage the houses and to seize the goods of those who did not
conform to these prescriptions and did not bury the dead in their

Chapter on the Organisation of the Administration of Ethiopia

Our King Zara Yaqob conferred
on the princesses, his daughters, the government of Ethiopia and,
during his reign, there had not been another Belit Wadad except for
Amda Sayton, who was demoted soon after his nomination and condemned
to exile for his crimes against the King. I have not been privy to
the secret delicts which he had committed, but he committed publicly
a very great one by marrying, though married
to a princess, another woman and by subsequently marrying her
off to the Sasargue Amda Iyasus. It was for these reasons that he
was called Amha Sayton and condemned to exile as well as the Sasargue
Amha Iyasus. The office of Belit Wadad was then conferred on his
wife, Berhan Zamada, who occupied the place on the left, and that of
the right was conferred on Madhen Zamada. The government of Tigre
was en­trusted to Del Somera, that of Augot to
Bahr Mangesha, that of Begander to Sabala Maryam, that of Amhara to
Amata Mashili, that of Gedem to Sofya, that of the Shoa to Rom
Ganayala, that of Gojam to Asnaf Samera, and Tewoderos was instituted
Yojon Sabar Ras. But the Gad Yestan of these princesses ravaged
their provinces, for, at that time, there were no royal delegates,
but they themselves were the delegates and Ethiopia was delivered up
to pillage. It is at the instigation of these Gad Yestan that Amba
Nahad, shum of Salamt, Sagey, shum of Samen and the shum Kantiba
revolted. After having abandoned the faith of Christians, they
embraced the Jewish religion, killed a great number of the
inhabitants of the province of Amhara, and when the King came to do
battle with them, they defeated his troops, drove them away and
burned down all churches in their districts. This is how the
Christians came to be ruined by these Gad Yestan who took away all
their goods, pillaged their houses and did not even leave them the
Mateb around their necks. Their ravages were not perpetrated solely
against people in their part of the country, but extended to all the
people of Ethiopia.

How the Princesses and several other persons were put to death
and punished

At that time appeared evil
men called Taowqa Berhan and Zara Seyon whose hearts Satan had
filled with evil thoughts. They denounced to the King these
princesses and other persons who they declared having prostrated
themselves with the princesses before Dasak and Dino; they also
brought up against them many other accusations known to the King
only; the crime of idolatry is the only one which has been revealed
to the public. The King punished severely these princes called
Tewoderos, Galowdewos, Amde Seyon, Zara Abreham and others whose
names I cannot recollect, as well as his daughters Asnaf Somera, Del
Samere and others. He then summoned a great assembly, and
showing those who composed it the pains and heavy punishment
inflicted on his children, he said to them: "See how I have
acted with my children; in my zeal for God, I have not spared them
for having sinned against Him. Now, say whether you consider
this calvary sufficient or if, for the glory of god, we should still
increase it". Then all the people present burst into tears and
replied: "What punishment could be added to this one, O King our
Lord, for they are on the point of death". Some of the royal
progeny died at the place of torture and others at their quarters.
Besides there was a great number of Ethiopians whose names I do not
know, who were put to death or condemned to other pains, for in these
accusations brought by Zara Seyon, Taowqa Berhan and Gabre Krestos,
these sons of Satan, were comprised judges, governors, monks,
poor and rich; but afterwards the accusers were arrested
themselves, punished severely for their evil deeds and condemned to
imprisonment. Zara Seyon died where he was imprisoned, uttering these
words: "See how Abba Endreyas of Dabra Libanos pierces me with a
lance of fire". For it was on his accusation that this prior was
seized and imprisoned and died in his prison. As for Gabra Krestos,
the King Baeda Maryam seized him later and killed him, and Taowqa
Berhan died in prison.

How the King reorganised the administration of Ethiopia which he
had previously entrusted to his daughters.

The King named in each province
an Adagsh to whom he gave, according to the district, the title of
Raq Masre or of Hagano. Similarly he took in hand the administration
of the clergy and nothing remained outside his authority. He directed
to Dabra Libanos the revenues of Shoa which had been granted to a
Tsahafe Lam155 and those destined for the maintenance of
some Tsewa which had been granted to Baala Damo, Baala Diho, Jan
Shanqa and Badel Dagan. As for other revenues of Ethiopia, he
ear­marked for himself alone and directed their yield for the
maintenance of his table and for his personal needs.

King made also the following prescriptions: When you invoke the name
of God, all you Christians, say at first: "I prostrate myself
before the magnificence of his Kingship", then invoke his name.
Likewise, when you will want to invoke the name of our Lady Mary,
say: "It is meet to prostrate oneself before her virginity,"
then invoke it. Finally, when you hear our word or when you appear
before us, say, always prostrating youselves: "We prostrate
ourselves before the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, who gave us
as King, Zara Yaqob". After a reign of thirty five years, during
which he made all these prescriptions, fixed and strengthened
institutions and had written new work, our King Zara Yaqob died in
peace at Dabra Berhan.

I have just told the story of
our king, Zara Yaqob, the peer of the elect disciples and the
exterminator of the Jews. May God receive him in his celestial court,
which has always been the goal of his desires, and may He prolong the
days of his son Lebna Dengel, without that his glory be diminished,
till the disappearance of heaven and earth. Amen.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, on him be praises and blessings, share with
our King Zara Yaqob the celestial Jerusalem, and his temple, without
examining his deeds and without judging him severely; may He grant
his son Lebna Dengel the power to destroy the unbelievers; may He
bless his reign and guard for ever his body and soul against all
blemish ! Amen.

3 The herald acted
as a public crier.

4 Hayq is on the
confines of Shoa and Geshe. According to Ludolf (Comment ad
Hist Ethiop., p. 264) exile was the punish­ment reserved
for the nobility

5 The Aqabe Saat
(guardian of the hour) was one of the principal court officials
in Ethiopia.

6 Gift of Sion.

7 The Djagual.

8 The Amharic
Malkana means governor or director.

9 Bent Waded:
only the gate; important royal officials ranking as
principal chamberlains.

10 The house of
Solomon through the Queen of Sheba.

11 One of the chief
judges of the kingdom.

12 A monastery in

13 Satan has
glorified him.

14 A place of

15 An official of
the royal household.

16 Majordomo or

17 General of the

18 Title of a
provincial governor.

19 Gar-ad, one of
the numerous titles conferred on governors of provinces.

20 Hadya, a kingdom
in the south of Ethiopia.

21 Title conferred
on favourite wives of the King.

22 Lady of the Right.

23 The King used to
invite chiefs to " come to his door."

24 Gadayto, a
district of Hadya.

25 On the Hawash

26 All districts of

27 A locality which
cannot be placed with exactitude.

28 Basar Shotal
(dagger for the enemy), probably the name of a crack regiment.

29 i.e , priests
and monks.

30 This vision is
later attributed to the King himself.

31 A regiment (?)

32 Amba, mountain.

33 Cambric.

34 Silk cloth

35 Probably the
main gate, today known as Dadj Salamta.

36 A palisaded

37 Raq Masarotj is
the plural of Rao; Masare, an official of the royal household

38 Jan Masare,
another official of the royal household, a master of ceremonies
who introduces foreigners to the throne.

39 i.e., their
robes of office.

40 One of the
divisions of the royal court.

41 Principal

42 The Gate of
Food, i.e., the kitchen gate

43 Tent of

44 Tent of the

45 The Lebanon
Monastery in Shoa.

46 The Monastery of
Mary in Begemder.

47 Bizan in

48 On an island in
Lake Tana.

49 The Halleluia
Convent in Tigre near Aksum.

50 A Shanqalla
village near the Mogereib river, an affluent of the Barka.

51 In Arnhara.

52 In the province
of Fatagar.

53 i.e., the
benefactor, a honorific title of the King.

54 Servant of the

55 Plant of Mary.

56 Servant of

57 Upper front.

58 One of the high
judges, guardian of the royal household.

59 Lower front.

60 Fatagar House,
perhaps where the revenues from Fatagar Province were stored.

61 The word Tsewa
means soldier in Amharic. tout here it seems to mean guard
regiments attendant on the King or pro­vincial garrisons.
All the names that follow are the names of the different

62 Guardian.


64 Plural of
Azaz, "he who commands"; another plural
Azazotj; modern meaning, majordomo; contemporary
mean­ing, royal secretary.

65 Probably
ceremonial apron.

66 Nobles, sing,

67 Supreme judge of
appeal for ecclesiastics.

68 Another supreme

69 Title of one of
the officials of the royal household.

70 Names of Tsewas
similar to those mentioned before.

71 Royal jewel
house and wardrobe.

72 "Royal
Tent,’ i.e., the Nazret Bet was as large as 30 tents.

73 The Barakat Bet
where presents brought for the King were deposited.

74 Ornate garments.

75 Gera Baaltehat,
Queen of the Left, Qan Baaltehat, Queen of the Right; Baaleta
Shehena may be another title of Qan Baaltshat.

76 Probably the
royal chaplain.

77 According to
Bruce, one of the chief judges also charged with driving away
hyenas and other wild beasts from the gate of the royal palace.

78 Among the 44
chief judges there were four Liqa Matone Qaqetoj.

79 Probably
governors of Dabra Djego and Damo.

Wagedat, Shaname and Magarga, meaning unknown.

3 thoughts on “The Chronicle of the Emperor Zara Yaqob (1434-1468)

  1. Honor redeemed series, Holy, holy, holy, The name of God will be blessed forever and ever. Sincerly Kevin L. Scales (Seraphim)

  2. Atse (Emperor) Zara Yaqob is the greatest ruler Ethiopia ever had. I know it’s wired, but I wish that I was born during his reign.

    59 years after his death, Ethiopia was invaded by Ahmed Gragn. Most of the great architectures, paintings and texts were destroyed and much of the country treasures were looted in those 16 years (1527-43 AD).

    The Gallas (Oromos) also started to invade Ethiopia beginning from 1520s and also lead waste to much of the country.

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