Ethiopians are celebrating Emperor Tewordos II on the occasion of what would have been his 200th birthday. Who is emperor Tewodros II?
January 14, 2018
As Ethiopians are celebrating Emperor Teworos today, on his birthday, in the cyber world and in Ethiopia, we thought it is necessary to share a quick read. The celebration in Gonder is spectacular from video footage that was released on social media. So who is Tewodros II? Obviously, it is not possible to do justice to his history in such a short blog but just too high light remarkable achievements – in fact, the notion of remarkable, in this context, could be open for interpretation. The greatest achievement of Emperor Tewodros is that he became an epitome of what an Ethiopian value is all about – loving Ethiopia to death.
Historians have extensively studied Emperor Tewodros II (Aba Taket Kassa in his horse name) who ruled Ethiopia from 1855 to 1968. And their deliberation is that he was a visionary Ethiopian leader who was well ahead of his time.
He rose from a very humble beginning to the Ethiopian imperial crown defeating important regional feudal lords in Ethiopia including Kassa Mircha of Tigray ( later Emperor Yohannes IV) who led the British expeditionary force to Meqdala, Emperor Tewodros’s last stronghold and fortress where he committed suicide rather than surrendering to British forces.
Apart from uniting Ethiopia which was languishing for nearly two centuries under contending feudal lords(this period is known in Ethiopian history as the Zemene Mesafint – the English equivalent word is the Era of Princes), Tewodros undertook a range of social, economic and political reforms which were rather considered to be revolutionary given the time. His reforms brought about much resistance from various regional lords and Emperor Tewordros spent much of his time in power dealing with resisting lords in Wollo and Shewa.
Among the various reforms, he abolished slavery (note that the period predates even Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation policy in the United States) arguing that “we are all slaves of the holy trinity” which speaks to Christian theology viewpoint and it is important to note that Emperor Tewodros was a well read product of church education. He also abolished polygamy by state decree.
In terms of state machinery, he established a standing modern national army and salaried government officials.
His economic reform as it relates to land brought him on a collision course with the Ethiopian church as he sought to cut down church land holdings in the country and the number of priests and deacons serving in a church.
In terms of his personality, Alemu Aga’s begena song below captured it very well. Compassionate, brave, giving, and merciless to those who deserve it.
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