The Agame (Tigrinya ዓጋመ ʿāgāme, Amharic ዓጋሜ āgāmē, "fruitful") is a former province in northern Ethiopia, now part of the Tigray Region. Its inhabitants include the Irob people, a region where tradition states the legendary Makeda (the Queen of Sheba) was born and raised. The aristocratic house had its capital at Adigrat.

Zalambessa is an area in Agame province that Ethiopia and Eritrea have recently fought over.[1]


Agame is one of the oldest regions of Ethiopia, being part of the Kingdom of D'mt in northern Ethiopia and Eritrea that would develop into the Kingdom of Aksum.It was a main center of Aksumite culture (second only to Western Tigray, where the capital was located), with a distinct sub-culture that separated the two regions from that of Western Tigray (Shire, Axum, Yeha), Central Eritrea (Seraye, Hamasien, Akele Guzai and Adulis), and frontier areas in northern Eritrea.[2][3] The first mention of Agame was in the Monumentum Adulitanum of the early 3rd century, where it is listed as one of the districts conquered by the unnamed king of the inscription;[4][5] however, its next mention is not until the sixteenth century in a charter written during the reign of Emperor Lebna Dengel.[6] During medieval times, Agame was part of a larger province of Bur in Ethiopia, which also included some northeastern Afar lowlands, and the Buri Peninsula; Agame and Akkele Guzay were part of "Upper" (La'ilay) Bur, while the lowlands were further distinguished as "Lower" (Tahtay).[7]

The Agame dynasty

The local noble family had ruled over Agame from the "Era of Princes" until the Derg deposed Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974. This family retained sufficient power and respect following the Italian conquest in 1936, that the Italian Viceroy Pietro Badoglio proposed in a telegram to Benito Mussolini that some of the old Ethiopian ruling class be co-opted into Italian East Africa: "In the region between Shoa and Eritrea, there were local noble families which it was not convenient to slight because they had exercised command for generations and have authority and prestige which can be valuable for us."[8]

"Official" Ethiopian records traces the origins of this family to the marriage of King Margedir of Rome and Eleni, sister of King Solomon.[9] The current lineage of the rulers of Agame is as follows:

Kumenit begot Woldu,
Woldu begot Sabagadis,
Sabagadis begot Aregawi,
Aregawi begot Sebhat Aregawi,
Sebhat begot (daughter) Bizu, (who married Desta)
Desta and Bizu, begot Atsbeha,
Atsbeha begot Buzunish.[10]


  1. Statement by the Zalambesa-Irob region committee on the boundary demarcation (DEHAI News)
  2. Stuart Munro-Hay, Aksum: An African Civilization of Late Antiquity. Edinburgh: University Press, 1991. Online version (pdf), pp. 36-37.
  3. Rodolfo Fattovich, "Some Data for the study of Cultural History in Ancient Northern Ethiopia", Nyame Akuma, Newsletter of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists in America, May 1977, pp. 6-18.
  4. Munro-Hay, Aksum, pp. 186-7.
  5. L. P. Kirwan, "The Christian Topography and the Kingdom of Axum", Geographical Journal, 1972, pp. 172-3
  6. G.W.B. Huntingford, The historical geography of Ethiopia from the first century AD to 1704, (Oxford University Press: 1989), p. 99
  7. "Bur" in Uhlig, Siegbert, ed. Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: A-C. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz KG, 2003.
  8. Richard P.K. Pankhurst, "The Secret History of the Italian Fascist Occupation of Ethiopia, 1935-1941, 2"
  9. Royal and Ruling Houses of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas: Tigray (Royal Ark website)
  10. Genealogy information provided courtesy by the board of the "Association For The Preservation Of Ras Sebhat". Adigrat, Ethiopia.
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