Menelik I

Menelik I (called Bäynä Ləḥkəm in the Kebra Nagast; also named Ebna la-Hakim, Arabic: Ibn Al-Hakim, "Son of the Wise"[1]), first Solomonic Emperor of Ethiopia, is traditionally believed to be the son of King Solomon of ancient Israel and Makeda, ancient Queen of Sheba. He is alleged to have ruled around 950 BC, according to traditional sources.[2][3] Tradition credits him with bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia, following a visit to Jerusalem to meet his father upon reaching adulthood.

According to the Kebra Nagast, King Solomon had intended on sending one son of each of his nobles and one son of each temple priest with Menelik upon his return to his mother's kingdom. He is supposed to have had a replica made of the Ark for them to take with them. Upon the death of Queen Makeda, Menelik assumed the throne with the new title of Emperor and King of Kings of Ethiopia.

According to legend, he founded the Solomonic dynasty of Ethiopia that ruled Ethiopia with few interruptions for close to three thousand years (and 225 generations later ended with the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974).

A counterpoint to this legend is that kings of Ethiopia are only attested in record from the 8th century BC, when there was a kingdom named D'mt located in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia that existed during the late 8th to 5th centuries BC. Few inscriptions by or about this kingdom exist. As a result, it is not known whether Dʿmt ended as a civilization before the Kingdom of Axum was established on the Red Sea coast in the 5th century BC, evolved into the Aksumite state, or was one of the smaller states united in the Aksumite kingdom possibly around the beginning of the 1st century AD.[4]

The medieval incarnation of the alleged Solomonic dynasty did not come into power until 1262 AD, claiming descent from the Kings of Aksum. The dynasty, a bastion of Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, came to rule Ethiopia on 10 Nehasé 1262 AD EC[5] (August 10, AD 1270) when Yekuno Amlak overthrew the last ruler of the Zagwe dynasty. Their predecessors, the Zagwe dynasty, were said not to be of "the house of Israel" (i.e. of Solomon and Menelik). The claims of descent of the Aksumite kings preceding the Zagwe dynasty are uncertain, though early pagan inscription denote the King as "son of the unconquerable [god] Mahrem", while medieval Ethiopian sources ascribe them a similar claim of descent. This is consistent with the earliest records that testify that one half of Ethiopians followed the laws of Moses, while the other half worshipped pagan gods.

A 2004 short documentary, Menelik I, was shot in Ethiopia that tells the story of the son of the Queen of Sheba through tableaux images and music.[6]

See also


  1. The name "Menelik" is Amharic (a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia) in origin, and has two meanings:
    1. "Son of the wise man"
    2. "What will he send?"
  2. "The Ark of the Covenant: The Ethiopian Tradition". Retrieved 2010-05-19.
  3. "Regnal Chronologies" claims his reign was around 204 - 179 BC, but this is implausibly late.
  4. Uhlig, Siegbert (ed.), Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: D-Ha. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005. p. 185.
  5. A. K. Irvine, "Review: The Different Collections of Nägś Hymns in Ethiopic Literature and Their Contributions." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. School of Oriental and African Studies, 1985.
  6. Menelik l at the Internet Movie Database, Menelik l on YouTube
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