Tekle Giyorgis II

Tekle Giyorgis II
Emperor of Ethiopia
Reign 11 June 1868 11 July 1871
Proclamation August 1868 (Debre Zebit)
Predecessor Tewodros II
Successor Yohannes IV
Died c. 1873
Abba Garima Monastery, Adwa, Ethiopian Empire
Spouse Dinqinesh Mercha
House House of Zagwe
Father Wagshum Gebre Medhin
Mother Woizero Aitchesh
Religion Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo

Tekle Giyorgis II (Ge'ez ተክለ ጊዮርጊስ, "Plant of Saint George" born Wagshum Gobeze ዋግሹም ጎበዜ lit. "Governor of Wag, my courageous one"; died 1873) was nəgusä nägäst (Emperor) of Ethiopia from 1868 to 1871.

Gobeze based his claim to the Imperial throne on a dual heritage: through his father Wagshum Gebre Medhin, he was the heir to the old Zagwe dynasty and the rulers of Lasta, and his mother was a descendant of the Solomonic dynasty. His principal rivals for sole rule were Menelik II (who was at the time king of Shewa), and Dejazmach Kassai (the future Emperor Yohannes IV). Gobeze married the sister of the latter, Dinqinesh Mercha.

Because Tekle Giyorgis's rule was so ephemeral, some lists of the Emperors of Ethiopia omit his name. In Ethiopia today, he is virtually unknown, in contrast to his celebrated predecessor and successor, respectively Tewodros II and Yohannes IV.


Gobeze enters the historical record when he raised the banner of rebellion in Lasta in 1864, six years after his father Wagshum Gebre Medhin had been executed by Emperor Tewodros II for supporting the rebel Agew Niguse.[1]

Gobeze made his opening move even before the suicide of Emperor Tewodros II at the end of the British Expedition to Ethiopia. Towards the end of 1867, he began to march on Tewodros' fortress at Maqdala, but stopped about 50 kilometres (30 miles) away then turned to fight Tiso Gobeze, who had revolted against Tewodros and had control of Begemder.[2] Tiso was killed in battle at Qwila. In August 1868, Wagshum Gobeze proclaimed himself Emperor Tekle Giyorgis II of Ethiopia at Soqota in his district of Wag. However, because Abuna Salama, head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church died in October 1867, there was no one to properly crown him.

Donald Crummey comments on Gobeze's motivation for adopting "Tekle Giyorgis" as his regnal name "was unmistakeable, and would have been clear to each peasant, let alone the learned. The previous ruler of that throne name had reigned off and on during the last two decades of the 18th century and had entered tradition with the nickname Fassame Mangest, 'Ender of the Kingdom', or, very loosely, 'Last of the Line'".[3] In addition, Tekle Giyorgis sought the support of the Ethiopian Church, which had been alienated by Tewodros' behavior, by restoring to the churches of Gondar the lands his predecessor had taken away, gave them generous quantities of equipment, and arranged for a special burial and commemoration for Abuna Salama. Crummey quotes the words of the chronicler, "After Fasil there was no one who did for Gondar as Ase Takla Giyorgis did."[3]

Diplomatic appeals to Tekle Giyorgis' rivals failed to gain their acknowledgement of his new rank, although none of them were secure enough in their own territories to confront him. In Gojjam, Tekle Giyorgis placed replaced the head of the local branch of the Solomonic dynasty, with his own favored princeling, Ras Adal, and tied Adal more closely to him by marrying him to his sister Woizero Laqech Gebre Medhin. In Shewa, Tekle Giyorgis arranged for his half brother Hailu Wolde Kiros to marry Woizero Tisseme Darge, daughter of Ras Darge Sahle Selassie and thus first cousin to the King of Shewa, Menelik. Tekle Giyorgis himself was married to Dinqinesh Mercha, sister of his Tigrean rival Dejazmatch Kassai. None of these ties of marriage would ultimately help solidify his hold on the throne.[4] Dejazmach Kassai enlisted the services of John Kirkham to train his army in the weapons the British had left him, and in 1870, having gained access to the sea, an advantage none of the Dejazmach's rivals had, successfully obtained a new Abuna. Meanwhile, Menelik busied himself in Shewa, having decided according to Harold Marcus to allow his two rivals fight it out, despite Tekle Giyorgis' threatening march through Wollo to the borders of Shewa.[5]

Emperor Tekle Giyorgis knew he must stand alone against Kassai, but did not move until June 1871 when he crossed the Takazze River in Tigray. On 21 June the two armies met at Zulawu to fight a day-long battle; although Dejazmach Kassai had the smaller force it was better disciplined, and as Kirkham latter wrote, "with 12 guns and 800 musketmen the battle was won against an undisciplined lot of men with match lock guns and spears."[6] Tekle Giyorgis came off the worse and retreated to the Mareb River the next day. However, the Dejazmach took another route, outflanked his opponent, and forced him into a cul-de-sac at Adwa, where they fought the final battle on 11 July. "Leading a cavalry charge into the midst of Kasa's force, Tekla Giyorgis was wounded, had his mount killed under him, and was taken prisoner," Marcus recounts. "His demoralized army collapsed and all his generals were captured with thousands of soldiers and camp followers."[7] On 21 January 1872, Kassai proclaimed himself Emperor of Ethiopia with the name of Yohannes IV.

Tekle Giyorgis was blinded and imprisoned with his brother and mother at the Abba Garima Monastery near Adwa, where he died or was executed some years later.[8]


  1. Sven Rubenson, King of Kings: Tewodros of Ethiopia (Addis Ababa: Haile Selassie I University, 1966), pp. 75f, 80f
  2. Hormuzd Rassam, Narrative of the British Mission to Theodore of Abyssinia (London, 1869), vol. 2 pp. 251f
  3. 1 2 Crummey, "Imperial Legitimacy and the Creation of Neo-Solomonic Ideology in 19th-Century Ethiopia (Légitimité impériale et création d'une idéologie néo-salomonienne en Éthiopie au XIXe siècle)", Cahiers d'Études Africaines, Cahier 109, Mémoires, Histoires, Identités 2, 28 (1988), p. 23
  4. Tekle Tsadik Mekuria, "Atse Yohannes ina Ye Ityopia Andinet" (Amharic - Emperor Yohannes and Ethiopian Unity), (Addis Ababa, Berhanena Selam Press 1989)
  5. Harold G. Marcus, The Life and Times of Menelik II: Ethiopia 1844-1913, 1975 (Lawrenceville: Red Sea Press, 1995), pp. 43f
  6. Quoted in Marcus, Menelik II, p. 35
  7. Marcus, Menelik II, p. 35
  8. Marcus, Menelik II p. 35, claims that he was imprisoned on an amba or mountaintop.
Preceded by
Tewodros II
Emperor of Ethiopia
Succeeded by
Yohannes IV
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