Yaqob of Ethiopia

Yaqob of Ethiopia

Yaqob I (Ge'ez ያዕቆብ "yāʿiqōb", Amh. "yā'iqōb"; died 1638) was "IPA|nəgusä nägäst" (throne name Malak Sagad II, መልአክ ሰገድ, "mal'ak sagad", Amh. "mel'āk seged", "to whom the angel bows"; 1597 - 1603; 1604 - 1606) of Ethiopia, and a member of the Solomonic dynasty. He was the eldest surviving son of Sarsa Dengel; his mother was either Queen Maryam Sena (so E. A. Wallis Budge), or Woizero Harego of the Beta Israel. Because Yaqob had at least three sons before his death, it is likely he was born no later than 1590.

Sarsa Dengel had intended to make his nephew Za Dengel his successor, but under the influence of his wife Maryam Sena and a number of his sons-in-law, he instead chose Yaqob, who was seven when he came to the throne, with Ras Antenatewos of Begemder as his regent. Za Dengel and the other rival for the throne – Susenyos, the son of Abeto Fasilides – were exiled, but Za Dengel escaped to the mountains around Lake Tana, while Susenyos found refuge in the south amongst the Oromo.

After six years, when Yaqob came to adulthood, he quarrelled with Ras Antenatewos, and had him replaced with Ras Za Sellase. However, Za Sellase deposed Yaqob, exiling him to Ennarea, and made his cousin Za Dengel Emperor. When Za Dengel proved more troublesome than Yaqob, Za Sellase recalled Yaqob from exile.

Not long after Za Dengel was defeated and killed in battle, Susenyos marched north at the head of an army raised amongst the Oromo, and sent a message to Ras Antenatewos proclaiming himself as king and demanding support from Antenatewos; unable to communicate with Za Sellase, the Ras sent his troops to support Susenyos. A similar message to Za Sellase only served to steel Za Sellase into action: he marched on Susenyos, who, sick from fever, retreated again into the mountains of Amhara. This lack of resolve convinced Ras Antenatewos to withdraw his forces, and he joined with Ras Za Sellase to support Yaqob.

Susenyos managed to first surprise and decimate the forces of Za Sellase in Begemder; when Za Sellase escaped to Yaqob's camp, the Emperor's derision caused Za Sellase to defect to Susenyos. For several days, the two armies maneuvered in the mountains of Gojjam, to at last meet in the Battle of Gol , where Yaqob and Abuna Petros II were killed in battle, and his troops slaughtered.

Yaqob had married some years before a foreigner named Nazarena, by whom he had three sons, one of whom had died before the Battle of Gol. Nazarena sent her sons to safety in exile: Cosmas, the older, went south and was not heard of again; the younger, Saga Krestos, went to the safety of the Kingdom of Sennar where he was treated well and came of age. When King Rabat proposed that Saga Krestos marry his daughter, Saga Krestos refused, and was forced to flee to another refuge, adopting Roman Catholicism while at Jerusalem. Eventually he found his way to Rome (1632), and eventually to Paris, where he was given lodgings by Cardinal Richelieu. Saga Krestos died of pleurisy in 1638 at the age of 38.

References

* Partly based on the narrative of E. A. Wallis Budge, "A History of Ethiopia: Nubia and Abyssinia", 1928 (Oosterhout, the Netherlands: Anthropological Publications, 1970). The sections about Yaqob and his cousin Za Dengel cover pp. 375-383.


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