Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Mauricio LAPCHIK MINSKI, Graduate Student, Department of Comparative Religion, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Isreal

Son of Amda Seyon (1314-1344) and Zar'a Ya`qob’s grandfather (1434-1468), Sayfa Ar’ad was shadowed both by his father’s “Glorious victories” and by his grandson’s fundamental role in the development and [r]evolution that permanently changed the characteristics of the Ethiopian Church from the fifteenth century onwards. Indeed, it is widely recognized that both Amda Seyon and Zar'a Ya`qob were the two main rulers of the golden period of Church and State in Ethiopia between the supposed restoration of the Solomonic dynasty (1270) to the eve of the Muslim invasions during the sixteenth century. This trend, on the one hand, is largely due to the existence of easily accessed chronicles and historical records that directly describes their rule, and on the other hand, a result of their tremendous achievements and exploits. However, other sources, such as hagiographies and literary and religious works that arose during this golden period – and in this case, during the second half of the fourteenth century – may help us to unveil some historical events and deeds concerning the other rulers of this age that were systematically forgotten and ignored by historians and research. This paper aims to reconstruct, reconsider and analyze the main social, political and religious events which took place during Sayfa Ar’ad’s reign. The heir of Amda Seyon ruled for almost thirty years during one of the most intriguing and turbulent periods following the restoration and consolidation of the Solomonic dynasty in Ethiopia. Not only the geographical boundaries of the Ethiopian kingdom were expanded, but also the diversity of its people. Some traditions concerning facts that had been attributed to Amda Seyon were in fact related to him. Particularly noteworthy were the emergence of new monastic movements and religious ideas took place under Sayfa Ar’ad’s reign, as well as the intensification of some of the fiercest clashes between the monastic clergy and the king, and between the Christian kingdom and the surrounding Muslim peoples. A reconstruction of Sayfa Ar’ad’s period of rule will help us to understand the appearance of new religious ideas and movements, as well as political and social conflicts that dramatically changed the development of the Church, the State, and the society in Medieval Ethiopia.