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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Galina A. BALASHOVA, The Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia

Ethiopia has created its own distinct culture. Throughout its history, its culture has contributed to the nation's spiritual experience, which was passed it on to the next generations. In this way the multiethnic realm (more than 80 peoples) was able to develop into a political unity, without which it would have been impossible to achieve higher living standards and civic unity and determine the society's developmental goals. King Ezana played a pivotal role in the development of cultural policy in the 2nd-4th centuries BC. He made Ge'ez the official language of the Kingdom of Aksum and introduced vowel indication into the Ge'ez script. The king's other major reform was the adoption of Christianity as the state religion, which had far-reaching consequences for the entire region. Emperor Lalibela (1190-1228) during his reign built 11 fabulous subterranean rock-hewn churches in the former capital of Lalibela. The churches have such an unusual internal architecture that they have been registered by UNESCO as world's heritage sites, and Lalibela himself was canonized by the Ethiopian Church. The cultural policy of Emperor Amda Seyon (1312-1342) placed the emphasis on the development of literature, mainly in the field of historiography. It was during this period that the important book The Glory of the Kings was written, based on the legend that the Ethiopian kings descend from the biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and that their son Menelik stole a great Jewish relic, the Ark of the Covenant. Zera Yacob's (1434-1468) cultural policy focused on harmonizing church rituals and defining the relationship between clergy and laity. He wrote 8 books on various topics, including The Book of Light, The Book of Nativity, etc. His other innovation was the translation of the Coptic Synaxarium, a collection of short hagiographies of saints of the Coptic Church, to which Ethiopian saints were gradually added. This created the basis for the creation of an indigneousl hagiographic literature in Ethiopia. Thus, the era of Zera Yacob became a turning point not only in the development of the state and the church, but also in the history of Ethiopian literature. These monarchs pursued cultural policies that contributed significantly to the development of the culture of their country.