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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AMSALU Tefera, Addis Ababa University/Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Dǝrsanä Ura’el is an Ethiopic text on the homilies and miracles of Archangel Uriel. As recent studies show, two recensions are known, namely the “short” and the “long” (cf. Caqout 1955, Beylot 2012, Amsalu Tefera 2017). According to the colophon of the manuscript containing the short recension (EMML 1835, ff. 76r, 24v-247v), it was composed during the time of Emperor Zär’a Ya’ǝqob (1434-1468). Current knowledge regarding the date of the long recension focuses on the 19th cent., and scholars agree that it must have been composed no earlier than the time of Emperor Menilek II (1889-1913; cf. Caquot 1955, Lusini 2005, Getatchew 2011, Beylot 2012). I argue against this notion and propose that the date of the longer recension must be assigned to a time prior to the 19th cent. The homiliary (long recension) is a multilayered text so that it is not easy to conclude that it was, as a whole, composed during a specific time and situation. In this paper, I will list both internal and external textual evidence in support of my thesis. Firstly, there is a colophon (cf. EMML 1942, f.85r; EMML 7262, f.124v; EMDA 39, 69v) in the Dǝrsanä Ura’el which states that it was composed by Aqabe Sä‘at Yoḥannǝs during the time of Na‘od (1494 – 1508) and Lǝbnä Dǝngǝl (1508 – 1540). Secondly, other Ethiopic texts (dated 17–18 cent.) mention Dǝrsanä Ura’el that cast doubt on the 19th cent. as the date of composition. The third plausible argument is the claim of Emperor Menilek that he suppressed inaccurate versions of Dǝrsanä Ura’el and propagated the authentic form of the text (cf. EMML 6694, fol. 145r). This suggests that the document existed in a variety of textual traditions prior to and during his reign.