Final Report: Some Interesting Historical Places in the Chronicle of Galāwdewos
Some interesting historical places in Ethiopia from the Chronicle of Galāwdewos
by Solomon Gebreyes Beyene and Pietro Maria Liuzzo
In the second report, we have described how we have marked up all the places attested in the Chronicle of Galawdewos and how they have been represented according to the chronology and activities of the king. Finally, in this last report we would like to give a brief description of some places mentioned in the Chronicle.
In this report, we shall thus furnish a brief account of the historical description of five chosen places (i.e. Dabra Dāmmo, ʾIfāt, Waǧarā, Waǧ and Faṭagār) which occupy an important place during the king’s reign. First of all you find here an updated view of all the toponyms marked up in the text. 180 toponyms have been marked up in the Gǝʿǝz text assigning them a @ref attribute with the pleiades id, geonames id, wikidata id, but most often with places id in our gazetteer of ethiopic places (111).
These places we have selected for the final report are not just locations where the major events took place during the reign of Galāwdewos. They include the place where the king took refuge during the war and began his political career, the place where he organised his military army, a battlefield where he successfully defeated his strong political contender, the place where the king settled after he maintained a relative peace and stability following the end of the turbulent period and, finally, the place where he fought the Muslims and was killed by them respectively. We will give a brief account of each of these places in connection to the king, followed by a brief historical description of these places and finally, we also report on where and how these places have been mentioned in the other relevant historical sources. In the record linked as soon as the website will go live, you will find updated information about the places.
The political life of King Galāwdewos begins in the northern province of the Christian kingdom, Tǝgrāy, mainly at the monastery of Dabra Dāmmo, a relatively inaccessible place during the continuous assault of the Muslim army. The monastery served as a shelter for the royal family of Lǝbna Dǝngǝl and his son Galāwdewos after the king was defeated by the Muslim forces of ʾAḥmad. After a deep despair and nakedness, Lǝbna Dǝngǝl, the father of king Galāwdewos, died in this monastery and Galāwdewos was crowned as next king of the Christian kingdom.
The monastery of Dabra Dāmmo was not only significant in this tormented sixteenth century, but its importance goes back to sixth century, when it was the first monastery founded by one of the nine holy men who came to teach Christianity, ʾAbbā ʾAragāwi Mikāʾel. Since then it has enjoyed a high reputation as a traditional church educational institution, where several prominent religious missionaries and monastic leaders have been trained, including ʾabbā ʾIyasu Moʾā and ʾAbuna Takla Haymānot. So, it played a pivotal role in the expansion of Christianity in its early years and was also a center of manuscript production and training in manuscript production. Following the foundation of other monasteries like Ḥayq ʾƎstifanos and Dabra Libānos it was no more the pre-dominant monastery, yet it was important in the Christian Highland until it was looted and destructed by the Turkish forces in 1557.
Due to these facts and its particular geographical nature, being surrounded by mountainous cliffs, it has been the subject of various historical works concerned with historical geography, which have referred to Dabra Dāmmo as a passing reference, such as hagiographies, royal chronicles and travelers accounts. Dabra Dāmmo appears in the hagiography of ʾAbbā ʾAragāwi Mikāʾel (Guidi 1896) and in the hagiographies of the two holy men in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries–ʾIyasus Moʾa and Takla Haymānot as the most important holy place. In this regard, Gadla Iyasus Moʾā recounted that Iyasus Moʾā in his early age joined the monastery of Dabra Dāmmo (Kur 1965, 9 line 20).
The royal chronicle of a king of the fifteenth century Christian kingdom of Ethiopia, Zarʾa Yāʿǝqob (1434–1468) mentioned Dabra Dāmmo as a monastery where religious men were anointed as monks (Perruchon 1893, 12). Barradas (1634) a Jesuit missionary who wrote about the province of Tǝgrāy in his book describes the geographical feature of Dabra Dāmmo (Barradas 1996, 158–161). He describes the place as follows.
It was to this amba, which nature has made impregnable, that the Queen took refuge out of dread for the Moorish king Granha […] as it seemed to her and to her people that this amba was secure and would keep her so. […] At the summit of this mountain is a beautiful meadow, all even and almost flat enough, as it would seem, to contain a large city. This medow is located on a level with the surrounding hills, which on the northern side forms a tip and is what is closest to the amba. […] On the crest of the mountain there is a church named after Abba Aragavy, who was one of the Nine Priests who came from Rome to Ethiopia to spread the faith, and they hold and venerate him as a saint.
And the other European travelers, Paez (1622) mentions several times the monastery of Dabra Dāmmo. We quote only two passages as examples.
… she should have put them at Amba Damo, a day’s journey from Axum, which is much stronger then Guixen amba (Boavida et al. 2011, 129)
… on a mountain in the kingdom of Tigre, which they call Amba Damo, which is so secure that one cannot climb up except by means of ropes, where there is a large monastery of monks. (Boavida et al. 2011, 417)
It would be very interesting in the future to mark up also these sources as attestations of this place name and analyse the variation of the toponymy.
After being crowned in the monastery Dabra Dāmmo, Galāwdewos left Tǝgrāy and arrived at Šawā then he stationed at a locality in the sultanate of ʾIfāt, which is our second concern in this report, in 1541. He was moving here and there and finally stationed at one of the mountains in ʾIfāt where he fought twice with the son of Imam ʾAḥmad, Naṣraddin. Naṣraddin won the first confrontation, but in the second confrontation he was defeated by King Galāwdewos. We do not know anything more precisely about the exact place where he stopped and where the battles took place.
ʾIfāt was a historical region and sultanate in central Šawā flourished around 1285. It is an integral part of the Rift Valley, the area of ʾIfāt served for millennia as a point of contact between the pastoral or nomadic economic formations of the eastern lowlands and ancient agricultural societies of the Ethiopian highlands. Islam must have been introduced into the region in early times. The growth of the power of ʾIfāt came to a halt in the 14th century when it was incorporated into the Christian Kingdom. The strategic importance of ʾIfāt placed it against the Christian state consolidated by the rulers of Solomonic dynasty, whose ambition was to control the caravan trade to the Red sea. The area of ʾIfāt was reduced to a battleground following the war of the Christian and Muslim in the sixteenth century and followed by the expansion of the Oromo people.
ʾIfāt had won important value in the study of historical geography both in the local works and traveler accounts. The Chronicle of ʿAmda Ṣǝyon recounted the campaign of the king against the Sultanate of ʾIfāt. The entire chronicle is devoted of the warrior’s king against the Sultan of ʾIfāt Sabraddin (Marrassini 1993, 56, 60, 78, 112). It also appears in Chronicle of Zarʾa Yāʿǝqob which reports that the king appointed a governor for the province of ʾIfāt which indicates that it was still part of the Christian kingdom in 15th century (Perruchon 1893, 13).
Le roi plaça à la tête de chacune des provinces une de leurs soeurs chargée d’administrer le pays sous son autorité. […] dans Ifàt, ʾAmata Giorgis …
The king appointed to each province one of his encharged to administrate the country under his autority. […] in Ifat, ʾAmata Giorgis …
Having decisively defeated the Muslim leader, the son of the great ʾAḥmad, at ʾIfāt in 1542, King Galāwdewos led his campaign, crossing the Blue Nile, to Waǧarā, which is the third chosen place in this report, where he confronted the Muslim leader ʾAḥmad and killed him in 1543. Waǧarā is the landmark for the victory of King Galāwdewos, which is a district north of Lake Tanā and south-west of Semen, a high land region, inhabited mostly by the ʾAgaw.
It was one of the provinces in which Lǝbna Dǝngǝl sought refuge during the Muslim wars of the sixteenth century. After Lǝbna Dǝngǝl was defeated in the mid-1530s Waǧarā became the stronghold of the Muslim leader ʾAḥmad until he was defeated by King Galāwdewos forces in 1543. Minas and Śarṣa Dǝngǝl used Waǧarā as a staging ground for repeated campaigns against the Beta ʾƎsrāʾel of Semen who in 1585 raided and pillaged Waǧarā. In the 17th century, dissension and rebellion in Waǧarā persisted during the reign of Susǝnyos. Waǧarā had been also one of the regions where the Portuguese Jesuits proselytized: the Jesuits claimed that there were about 100, 000 Catholics in Waǧarā in 1630. During the 17th and 18th century, Waǧarā was a granary for Gondar. Under the mid-20th century, imperial administration, Waǧarā was an awrāǧǧā within Bagemdǝr composed of five waradās.
All medieval chronicles of the 14th, 15th and later 16th, 17th and 18th centuries recounted Waǧarā in connection to its religious and ethnic composition, agricultural fertility and vastness, which was certainly what led ʾAḥmad to station there after he defeated the Christian king Lǝbna Dǝngǝl. As we have already mentioned in our previous report, after he won ʾAḥmad in 1543, King Galāwdewos once again travelled to the South of the Christian kingdom again crossing the Blue Nile and the ʾAwāš river stationed in Waǧ, which is the fourth place subject of this report, to confront another strong war lord of ʾAḥmad, ʾAbbās whom he defeated in 1544.
Waǧ had an important place in the historical geography of the reign of King Galāwdewos. Waǧ is a historical region in Šawā south of the river Mugar which flows into the ʾAbbāy (Blue Nile) west of Dabra Libānos of Šawā. It was one of the seven districts of Šawā which contributed to troops to Yǝkuno ʾAmlāk for his campaign against the last Zagʷe king. It was also the native region of the 15th century 9th ʾǝč̣č̣age of Dabra Libānos. The history of Waǧ is closely connected to its neighbour on the east Faṭagār. ʿAmda Ṣǝyon is reported to have defeated the Zebdār of Waǧ and appointed a governor with the title Masfǝn. During the time of King Zarʾa Yāʿǝqob (1434–1468) the governor bore the title hǝgāno, a possible indication that the district was Islamic by that time. During the time of king Bāʿǝda Māryām it served as an important strategic region to conduct military campaigns against ʾAdal. Following the death of ʾAḥmad, Waǧ was also a strong hold of King Galāwdewos where he built his royal seat in 1550. In 1577, King Śarṣa Dǝngǝl, on his way to attack sultān of ʾAdal, passed through Waǧ. Waǧ is widely treated in several royal chronicles, hagiographies and traveler accounts. For example, it is represented in the Chronicle of Zarʾa Yāʿǝqob, one of the provinces of the Christian kingdom which was ruled by the governor Hegano (Perruchon 1893, 15).
Le titulaire de la même charge, qui était nommé Avvrâri Badjer dans la province de Dawârô, s’appelait Hêganô dans celle de Geber et de Wâdj
In the nineteenth year of his reign, King Galāwdewos led a campaign from his royal seat Waǧ in a place called Faṭagār to confront the invasion of the region by the Muslim state of ʾAdal. He was killed and they cut his head and took it as atrophy. Faṭagār was a large historical region (possibly once a Muslim sultanate). It was located in the south-east of Šawā on the northern shore of the ʾAwāš river. In the 14th–15th centuries, it was progressively integrated into the Christian empire. The region held a strategic position between the Christian empire and the southern Muslim sultanate. In the beginning of the sixteenth century, Faṭagār came back under the Muslims of ʾAdal .
The name Faṭagār appears for the first time in the chronicle of ʿAmda Ṣǝyon (1314-1344) where the muslim ruler claimed to appoint his own representatives in the region of Faṭagār (Marrassini 1993, 52).
Detto questo si levò, si mise in marcia ed arrivò alla terra dei cristiani, incendiò le chiese e uccise i cristiani, ed i superstiti li fece prigionieri, uomini e donne, e li convertì alla sua religione. Poi disse: “Nominerò dei governatori su tutte le regioni dell’Etiopia, così come li nomina il re di Sion.” E nominò come governatori e viceré: […] uno sul Faṭagar …
He said so and he departed, he arrived in the land of the Christians, burned down the churches, killed the christians and the survivors he made them prisoners, men and women, and he converted them to his religion. Then he said: “I will appoint governors on all regions of Ethiopia, as the king of Sion” and he appointed governors: […] one on Faṭagar …
It also appears in the chronicle of 15th-century King Zarʾa Yāʿǝqob (1434–1468) where the king appointed his own representative and it became a stronghold of the Christian empire until it came again under the occupation of the Muslims in the sixteenth century (Perruchon 1893, 15). Likewise, the Arabic chronicle of ʾImām ʾAḥmad, written by contemporary chronicler, has widely mentioned it regarding the victories of ʾImām against the Christians during the second decade of the sixteenth century (Šihāb ad-Dīn Aḥmad 2003, 19, 49, 60, 61….).
With this report we have concluded the work envisaged for this grant, and we are glad to have achieved much more than what we promised and expected to accomplish. The encoding strategy for historical geography in our place records is now set and is being used every day for new places records by the team (it has been also documented in our guidelines and schema). Starting from this Chronicle has given us the opportunity to face many different kinds of issues: places without precise location, relative locations, areas, different kinds of alignment to authorities, etc. We could benefit of the support of the Pelagios commons for advise which led us also to have periods of relevance for the history of Ethiopia registered in PeriodO and lately to start facing also the annotation of regions and areas. We have given in this report only a few examples but this work would need much more time and effort, due to the flexibility of the boundaries and the disagreement of the sources and secondary literature. The Pelagios Annotations export and the Gazetteer are available as well as the data dumps (as documented in the second report). We have annotated much more than we expected, created way many more records and set up the API to serve not only the chronicle of Galawdeos but any literary work and manuscript annotated now or which will be annotated in the future. Setting up the encoding guidelines for our gazetteer involved also aligning our existing data to the syriaca.org historical geography encoding guidelines which we also did.
We are very glad we had this opportunity and we look forward to present this work at Linked Pasts and continue the cooperation with the Pelagios commons working with Peripleo, Recogito, and the annotation of places on images presented via IIIF. For the future we wish also to be able to mark up the places attestations in the 16-17th century travel accounts and in other chronicles from the 14-17th century.
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