Q.4. Who is Aste Theodros? What is his last name?


The real name of Ase Theodros was Kassa. He was born in 1820 in the province of Quara. His father name was Hailu Welde Georgis, who was Dejazmach of Quara, and his mother was called Attitegeb, from an area south-east of Gonder. (On the family background and childhood of Kassa, see T!kl! Tsadik Mekuriya (1981 E.C.), Ase Theodros ena Ye Etiyopiya Andenet, Addis Ababa, pp. 51-59).

Theodros was his throne name. Traditionally the Ethiopian kings carried at least three names: the one given to them at birth, a baptismal name, and a throne name which they adopted upon coronation. Throne names often connoted the extent of power and/or self-perception of the king himself. The Gonder kings had, for instance, the following throne names: Fasiledes (1632-167) was called Alem Seged (literally, the world submitted); Yohannes (167-1682) as Ailaf Seged (lit. thousand submitted); Iyassu I (1682-1706) as Adyam Seged (lit. the confines of the earth submitted); Tekle Haimanot (1706-1708) as Liul Seged (lit. even the exalted submitted); Teweflos (1708-1711) as Atsirar Seged (lit. the enemies submitted); Yostos (1711-1716) as Tsehai Seged (the sun bowed); Dawit III (1716-1721) as Adbar Seged (lit., the mountains bowed); Bekaffa (1721-1730) as Mesih Seged (lit., the anointed submitted). See Berry, L.B. 1976. The Solomonic Monarchy at Gonder, 1630-1755: An Institutional Analysis of Kingship in the Christian kingdom of Ethiopia. Ph. D. Thesis, Boston University Graduate School. p. 151ff).

The name Theodros was associated, however, with a prophecy about the coming of a messiah king who was to come in the later days and rule the world in righteousness, peace and prosperity. This prophecy was found written in the Ethiopian apocalyptic work called Fukare Iyesus. According to this book, Christ himself would bring a king called Theodros to power after a long period of corruption, war, famine, lawlessness and perversity. (See, Fukare Iyasus, Addis Ababa. 1966 E.C., p.59). The time of Kassa was the Zemene Mesafint (Era of Princes) associated with a continues war, social, economic and political disorder. Kassa viewed himself as the massiah, as he often said "chosen by God from a dust". It is difficult to state when Kassa began to entertain this vission. His chronicler (king's secretary) wrote that, after he rebelled, one day as Kassa slept, the Holy sprit made him speak prophecy, and since then Kassa spoke prophecy. See, Zenebe (1902), The Chronicle of King Theorore. Litmann, E. (ed.). Leipzig. pp. 8-9). In other words, Kassa had his vission of Theodros sometime between 1840-45 when he was a rebell noble (Shifta).

He took the name Theodros when he was annointed and crowned as king of kings in Deresege Mariyam church in 1855. Before him many rebels and kings had claimed to be Theodros, but they were not successful. (See, Mered Wolde Aregay, 1990 "Ye Theodros Alamawoch Kayet Endemenchu" in Kasa and Kasa, Taddese Beyene, Pankhurst, R. and Shiferaw Bekele (eds.) I.E.S., Addis Ababa University. pp. 69-115.). I think the score of Theodros's military success, battle after battle, and his determination, upright personality, and concern for the poor had a lot to do with his vision and success. Theodros was a military genius, by the standard of the time: he attempted to create paid army under his command, he established an officer system and a permanent combat military hierarchy, he created a divisional command (Derek Tor) which rendered tactical flexibility and increased mobility to the tradition of mass frontal attacks, his Gafat manufacturing industry produced 2 brass guns and nine brass mortars, he attempted at boat building on Lake Tana. He called one of his guns Sebastapol (which was pulled by 500 people), after the famous battle (Crimean war) in which Russia defeated the Turks. Probably, he had a good reason to give this name. When he was a governor of Quara and Dambia, Kassa (the future Theodros) was once defeated by Egyptian force in western Ethiopia, and Masawa was under Turks. Theodros had a vision to disloge out Turko-Egyptian forces. His military innovations were supported by changes in the administration of taxes, thus creating an economic base to his reforms.

A lot can be said about his reforms, and all of them represented a radical departure from the past, breaking almost hundred years of tradition. Was his a revolution from above? Historians continue to debate without helping being involved emotionally and intellectually as well. Theodros as much as he represented an image of a soldier king, he symbolised also a man with a vision. That is all for today. I have no more question to prepare for, so please send me some, preferably on nineteenth century history.

With Regards,

Tsegaye T.