1) How does History judge Atse Theodros and his administration?
2) Was he actually as uncompromising and suspicious as he is portrayed in literature against Europeans influence?
3) Who is the father of Aste Theodros? And how many children's did he, Aste Theodros father legitimately and illegitimately?
4) What is his most significant contribution for the realization of the contemporary Ethiopia?
5) How did Atse Theodros managed to bring and rear Atse Menelik in the castle of Fasiledes?
6) Why did Atse Menelik transfer the nation's capital from Gonder to Addis Ababa? And how was Menelik's attitude as far as Gonder and Gojjam are concerned?
The last question is not clear to me, and it is time wasting to find an answer by guessing what it means. The answer to the questions on the family background of Theodros can be looked for in one of the references mentioned in an earlier posting. Please read T!kle Tsadik Mekuria, Ase Theodros ena Y! Etiyopiya Endnet. Addis Ababa 1981 EC. In the same column, I have outlined the achievements and changes made by Theodros, and for further discussion and points of view see again the reference, Taddese Beyene, Pankhurst, R. and Shiferaw Bekele, Kasa and Kasa, Papers on the Lives, Times and Images of Theodros II and Yohannes IV, 1855-1889". Addis Ababa University, 1990. Both books are on sale at the Book Center, Addis Ababa University.
If at all there is a serious discussion on the reforms of Theodros, it emanates primarily due to lack of detailed social historical studies concerning the period before him, and due to the brevity which source materials (chronicles) impose on the understanding of the reforms. We still lack a clear picture how the nineteenth ccentury society functions, an unless we know clearly the system that preceded Theodros, it is difficult to measure the magnitude and quality of his reforms. Again as I said this is a mater of detail study. I feel I am speaking in vague, as I have not pointed out any point of disagreement among scholars. Probably there is non that is so significant to raise, besides, no one doubts the reign of Theodros marked a beginning of a new period, and his reform, particularly, the administration of taxes, was a break of at least two hundred years of practice.
As I see it, what could be controversial was the measure he had undertaken to discipline his army in particular and the society in general. This is the most neglected, unresearched aspect of Theodros's reign, as it was, of course, overshadowed more by the highlights of the changes he introduced. Chroniclers wrote some of the gruesome acts of Theodros, such as cutting of hands, gunning of thieves, burning of convicts, and the like. (See, Zenebe, Y! Theodros Tarik : The Chronicle of King Theodore of Abyssinia, Litman, E. (ed.) 1902. Leipzig, passim; Aleqa Taye, Ye- Gojjam Tarik, manuscript at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, no. 254, pp. 68, 72, 73, 74, 75). What was this other of him?
My impression is that treason breaks the heart of Theodros and he responded in revenge. At the beginning his reign in the provinces of Gojjam, Wollo, Tigre and Shewa, Theodros appointed governors belonging from the traditional ruling families of the respective regions. These governors rebelled in his absence, since they were deprived some of their earlier rights such as their privileges of tax collection. Theodros marched to the said region, chased the rebels and condemned them to be hanged. He summoned their followers, pardoned those who were forced to raise up arm against him (that is, those mobilized by decree of the rebels) while he deliberately cut the hands of those soldiers who belonged to the Dembe: those regulars who belonged to the command he appointed,and ought to be loyal to him. In the case of thieves, at his coronation, he made a declaration to end their practice and return to normal life. In many instances he gunned those thieves and robbers who continued with their former activities ignoring his decree and amnesty.
As the intensity of the rebellion increased Theodros seemed to lose his sense of common judgement. When Menelik escaped from Meqdela in 1865, and received help from Workete of Wollo on his way to Shewa, Theodros, upon hearing this report, came to Meqdela and executed the son of Workete and other 23 prisoners who were not in any way implicated in Menelik's escape.
This came as a shock to his contemporaries, commoners and officials alike. According to the custom, at least the Fetha Negest, Law of the Kings, had to be consulted and the case had to be tried by council of judges. Theodros seemed to be above the law, unbounded by it. At one point, when a certain rebel implored the king to sue his case in accordance with Fetha Negest, Theodros replied to him " Who is the Law, but me! What is the Law, but myself ! I am the fountain of it" ( See, Rassam, H. Narrative of the British Mission to Theodore. London 1869. V2, p. 18.)
As more rebellion erupted in every part of the country, and as his soldiers became tired of the unending campaign, and as they conspired deserting of him, Theodros became more suspicious, his action became more sever, and indiscriminate. At one time he gunned a corps of troops, about 700, reported to desert him. (Al!qa Taye, p. 73) Another time, he rounded up another corps of troops, and let them die denying them food and water for two weeks. (See, Al!qa Taye, p. 73-74; This account of the chronicler has to be checked against another independent source material).
The chronicler tells us that Theodros plundered the grain of Begemder that caused hunger, and he began indiscriminate punishment including civilians (ibid.). In one of his last letters to the British Theodros wrote that "my country men turned their backs against me, when I tried to led them to modernization. Had Theodros felt betrayed? Was his the right method to discipline soldiers and society at large? I wish I have time to make research on this point.
Now to the other part of the questions, namely the transferring of the seat of the government from Gonder to Addis Ababa. The author of the question did not tell us from where he got the evidence that state Menelik's transfer of the capital city. As far as I know, for that matter, it was Theodros himself who formally (underline this word) made a decree that "the town of Dabre Tabor hence forward be called Gonder" (See, Al!qa Taye, pp 74-75). Dabra Tabor was founded by the Yaju family in the late eighteenth century, and since then it was the seat of the Rise Mekwanent, head of the military nobility of Ethiopia. Theodros formally declared Dabr Tabor as a capital city, because of his quarrel with the clergy of Gonder. Theodros had a contempt of the Dabtara whom he saw as lazy, sitting idle and taking the wife of soldiers while the later were in campaigns. The Debtera lived on the lands held in the name of the church that was exempted from tax due the state. Theodros limited the number of clergy in a church to five and ordered the rest to pay tax on the land they held. This had caused debate and eventually disappointment, and the Dabtara were not thus on good terms with the king. During my field study one informant told me that Theodros deliberately avoided to stay at the town of Gonder, he often camped far away at the outskirt looking toward the town. He looked at it through his field glass and used to say it consisted worthless people. It was thus no wonder when he plunder the town, taking manuscripts numbering about 913, and deposited them at Dabre Tabor and Maqdela (See Al!qa Taye, p. 75). Debre Tabor continued to be the seat of the government, and Emperor Yohanes used it as capital until he founded Meqele town in the early 1880s.
Anyway, the decline or development of a towns is not related to an individual decision. Towns have their own laws of development. Certain towns came into being following a particular political developments. In the Zemene Mesafint, for instance, we find development of towns serving as centers of political administration and these towns declined with the shift occurring in the power structure. Another example, can be the Katema, military garrison towns, that flourished in southern Ethiopia during the expansion of an imperial fiscal and military system at the time of Menelik. Other towns developed along lines of trade routes, and still others as centers of production. I think we have to consider these complex factors which gave rise to towns, and influenced their development. Those of you who are interested in urban history read, Pankhurst, R. 1982, History of Ethiopian Towns from the Middle Ages to the Early Nineteenht Century, Wiesbaden; idem. 1985. History of Ethiopian Towns from the Mid- Nineteenth Century to 1935. Stutgart.
That is all I have for today.
With my best regards