Emperor Menelik II – Abyssinia’s Ruler Said to be a Heavy Buyer of American Railway Stocks

First Published on New York Times- Oct. 27, 1909
Updated Jan. 6, 2014

BRUSSELS (Oct. 27) – Baron de Jarlsburg, the Belgian explorer, just returned from Abyssinia, has much to relate about Emperor Menelik, whose serious illness was recently announced.

“Menelik,” said Baron de Jarlsburg, in an interview with the New York Times correspondent, “has since accession to the throne, twenty years ago, transformed Abyssinia from a semi-barbarous power to a State modeled on the lines of a European constitutional monarchy.

“The sovereign, who styles himself somewhat pompously, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Juda, Elect of the Saviour, King of Kings of Ethiopia, who shattered Italy’s colonial ambitions by his victories at Amba-Garima, is the ruler of a nation of 7,000,000 inhabitants, the mysterious origin of which is lost in the night of ages.

“When Menelik was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia on Nov. 4, 1889, after King Johanne’s death, he was far from being the accepted ruler of all the States which constitute the Abyssinian empire. It was only after much hard fighting that Menelik finally succeeded in subjugating those rebellious chieftains who did not recognize him as Johanne’s legitimate successor.

Read Aloud:   Ethiopian Airlines-History

“Since then, Menelik’s one aim has been to introduce European civilization into his country. The Emperor, after abolishing the feudal laws still extant in the empire, and emancipating the slaves, established compulsory free education throughout his dominions. As a result in another generation education will be as widespread in Abyssinia as in several European countries.

“Menelik is himself an altogether unique figure among African potentates. As a diplomat, as a financier, and as a soldier, he can hold his own with the most up-to-date of his brother sovereigns. As a soldier and a diplomat, he showed his worth at the time of Italy’s defeat by the Abyssinians. In late years, however, it is particularly as a financier that Menelik has distinguished himself. he had a natural bent for finance, even as a young man, before his accession to the throne, and at that timewent for stock speculation on the Paris Bourse to a considerable extent. These youthful speculations proved successful, and were only interrupted by the events which followed Menelik’s accession.


“To-day the Abyssinian ruler has extended the range of his financial operations to the Unted States, and is heavy investor in American railroads. What with, his American securities and his French and Belgian mining investments, Menelik has a private fortune estimated at no less than twenty-five million dollars.

“The most striking fact about Abyssinia’s dusky ruler,” said Baron de Jarlsburg in conclusion, “is his versatility. An accomplished linguist, he speaks French, English, and Italian fluently. Notwithstanding all the time he is compelled to devote to state affairs, he still finds the opportunity to keep up in current European literature, and is rarely at a loss when a new author is mentioned. At Adissaba Palace – to give him the title by which he is known to his subjects — takes particular pride in his library of ten thousand volumes, collected by himself. Menelik’s chief hobby in the way of books are works dealing with the ancient civilizations of Africa and Asia.”

Read Aloud:   Haile Selassie I Biography (1892–1975)

This article was originally published in  New Times Oct. 27, 1909 

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  1. ጥቅምት 27/1909 የተፃፈው በጣም አስደሳች ታሪክ ነው። የኼ ነው ታሪኩ።
    አፄ ምንሊክ የአሜሪካና የራሽያ (በዛሩ መንግስት ጊዜ) ወዳጅ እንደነበሩ ይነገራል። አፄ ምንሊክ በሁሉም ጎሳዎችና መሪዎች ተቀባይነት ያላቸው ሰው ነበሩ።
    አንዳንዶች በቅናት ላይ የተመሰረተ ስራ ለመስራት ሲሩዋሩዋጡ፣ እወነተኛ ታሪኮች ደግሞ መውጣት ጀምረዋል።
    በግሌ ሳየው የኔ አያቶች በአፄ ምንሊክ በጦር ሜዳ ተሸንፈዋል። ቢሆንም ግን መሸነፍ ማሽነፍ ደግሞ የተፈጥሮ ሂደት ነው። ስለግል ችግር የምናወራ ከሆነ ከራሳችን ጋር መጣላት እንጀምራለን ማለት ነው። ስለ ሀገር ጉዳይ የምናወራ ከሆነ ግን አፄ ምንሊክ እጅግ በጣም ጥሩ ንጉስና የዘመናዊ አስተሳሰብን የሚወዱ ፣ባርነትን በህግ የሻሩ ንጉስ መሆናቸው ይነገርላቸዋል። አንዳነዶችም ደግሞ የባርያ ንግድ በአዋጅ መከልከሉን ሰምተው “ምንሊክ ገዝቶ ገዝቶ ዛሬ ነፃ ወጣችው ይለናል እንዴ ብለው” በጣም ያዘኑም እነደነበሩ በአፈታሪክ መልክ ይነገራል።

  2. It is simply amazing to say the least. I used to referring to Menelik as a barefooted king as I was simply thinking that our country did not have much access to modern civilisation at that time.

    When I realised how he fluently spoke three major Europian languages at that age and time and the fact that he was worth over 25 million dollar and went as far as Europe and America to play investment games, that really put me in a different mind set about the man and our country at the time.

    My question remains what was the means of transport then and how easy or difficult was it to go to such great achievement as far as Europe and America at the time? But here we are today the .com generation unable to overcome petty tribal issues to fix our problems in a civilised manner with all the modern knowledge and facilities at our disposal. This must leave us unimpressed by our generation

    I believe these skills combined with his shrewdness must have given him far advanced advantage to influence and mobilize those around him to achieve the success he achieved by overcoming the challenges from virtually all our communities as we can see from this testimony.

  3. How amazing and magnificent. Emperor Menelik was loved and admired by all his people and people around the world and will remain to be the same forever.

    As TPLF anti-Ethiopia regime has made defaming the Emperor its central part of its agenda and busy manufacturing lies and division, the real truthful story of Emperor Menelik documented around the world starts to unravel the truth and exposing the evil nature of TPLF regime.

    This is the big time for all Ethiopians to take pride in ourselves and our magnificent intelligent leader and come together to celebrate our amazing past leader who was born ahead of his time.

    Today in Ethiopia TPLF leaders mentality and policy is twisted and heading backward right back to the dark barbarianism ages. Those people should have been born and died 1500 yearg ago.

  4. From GETACHEW REDA (Editor Ethiopian Semay)

    Menlik was superbly brilliant Emperor. The symbol hero for the black people of the planet earth. My hat for you my Emperor!!!!!!
    Getachew Reda

  5. That was all why he expanded his empire through war, according to the article. He waged a war to subdue the south to collect money in order to play wall street in the USA. There are more to come. He was merciless at that. Now we know why the Amharas are celebrating their king, because he waged a war against unharmed civilians to collect money. So many hidden stories are coming out. The Amharas were telling us as that he was an illiterate of his time and that we should forgive what happened then. Where did the 25 million investment go? How many Amharas benefited after his death. This has to be studied by the new generation of historians. The old lazy historians were scribbling their history based inundos and coffee house stories.

    • Molla: Here we go again. Why can’t you see the bright side and acknowledge the King’s achievement. I thank him for all “His Ethiopia tikedem beandenet”. By the way no Amhara told you that he was illeterate. I think you like to prefabricate lies like the so called tplf hulugans. And please respect our historians and the elders, Menilik and Tayetu were the best leaders(Yetkur ambesawatch acha yelelachew jegnoch) not only in Ethiopia but also in the whole of Africa.

  6. Hats off King Menelik, the great of greats. I am proud of him, in an era when many didn’t know how to eat Injera, Menelik was well ahead of the time and able to speak three local and three international languages. Amazing! Even today, many including the current prime minister are struggling to utter a word in English.

  7. Menelik aimed high to put Ethiopia on European footing. His contacts , business deals, diplomatic activities was mostly with Western Europe and the USA.

    That gave Menelik the edge to intoduce european style education in Ethiopia.

    During his time the first telephone line was established, the first railway line and Ethiopian Air Lines was birthed. All this happens because Menelik’s links with the civilised world.

  8. Menilike stock gambling & selling of Ethiopia

    Menilike was selling Ethiopias vital land and sea ports to Foreingers while using the money toward railroad stock gambling.
    Menilike had sold Dejibuti to France,Somalia to Brits and Italy and Eritrea to Italy.

    • Even,if he were alive till,he was supposed to sell U as U are a lost /useless creature commenting in such away with the name Y, Gondar Jegna. Our Emiye Minillik is An Ever Great Man and kings if kings in Ethiopian history. Viva Emiye!

  9. There is no doubt that Minilik has done great thing for his people. He has also done great destructions to other nations to benefit his people. He invaded, occupied and settled his people, established schools, hospitals and social infrastructures where they have settled like in Oromia, southern, Somalia and all other places. He also sold the locals for the exchange of fire arms, and others used as tenants until 1974. That is why you see most towns of Oromia and southern are Amharic speakers. This is fact and recorded as history. You cannot change or make to sound good this history by painting green or blue.

  10. Good the butcher invested from the breast cutting business. Good to know it. What type of business do u want after you tip into power using Minilik VODO. Loser, you don’t even know it.

  11. Molla here you go again with your twisted, pessimist and negative thinking. I used to be fed with wrong information from people like you but when I knew the truth it was like turning 360 degree. I am proud of my Ethiopian ethnic mix origin.

    Banda version of histroy has already been exposed and thrown out of the window. No need to translate history now after the fact and after it has had been created, documented and done with. People like me and the new generation are smart, know how to find and read history.

    No one will trade this noble and great history of Ethiopia and all black people for anything less. It is a moment of pride to be part of it that all Ethiopians felt great of their past leader. Many thanks and respect to the one of the greatest leader, Menelik II. May the Almighty take care of Menelik II.

  12. @zerihun
    ማስረጃ በማቅረብ በዛ ዘመን ስለተደረገው ነገር ለማሳየት ሞክረሀል ጥሩ ነው ሙከራህ አልጠላውም። ግን እኔ እንደተረዳሁት ከሆነ ባልሳሳት ልታሳየኝ የፈለግከው በ1889 በባርያ መልክ ወደ ደቡብ አፍሪካ ስለተሸጠ ሰው ይመስለኛል።ይሄ ማስረጃ ሊሆን አይችልም ምክንያቱም፣እንኩዋን የዛን ጊዜ አሁን በ1950 ዎቹ እንኩዋን ህገወጥ የሆነ ተባራሪ በጣም ሩቅ የሆነ አካባቢ ዳር ሀገር የሰው ልጅ ሽያጭ ይደረግ ነበር።
    በዚያን ዘመን በሽያጩና በግዢው ተሳታፊ የነበሩት ኦሮሞዎች (በድሮው ጋላ) እና አረቦች ነበሩ። ኦሮሞዎች ከሌላ ጎሳ በጉልበትም በግዢም ባርያ አድራጊዎች ነበሩ።ለዚህም የታወቁት እነጅማ አባ ጅፋር ነበሩ። ከአረቦች ጋር ጥብቅ ግንኙነትም የነበራቸው እነሱ ነበሩ።
    ባርያዎችም ኦሮምኛ የሚያወሩት በኦሮሞዎች ተሸጠውና ተገዝተው አዚያው ኦሮሞዎች ጋር ስለተዋለዱ ነው። አፄ ምንሊክ የዛን ዘመን ራዳር ወይም ሳተላይት ወይም ደሮኸን አውሮፕላን የላቸው፣ በየዳር ሀገሩ አየተያዙ የሚሸጡትን ለመቆጣጠር። ቢሆንም ግን ባረያ መሸጥን ለመጀመሪያ ጊዜ መከልከል መጀመራቸው አስደሳችና አስደናቂ ነገር ነው።
    ስለዚህ አቶ ዘሪሁን ማወቅ ያለብህ ንጉሱ የነበራቸው ደረጃ የሚወዳደረው በነ አሜሪካና አውሮፓ ጋር እንጅ ከአረቦች ጋር እንኩዋን እሳቸውን ማወዳደር አትችልም።በ ደቡብ አፍሪካ ውስጥ ደግሞ የሰው ልጅ መብት የተከበረው ከመቶ አመት በሁዋላ በማንዴላ ትግል ነው። ባርነት መልኩን ቀየረ እነጅ አሁን ይብሳል።

  13. @zerihun
    ማስረጃ በማቅረብ በዛ ዘመን ስለተደረገው ነገር ለማሳየት ሞክረሀል ጥሩ ነው ሙከራህ አልጠላውም። ግን እኔ እንደተረዳሁት ከሆነ ባልሳሳት ልታሳየኝ የፈለግከው በ1889 በባርያ መልክ ወደ ደቡብ አፍሪካ ስለተሸጠ ሰው ይመስለኛል።ይሄ ማስረጃ ሊሆን አይችልም ምክንያቱም፣እንኩዋን የዛን ጊዜ አሁን በ1950 ዎቹ እንኩዋን ህገወጥ የሆነ ተባራሪ በጣም ሩቅ የሆነ አካባቢ ዳር ሀገር የሰው ልጅ ሽያጭ ይደረግ ነበር።
    በዚያን ዘመን በሽያጩና በግዢው ተሳታፊ የነበሩት ኦሮሞዎች (በድሮው ጋላ) እና አረቦች ነበሩ። ኦሮሞዎች ከሌላ ጎሳ በጉልበትም በግዢም ባርያ አድራጊዎች ነበሩ።ለዚህም የታወቁት እነጅማ አባ ጅፋር ነበሩ። ከአረቦች ጋር ጥብቅ ግንኙነትም የነበራቸው እነሱ ነበሩ።
    ባርያዎችም ኦሮምኛ የሚያወሩት በኦሮሞዎች ተሸጠውና ተገዝተው አዚያው ኦሮሞዎች ጋር ስለተዋለዱ ነው። አፄ ምንሊክ የዛን ዘመን ራዳር ወይም ሳተላይት ወይም ደሮኸን አውሮፕላን የላቸው፣ በየዳር ሀገሩ አየተያዙ የሚሸጡትን ለመቆጣጠር። ቢሆንም ግን ባረያ መሸጥን ለመጀመሪያ ጊዜ መከልከል መጀመራቸው አስደሳችና አስደናቂ ነገር ነው።
    ስለዚህ አቶ ዘሪሁን ማወቅ ያለብህ ንጉሱ የነበራቸው ደረጃ የሚወዳደረው በነ አሜሪካና አውሮፓ ጋር እንጅ ከአረቦች ጋር እንኩዋን እሳቸውን ማወዳደር አትችልም።በ ደቡብ አፍሪካ ውስጥ ደግሞ የሰው ልጅ መብት የተከበረው ከመቶ አመት በሁዋላ በማንዴላ ትግል ነው። ባርነት መልኩን ቀየረ እነጅ አሁን ይብሳል።

  14. GETACHEW REDA (Editor Ethiopian Semay)

    Listen to me Young Ethiopians. This is a message to young Ethiopians who need to follow my teachings carefully! I will lead you clearly how to argue and defeat the OLF distortion and their fake victimization claim and accusation against Emperor Menlik.

    Since the deluded and confused Diaspora opposition -even the opposition inside Ethiopia do not teach you the new Ethiopian young generation who the OLF and, Oromo what they falsely claimed as Emperor Menlik colonized them is flat distortion and ignorant and lack of some self with in the distorted elites of OLF.
    The OLF criminal elites have to use the word Colony by Emperor Menlik is a fake claim to enslave and create civil war among Oromo population like Sudan or Somalia while they live in the Diaspora. The poor Oromo and the very polite Oromo Ethiopians who never accept the lie of the OLF bandits claim. is evidence they chased them out after 40 years of lie and now some of them are going back claiming their position for 40 years lie was a fake and need to change their way of struggle after they seeing end up degraded and living in the Diaspora.

    The following is a mirror for you t see their claim.

    Let us see if this hopeless coward OLF Mujahaddeens who run away from the battle-field and seek shelter in America eating his hamburger to free Oromia which they falsely claimed Ormo were colonized by Emperor Menlik. Let us check the record to straightening the lie.

    It is true the then “Galla”, (now “Oromo” ?) pastoralists invaded the present vast area where Oromo (the present Oromo are not pure Gall or descendants of the Gallla pastoralist as the new generation claimed distortedly. They speak the language but mixed bloods with other tribes for over 500 years. Because language speaking does not show they are pure Oromo or descendants of the pure Galla pastoralists of the tribe before over 500 years ago) are currently live in Ethiopia. How do they manage to invade Harar from the Sulatan , Tiger or Amhara localities as history showed us? Here is Dr.Aleme Eshete a historian and political scientist who send me the paper and published it on my book (YeweYane Gebena Mahider)

    እውን ወያኔዎችም ሆኑ የኦነግ መሪዎች የፈለሰፉት “ኦሮሚያ” የሚባል ነባር አገርና መጪው ኦሮሚያ ሪፑብሊክ ጂኦግራፊያዊ ማኅበራዊና ፖለቲካዊ ክስ እውነታ አለው? እውን አማራው/ ነፍጠኛው/ ምኒልክ/ ባጭሩ “ኢትዮጵያ” ኦሮሞ ሪፑብሊክ የሚባል ወይንም የኦሮሞ አገር የሚባል ወረዋል? የታሪክ ሰነዶችን እንመርምር፡-

    1530-1538 Galla cross the Shebelle and conquest starts with Bale whose inhabitants are believed to have been the present Sidama. Gamu Gofa was conquered soon later. While the Borona settled in Bale and adjacent lands (when they are the present day) the other major Gala branch the Baryatuma- Mecha and Tulama- continued north and east.

    1538-46: Dawaro which extended and covered most of present day Harar was attacked by the Galla. Galla started to collect tribute.
    1544-1547- The first expedition of Emperor Gelawdewos accompanied by the Muslim army of the sultanate of Hadya against the Galla invaders on the Awash.

    1555-1562; Galla territorial occupation begins. Gallas were no more conducting simply raiding expeditions. The Galla s conquered and settled permanently to administer the conquered regions and conquered people transformed into Gebaro, or serfs.

    (1551-1567) successor of Ahmed Grang has been fighting the first Galla invasion of Harar city and its surroundings. It was indeed Emir who had built the historic Harar wall that surrounds the city to defend it against Galla invasion.

    In 1559 the army of Emir of Harar was defeated. Although, Harar city was effectively protected, all the surrounding Harar-Chercher mountains where lived the Adere, the Worji, the Maya and a number of other probably speaking ethnic groups boarding on Yefat. Where all conquered by the Galla, depriving Harar not only of its most fertile agricultural lends but also of its freedom of movement and trade with the outside world through the Gulf of Aden coast. The era of glory of Harar was over.

    1572-73 Harar was attacked by a huge mass of Oromo troops and Imam Mohamed Gasa had to evacuate Harar and move his capital to Aussa. The same Imam was killed by the Oromo in November 1583.

    1570’s 1580’s: Galla conquest of Shoa- Shoa largely inhabited by Amharic speaking Christians was the heart of the empire and common residence of the Emperors at Debreberhan, Tegulet, Etc… Shoa was occupied by the Mecha and Tulama Gallas.

    1570’s-1580;s: Oromo conquest Amhara- Angot the home and origin of the ruling dynasty. Amhara which was burnt and destroyed by Gragn a few decades earlier (Because Grang came with a massive of rifle, never seen in Ethiopian history for the first time/if there was rifles, perhaps few arms in the hand of the king/s. That is how he managed in a shortest period controlled the vast territory of the country through the new war machine of the era given to him from the Ethiopian enemy the Turks.) was now completely devastated by the Galla s in spite of the resistance of the imperial army. (በቅንፍ ውስጥ ያለው ከደራሲው የተጨመረ)
    While —- was invaded and settled by Wollo. Angot in the North-east was invaded and settled by the Yejou, Gallas. Amhara thus destroyed and burnt down and its population transformed as Gebaro of Galla, the era therefore marks the end of the Amhara, because now, they have been transformed into serfs of the Oromos.

    Since then Amhara and Angot as so many peoples of ancient Ethiopia have disappeared from the map of Ethiopia.

    That is also why we have been arguing for some years now that the Amhara people separated by the Beshilo from Begemdire and bordering with the Angot in the north and extending up to MENZ and Waaqa in the south do not exist and have not existed since the Wollol Oromo invasion of the Amharas in the 1570’s and 1580- And hence there is no sense in talking about Amhara oppressor people or “Nation”

    1610: Raya –Azebo (this is in Tigray) occupation of the lowlands at the foot of Enderta from where they will fight in vain for century to advance north and occupy Tigray, south and north of Mereb Melash (Eritrea)

    What is a Gabaro? Mohamed Hassan, a Muslim, Oromo scholar (the Oromo, of Ethiopia: A history 1570-1860, published New York, 1990, p.63, 64) gives us perhaps the most unambiguous definition of the institution of Gebaro introduced by the Oromo conquerors:

    “The term gabaro describes the obligatory relation between the conquerors and the conquered. The vanquished still owners of their plot of land became serfs or clients of the pastoral Oromo, who now demanded service and tribute from them. The Oromo term for the conquered people was “gebaro” (“those who serve”).

    The Oromo adopted the gebbaro en maasse, giving them clan genealogy, (the Metcha used the term ilma gossa (son of the gossa= tribe or clan), marrying their women and…. (there were times) when the rights of the gabaro were trampled upon, their women and children sold into slavery by their Oromo masters (and have there were several cases of Gabbaro rebellion….)” ይላል የኦነጉ
    የታሪክ ምሁር መሐመድ ሐሰን እንኳ ሳይቀር እውነቱን ሊሸሽገው አልቻለም።
    በመጨረሻ ፕሮፌሰር አለሜ እሸቴ ስለ ኦሮሞዎችም ሆነ ስለ ትግሬ ወይንም አማራ ተብሎ የሚጠራ ሕዝብ ማንነት የሚከተለው እንዲህ ሲሉ በታሪክ ምሁርነታቸው ማወቅ ያለብንን እቅጩን እንዲህ ይነግሩናል።

    Our present knowledge of the history of the peoples of Ethiopia – of the Tigrai, of the Amhara, of the Oromo etc. do not allow single separated linear developments of the peoples of Ethiopia but of the Ethiopian nation made up of cultures, languages and values ever pulling each other. We do not know in history any original Amhara language, religion or culture. The so called Amhara have inherited all from the Axumites – language, script, religion culture etc. and have carried over the Axumite culture as an Ethiopian , language, religion …The Amhara have never existed as a tribe but are the result of the evolution since Geez Axumite times of the linguistic transformation of the Kushitic Agaw into Semitic , as well as the amalgamation of the cultures and languages of other peoples of Ethiopia since Axumite times.

    There is also no such tribe, culture, language or religion called Oromo but an amalgamation of several Ethiopian peoples who have been absorbed during the Galla conquest , from the 16th century to the middle of the 19th century or the rise of Tewodros, during which process the original Galla have been ethiopianised -their culture, language and religion being transformed . Linguistically, the Galla may even have been transformed during the long process and contact with Ethiopian Kushitic peoples, into Kushitic , according to Professor Andrezejewski of the London School of Oriental Studies.(The Position of the Galla in the Cushitic language group” published in Journal of Semitic Studies, Vol.9, 1964. See also my paper, Galla Kushitic?”

    በሰነዱ የተመለከትነው ጉዳይ ኦሮሞዎች ከነበሩበት ከአንድ ከጫፍ ደቡባዊ ኢትዮጵያ ክፍል በመነሣት አሁን ኦሮሞዎች የሰፈሩባቸውን ክፍለሀገሮች በሙሉ (ትግራይን ጨምሮ) እንደ ሰደድ እሳት በፍጥነት በማዳረስ ያዙት። ከነሱ በፊት ሰፍረውበት የነበሩን የተለያዩ ቋንቋ ተናጋሪ ኢትዮጵያውያን ገበሬዎች ከቦታ ወደ ቦታ ለግጦሽ ፍለጋ የሚዘዋወሩ ከብት አርቢ የኦሮሞ ጦረኞች ወረሩት። ቀደምት ኗሪዎችንም ገባር አደረጓቸው። ቋንቋቸውም ከጊዜ በኋላም ተዋልደው ልጅ ልጆቻቸው ኦሮምኛ ተናጋሪዎች ሆኑ። በአንጻሩም ወራሪዎቹ ወደ አማራ አገር እና ትግራይ አካባቢ ሄደው ሲሰፍሩም እንደዚያው የልጅ ልጆቻቸው የአካባቢው (አማርኛ እና ትግሬ) ቋንቋ እንዲናገሩ ተውጠው ቀርተዋል።

    This is what the real story is behind the invasion of the Gala people in Ethiopia. Next, we will see how OLF involved in mass killing and crime which still OLF leaders need to be charged in the international courts for ethnic cleansing crime. Stay tune. Thank you. Getachew Reda (Editor Ethiopian Semay).

    • The True Origin of Habesha

      For over two millenniums, the word ‘Habesha’ and its numerous variants (Habashat, Habasa, Habesh, Habeshi, Abesha) have been used to name geographical pockets of territory and people extending from the Arabian Peninsula to the furthest limits of the Horn of Africa region. Although the word is of great antiquity, there is no consensus on what it actually means. In order to understand why this is the case, we must first look back at its origins.

      Most of the earliest inscriptions mentioning Habesha deal with wars, alliances and peace treaties among rivaling Yemeni kingdoms – this reference below is no different:

      “Shamir of Dhu-Raydan and Himyar had called in the help of the clans of Habashat for war against the kings of Saba; but Ilmuqah granted … the submission of Shamir of Dhu-Raydan and the clans of Habashat.”[1]

      This inscription tells us that Shamir of Dhu-Raydan, who is almost certainly the Himyarite king Shamir Yuhahmid, requested assistance from the Habashat clans to go to war with Saba, a rivaling Yemeni kingdom. The inscription also credits Ilmuqah, who was the Sun God that most inhabitants on both sides of the Red Sea worshiped, for granting them victory over their Sabaean rivals.

      According to Dr. Eduard Glaser, a renowned Austrian epigraphist and historian, Habeshas were originally from Southeastern Yemen who lived east of the Hadhramaut kingdom in the modern district of Mahra.[2] He believed the etymology of Habesha must have derived from the Mahri language which means “gatherers” [2](as in gatherers of incense). He asserted that the Mahrites and their language should be regarded as the descendants of the people and speech of ancient Habeshas.[2]

      Side note: Here’s a brief video showcasing Mahri, an ancient Semitic language Dr. Glaser believed to be the original language of the Habashats. 

      While it may be a stretch to claim who the direct descendants are based on scant Sabaean-Himyaritic inscriptions made two thousand years ago, Dr. Glaser seems to be right in claiming the original Habeshas were from Yemen. In fact, the earliest mention of the word Habesha in the Horn of Africa was only in the 4th century CE by the Aksumite king Ezana. After conquering neighboring kingdoms and territories on both sides of the Red Sea, Ezana styled himself as:

      “Ezana, king of Aksum, and of Himyar, and Kasu, and Saba, and Habashat, and Raydan, and Salhen and Tsiamo, and Beja, the King of Kings”[3]


    • This is part two of my respond.

      Definition of names referred in quotes



      Incense gatherers/collectors


      Yemeni kingdom 110 BCE -520 CE


      Yemeni kingdom 800 BCE- 500 CE 


      Capital of Himyar


      Capital of Saba


      Ancient Sudanese Kingdom


      Ancient Yemeni-Eritrean Sun God


      Post-Aksumite capital in Eritrea 


      Northern Somali port city


      Possibly Enderta region of Tigray


      In reference to Ezana’s inscription, Professor Max Müller, a German philologist, believed the King of the Habashat had no common territory with the King of Aksum and the two kingdoms were separate appeared evident to him.[4] He points out that since both the kingdoms named before and after Habashat are found in Arabia it was clear to him that the Habashats were in Arabia as well.[5]

      Based on the inscriptions the Aksumites left behind, they certainly did not regard themselves or their territory as Habesha. For them, Habeshas likely meant people who collected incense in South Arabia. Even Cosmas Indicopleustes, the famous Greak-speaking Egyptian traveler who visited the Aksumite kingdom in 525 CE, made no reference to Habesha.[6] So it raises a question: when was Habesha used in reference to the Horn?

      It was not until long after Aksumite kingdom had ended that Arab travelers and geographers began to describe the Horn region and its inhabitants as Habeshas. The first among these travelers was Al-Ya’qubi, who visited the region in 872 CE. From his chronicles, we learn there were five independent and rivaling Beja kingdoms in present-day Eritrea and that ‘Habeshas’ were living alongside them. He also mentions an important Habesha capital near the Eritrean coast called Ku’bar (the site is still undiscovered but it’s believed to be in Eritrea).[7]

      Al-Ya`qubi describes the Eritrean highlands and seacoast as:

      “a vast and powerful country. Its royal town is Ku`bar. The Arabs go their to trade. They have big towns and their sea coast is called Dahlak. All the kings of the Habasha country are subject to the Great King (al-malik al-a`zam) and are careful to obey him and pay tribute.”[8]

      Decades later, Al-Mas`udi, a tenth-century Arab traveler to the region, gives a similar account in his geographical work Muruj al-Dhahab, the `Meadows of Gold’.

      “The chief town of the Habasha is called Ku`bar, which is a large town and the residence of the najashi (nagassi; king), whose empire extends to the coasts opposite the Yemen, and possesses such towns as Zayla, Dahlak and Nasi.” [8]

      Centuries later, another Arab traveler, Al-Harrani, writes in 1295 CE that:

      “one of the greatest and best-known towns is Ka`bar, which is the royal town of the najashi . . . Zayla`, a town on the coast of the Red Sea, is a very populous commercial centre. . . . Opposite al-Yaman there is also a big town, which is the sea-port from which the Habasha crossed the sea to al-Yaman, and nearby is the island of `Aql.”[8]

      It should be noted that Habesha was frequently used as mere geographical expressions by early Arab and European travelers in much the same way as the entire eastern African littoral, including much of the Horn, was once encompassed within the term ‘Azania’. As geographical expressions, they were once convenient and representative of deep-seated ignorance of the region as a whole, although they may also have been informed by local indigenous ‘knowledge’.

      Arab travelers’ accounts show Habesha was embraced by some of the local inhabitants of the region by the mid-9th century CE. In order to make sense of this, early European historians hypothesized the highland regions of Eritrea and northern Ethiopia must have mixed with large groups of people from ancient Yemen. Despite lacking tangible evidence, this narrative has persisted among many historians and the general population. However, new discoveries by archaeologist indicate the people of the Horn adopted material culture and deities from South Arabia not as result of mixing, but because they were “within the religious and economic orbit of greater Saba and local people took up various aspects of the material culture to signify their membership in this broader community.” [9]

      Side note: Dating back to 800 BCE, the Ona sites (located near Asmara’s Sembel district) were the first settled civilization in the Horn of Africa. According to archaeologist Peter R. Schmidt it was this civilization and not sites in Arabia that were the vital precursors to urban developments in Southern highlands of Eritrea and northern Ethiopia later in the first millennium BCE.

      In addition to being influenced by their Red Sea neighbors, their decline may have been the cause for the adoption of the word Habesha. By the end of the 8th century CE, most of the prominent Yemeni kingdoms ended and areas they once controlled were under foreign occupation. Yemen’s turbulence, coupled with its ecological volatility likely shifted the international trade of incense from South Arabia to the Horn region. With Habasha originally used to describe people who gathered incense, this term was also given to the region by early Arab merchants and travelers as a geographic expression that some of the inhabitants of the Horn adopted over time.

      Similarly, European travelers and missionaries had a similar experience with the term Abyssinia.  When Portuguese missionaries arrived in the interior of what is present-day Ethiopia in the early 16th century CE, they took the altered word Abesha (without the letter “H” beginning) which is used by Amharic speakers and subsequently Latinized it to ‘Abassia’, ‘Abassinos’, ‘Abessina’ and finally into ‘Abyssina’.[10] This Abyssinia term was widely used as a geographic expression for centuries, even though it was a term not used by the local inhabitants.

      In modern times, Habesha has become a complex phrase that has specific social, geographical and sometimes political connotations. Its lack of a consensus definition leaves it quite vulnerable to constant modifications and interpretations. More concerning of late is the politicization of the word by Ethiopianist who have been repackaging the term to mean anyone from Ethiopia and Eritrea despite the fact that majority people in both countries do not regard themselves with the term.

      So what does Habesha mean?

      Habesha is not an ethnicity; it’s not a country; nor is there a common language or religion they collectively follow. Many Eritrean youth even argue its an obsolete term that undermines their national identity. Because of these differences, it’s incredibly difficult to give a definition that satisfies all groups equally. Perhaps the best way to define it is by not trying at all. Habesha in many ways is a state of mind – hard to describe, but you know it when you see it.

  15. Ato Chane,

    Are you reading your mind or what was documented there? If you could understand what was posted here why you failed to undertand that? Is it just becuse you fixed your mind? My responsibility is to link you to read but not enforce you to understand.

  16. @zerihun
    አለመግባበት ሌሆን ይችላል፣ ወይም የውጭ ቁዋነቁዋ አልገባኝ ሊሆን ይችላል፣ እስቲ ባነተ አባባል አሳጥረህ ንገረኝ።ምን እንደተረደሰህ።

  17. @john
    እራስህን አፅናና፣ይህ ያንተ አባባል ከስብሀት ነጋ አባባል ጋር ይመሳሰላል።አንተ እንዳልከው አንድ ኦርቶዶክስ ሀይማኖቱን በቀላሉ ዝም ብሎ አይቀይርም። ሀይማኖት ከገንዘብ ጋር እነደማይገናኝ የተማርኩት በኦርቶዶክስ ነው።
    አንድ ሚሽነሪ ሲናገር “ኢትዮጵያ ውስጥ በአመት አንድ ሰውን ከመቀየር ይልቅ ኬንያ ውስጥ በቀን አንድ ሺ ሰው መቀየር ይቀላል” ይል ነበር።
    ባጠቃላይ ሀይማኖታቸውን ወደ ፔንጤ የቀየሩት አብዛኛዎቹ ድሮ ሀይማኖት የሌላቸው፣በገዳ ወይም በቃልቻ የሚያምኑ ናቸው። ይሄም አይጎዳም።
    ኦርቶዶክሶቹ ወደ ከተማ አየገቡ ነው። ይህ ደግሞ የማይቀር ሂደት ነው። ለወደፊት ብዙው በከተማ ይኖራል ጥቂቱ ደግሞ በገጠር ይኖራል።
    በሌላ በኩል ደግሞ የፔንጤ ሀይማኖት እንዲኖር ያደረገው ደግሞ የኦርቶዶክስ መኖርና የመቻቻል ችሎታው ነው። እስቲ ሳውዲ አረብያ ሂደና ሀይማኖት ለመስበክ ሞክር፣ጅሁዋርን እስከ ሜነጫው እዛ ታገኘዋለህ። እንኩዋን ሀይማኖትህን ልትሰብክ ቀርቶ የነሱንም ሀይማኖት ተከታይ ሆነህ ያሰቃዩሀል።

  18. To all Oromo’s and South People in this page:

    Oromo Community of New York

    This money was collected by selling slaves, and they were our brothers. Go and visit gadaa.com for more information. The Oromo community of New York should follow up this fund and people who are sold during Minlik II regime need to be compensated.

  19. 25 million dollar private fortune 100 years ago? Have you imagined what it takes to have that amount of money at that time for a King? Slave trade, land selling, … We criticize Meles for accumulating private fortune but here we are admiring a King to own that kind of money and to be an investor in another country when his people were suffering.

  20. 25 million dollar private fortune in 1890s? How did he manage to have all this money 110 years ago? Slave trade, Sell of land (Djibouti, Eritrea), …? Are we admiring him for having that amount of private fortune and being an investor in another country when he was suppose to give back to the poor people of Ethiopia? We criticize current leaders for accumulating private fortune but lionize the previous ones as astute business men. What is wrong with our journalists and politicians? There must not be double standards.

  21. What is the flip side of defaming the victorious Emperor Menilik II?

    Well the answer is very agly. It is slavery in your own country.
    It is falling or subjugating our King and brave Ethiopians for slavery, becoming mercenary under Italian command to fight against Ethiopians, killing Ethiopoians to save fascist Italian army and sell out your people and country.

  22. Africans are the Greatest. Menelik II spoke 3 major European languages and he was worth 25 million dollars at that time which would be equivalent to billions today. My African Family, let’s study our history and not live to European standards, we are way more advanced than all civilizations of the world because we are the originals, imagine how many African Languages Emperor Menelik II knew, imagine how much knowledge of history he had in his mind about Ancient African and Asian civilizations. Menelik II’s mind was 1000 times greater and deeper, learning European languages was child’s play in his great mind. Fancy shoes and Western Civilization shouldn’t be considered as “Advancements” or “Standards of Development”(I was born here and believe me these people are truly insane, don’t believe the TV.) Africans are the Greatest and we have always been the most advanced, some of us have just been a little distracted but God will show Us and the World.

  23. Bideri Ishuheri Nyamulinda from Rwanda
    What a good story about this great and successful African leader. How I wish such a story would inspire the entire Ethiopian communities irrespective of your tribes to come together and deal with developmental issues instead of focusing on trivial tribal matters. You are one people, you are Ethiopians you are Africans and other Africans look up to you as their big brother because of your history and achievements. Stop destroying each other. There is nowhere on earth where tribalism has been a source of development. Learn from your Rwandan brothers, because we really understand and experienced the fruits of tribalism and divisionism-it is the destruction of the nationhood and genocide. Come and visit our genocide memorial cites so that you can understand better where you are heading to if you do not reverse your attitude. Unity and reconciliation is the only way of healing your people. Though it is a painful process, but it is doable.
    God Bless Africa, God Bless Ethiopia

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