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The Tragedy ofEmperor Libne-Dingil of Ethiopia (1508-1540) Reidulf K. Molvaer Frognerkilen, Oslo Prefatory Note Emperor Libne-Dingil is one of the emperors of Ethiopia about whom only a very brief royal chronicle was written or preserved, unlike most rulers of Ethiopia from Amde-Siyon (1314-1344) to Empress Zewdïtu (1916-1930). In the following, I report what two "traditional" Ethiopian historians have written about Libne-Dingil and his times. Much of what they write concerns the devastation wrought by "Graññ," the Left-handed, i.e., Ahmed Ibn Ibrahim alGhazi . Historians have relied much on the Tarìke-Negest (in Geez, edited by R. Basset) and the Arabic history of Graññ's campaign (also edited by R. Basset, as well as by Fahim Muhammed Satlut, Cairo 1974) called Fituh al-Habesha by Shihab ad-Din Ahmed Ibn Abd al-Qadir (also known as Areb Faqih) for this period of Ethiopian history. The Portuguese also wrote about part of LibneDingd 's reign.1 During my second long stay in Ethiopia, I came to know about some important manuscripts on Ethiopian history that have not been published, and which have not been much studied or referred to. One by Tegeññ, a former MelakeSehay2 of Debre-Marqos (the "capital" of Gojjam), is said to be rather unique, written in Geez and "unlike any history of Ethiopia ever written," according to some who have read it. I was able to identify four copies of this book in Gojjam and one in Addis Abeba, but I failed to obtain a copy. Another history was written by Aggafari ("Chamberlain") Beqqele Aboyyé on orders of Emperor Hayle-Sillasé, and probably the only copy in existence of this manuscript (a collection of treaties between Ethiopia and other countries,®Northeast African Studies (ISSN 0740-9133) Vol. 5, No. 2 (New Series) 1998, pp. 23-46 23 24 ReidulfK. Molvaer followed by a general history of Ethiopia) is (hopefully still) in the (formerly Imperial) Archives or Library in Mimlik's palace (according to retired librarian Gebre-Igzïabihér Addam). It is placed in the library in such a way that professional historians are not likely to look for it where it is ("among a lot of Italian manuscripts"). I was told the life history of the author but was not able to see more than a copy of the table of contents of his manuscript. The history of Ethiopia I was most interested in and have translated part of below, was written by Aleqa3 Tekle-ïyesus (usually called Aleqa Teklé), written during eleven years ofresearch. I was able to secure one full and one partial copy of this manuscript. Teklé was an Oromo brought up and educated in Gojjam, and he writes without much awe for the elevated status ofthe rulers ofEthiopia, using for example "familiar" pronouns and verbal forms when he writes about them, and he does not hide their weaknesses. He thus includes much material that is glossed over in polished histories that are published after screeningby (or written with an eye to) the censors. He died in 1936 at the age of 68. The second source I make use ofbelow is a history of Ethiopia I came across by chance; it is an unpublished manuscript put together by Memhir4 Akalu Kïdane-Mariyam, Bishop Luqas ofWellega during the Italian occupation (19361941 ). As Akalu's version of the story has striking similarities to the one told by Aleqa Teklé, I refer to noteworthy differences between them only in notes or between parentheses in the text, with Akalu's name mentioned. I have used Aleqa Teklé's version as my primary text. In spite of disparities in details, these two sources (which obviously rely on the same basic tradition) are in agreement in essentials. The oral history of Ethiopia has been carefully transmitted among those who made it their special interest and task to preserve the memory of the past. They are men who take endless care over the smallest points, although some details are not quite precisely remembered, and subjective views and fanciful anecdotes do creep in here and there. These people were "professional" historians in their own tradition . The ones I have talked with...


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