- The Achievement of Emperor Téwodros II of Ethiopia (1855-1868): From an Unpublished Manuscript by Aleqa Tekle-Ïyesus ("Aleqa Teklé") of Gojjam
- Northeast African Studies
- Michigan State University Press
- Volume 5, Number 3, 1998 (New Series)
- pp. 7-79
- View Citation
- Additional Information
The Achievement ofEmperor Téwodros II ofEthiopia (1855-1868): From an Unpublished Manuscript by Aleqa TeMe- ìyesus ("Aleqa Teklé") of Gojjam Reidulf K. Molvaer Frognerkilen, Oslo Introductory Remarks The history of Ethiopia written by Aleqa ("scholar, expert, or head of a main church") Tekle-ïyesus (better known as Aleqa Teklé) was written over a period of eleven years, while the author traveled all over Ethiopia to collect materials from written and oral sources. I was able to secure one complete copy of this manuscript, and one that contained the part I was most interested in—from Emperor Téwodros II onwards (it does not go quite to the end of the manuscript ). The complete manuscript starts with the earliest times and leads up to 1916 Ethiopian Calendar (1924 Gregorian Calendar). I found two people who had known the author, and one of them knew much about his life history. The other person I met (in March 1989) was the famous qiné-scholar Aleqa Yehéyyis Werqé. He was then 94 (born 9 January, he thought), but his mind was still remarkably clear. He was not sure ofthe details of Aleqa Tekle's life history and did not want to relate things he was not absolutely sure of. He said that their interests had been so different that they had not associated with each other. Although Teklé quotes many poems in his history, they are of a "popular" kind (e.g., dirges by mourners, often memorized so as to fix an historical event in the mind, and also humorous pieces). Yehéyyis spent a lifetime working with so-called "classical" poetry (qiné).®Northeast African Studies (ISSN 0740-9133) Vol. 5, No. 3 (New Series) 1998, pp. 7-79 8 ReidulfK. Molvaer Manuscripts of the history itself can be found in Gojjam and in Addis Abeba. The two copies I have differ a bit in some details. The one I consider to be the more precise was made by a monk, the less educated of the two scribes, who (therefore) copied more "mechanically." In Ethiopia, some copyists read the original and reproduce the sense in more or less identical words, without, however , feeling bound to follow the original word for word. That is the case with part of my complete manuscript (in some parts, the style is somewhat improved, a few obscure points are expressed more clearly, and some glosses are added). But the two manuscripts in my possession differ very little in factual content. There are a few minor omissions in one or the other, but they appear mostly in my full copy. As I assume that some words may have been left out but hardly any added to change the sense by the copyists, I have translated the maximum material from both sources. Important discrepancies are noted thus (var.: . . .), also where a gloss seems to be added. Both my manuscripts were copied from the same version in Addis Abeba, which may be primary among those in existence in Ethiopia as it was copied for the Emperor on behalf of the author after he had become blind. However, it is possible that the author also supervised one or more of the copies preserved in Gojjam. The whereabouts or the fate of the original is not known (see below). Ethiopians who have read Aleqa Teklé's history seem to agree (among themselves and with the author himself) that it tells the history of Ethiopian rulers without bias due to political interest, fear, or a wish to please, although the author on a few occasions may have included some not properly verified details and also a few manifest inaccuracies (e.g., inaccurate dates). He also shares some of the prejudices of the prevailing ecclesiastical tradition, but little of its servility toward the powers that be. (Perhaps that is why he was "restricted" to Addis Abeba at one time, and "released" only at the intervention of Empress Tayitu, as Mïkaél Imru told me.) Many events are seen from the perspective of Gojjam, where the author lived most of his life, and hitherto undocumented episodes from the time ofTéwodros are found in these sections. The most interesting aspect of this story may...