Dawit II

Orfeas Katsoulis | Nov 11, 2022

Table of Content


Lybne Dyngyl (ዳዊት, Dauit, throne name Ueneg Seged, meaning in Gyyz and Harari language the one to whom the lions bow) (born around 1497 in Debre Dammo - died September 2, 1540 near Debre Dammo) - emperor of Ethiopia from 1508 to 1540. He was from the Salomonic dynasty.

Lybne Dyngyl assumed power after the death of his father, Emperor Naod, which took place on August 2, 1508. It is said that when Lybne Dyngyl was eight years old and learned that he would spend his next years on Mount Amba Gyszien, where members of the imperial family were traditionally imprisoned, he wept, which was supposed to have moved Naod to suspend the custom. As a result, Lybne Dyngyl was able to quickly succeed his father, but initially his power was li only nominal. He was ruled in his name in the early years by Empress Helena, his mother Naod Mogesa, and the negash of Godjam Uesen Seged. Around 1516, the emir of the Adal Mahfuz sultanate attacked the border areas of Ethiopia. Despite the firearms supplied to the Muslims by the Turks, Lybne Dyngyl claimed victory over Mahfuz. The battle was settled by a duel between the monk Gebre Yndryjas and Muhfuz himself, in which the latter suffered death. The armies of Ethiopia's enemies were driven back into the Adal, which was later to be the last victory of the Ethiopians for several decades to come. The young emperor, oblivious to the warnings of the monks, initially led a carefree life, cohabiting with concubines, adopting the custom of smoking tobacco, and holding knightly tournaments.

During the reign of Lybne Dyngyla, the first contacts between Ethiopia and European countries took place. The initiator of this idea was Empress Helena. In 1509 or 1510, she sent an envoy of Armenian origin named Matthew to the court of the Kingdom of Portugal. With the help of the Portuguese fleet, Helena wanted to win over the Muslim sultanate on the Red Sea coast. Helena's plans also included the colligation of the Solomonic dynasty with the ruling family of Portugal. In 1518, King Manuel I Lucky of Portugal, in consultation with Pope Leo X, sent a diplomatic mission. The envoys met with Lybne Dyngyle in 1520, but the emperor was not pleased with their arrival, as he had hoped more for military assistance. He was probably not as enthusiastic about cooperating with Europe in a possible coalition against the Muslims as Helena was. After six years, the Portuguese diplomatic mission returned to Europe with a golden crown for John III the Good and Pope Clement VII. Along with the Portuguese envoys also sailed the Ethiopian ones, sent by the emperor to Europe. The mission failed, as neither side followed up. Lybne Dyngyl did not attach much importance to help from Europeans, too confident in his own strength. He believed that gold, Ethiopian military support from the mainland, and acquiescence in the seizure of some Red Sea ports were the right price for the Portuguese king to send his fleet. The emperor's views were to be revised only by the near annihilation of the country fifteen years later.

First fights

Good relations between Ethiopia and Adal, which lasted for several years, ended when the sultanate was headed by military commander Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi, referred to in Ethiopian sources as Imam Graniem because of his left-handedness. He killed the reigning sultan and installed his own puppet ruler in that position. The imam broke off peaceful relations with the empire and began to raise an army against it. Lybne Dyngyl, wanting to get ahead of the enemy's movements, sent his troops to the Adal border around 1525, but was defeated. An expedition sent in 1526, or 1527, led by the emperor's brother-in-law and the rasa chief Degelhan, ended similarly. After a six-day battle, Degelhal lost. After two victories, imam Grań went on the offensive and organized a looting expedition to the Ethiopian province of Ifat. Three corps of Muslim troops plundered Ifat and returned to Adal with captured cattle and slaves. Still this time the Muslims, led by Grania, retreated from Ethiopia. Their tactics were soon to change under the influence of Grania's political ambitions.

The start of a holy war

In time, the imam of Grań began to call on neighboring barbarian peoples for a "holy war," or jihad against Ethiopia. Representatives of nomadic tribes from the areas of present-day Somalia and the Afars turned out to answer the ruler's call. The mighty Grania army crossed the Auash River and marched toward the village of Baduka, where the emperor had his residence. When Lybne Dyngyl learned of the enemy's plans, he gathered troops from all over Ethiopia. The first battle took place at the Semerma River, where the emperor's more numerous and better-trained regular army fought the Muslims against Lybne Dyngyl's orders. Despite the advantage resulting from the participation of Somalis unaccustomed to regular battles and accustomed primarily to loot expeditions on the side of Imam Grania, the emperor's army suffered defeat. The next battle took place in February or March 1529 at Shinbura Kurie, where Imam Grania was again victorious. After recuperating, Muslim troops mounted a plunder expedition in June of that year into the provinces of Deuaro and Bali, when some of the magnates did not even put up a fight in exchange for the promise of being spared their lands by the attackers.

Grania's expedition deep into Ethiopia

Imam Grań gathered new troops two months after this expedition and once again attacked Ethiopia, this time with the help of a small amount of artillery. He possessed seven cannons. One of the targets of the new campaign was to be the church of Antioch. The battle of this town in 1531 ended in another defeat for Lybne Dyngyla's army. The defeat was largely decided by artillery. When the emperor learned of the outcome of the clash at Antioch, he organized another army of at least ten thousand men. The new troops, commanded by rasa Tekle Ijesus, were to surprise the enemy from behind, but Grań knew of these plans and surprised Tekle Ijesus himself and defeated him in the battle of Ajfer. The Imam was assisted in navigating the difficult and mountainous terrain of Ethiopia by well-informed guides. After suffering defeats, Lybne Dyngyl withdrew and decided not to give the battle to the imam due to the losses suffered. The former regent of Ethiopia, Uesen Seged, who enjoyed great authority, took command of the war from the emperor. When Uesen Seged died defeated by the Muslims, Ethiopian morale collapsed and many regions converted to Islam.

Lybne Dyngyla's escape to the north

In mid-1531, the emperor left the invader-ravaged province of Shehua, left his eldest son, Jacob, in his stead, and took refuge in the high mountainous region of Biet-Amhara, which was a difficult fortress to conquer. Lybne Dyngyl himself garrisoned the mountain slopes at Uesil Pass with troops. Imam Grań decided to attack the imperial positions in the mountains. The Uesil Pass was captured on October twenty-first, 1531. During the pogrom, the emperor left his surviving soldiers and fled towards the Beszyllo River. One of the commanders of the Muslim army, the gerad of Ahmush, set off in pursuit of the emperor, but failed to capture him. He then attacked Mount Amba Gyszien and was taken prisoner, where he was beheaded. The Muslims had to abandon the siege of Amba Gyszien. Imam Grań headed for Lake Haik, tempted by the riches found in Debre Ygziabher Monastery. The monks agreed to give all the riches to Grani at the price of sparing the church buildings. By 1533, the only areas not controlled by the Muslims were Godjam, Tigraj and Begiemdyr. In April of that year, the imam, at the head of his troops, moved north and passed through the province of Lasta, seized the city of Aksum, and in Semien and Uegera, the professing Felashians came over to the side of the Muslims. Later, Grań pursued Lybne Dyngyla, but the latter eluded pursuit. In March 1534, the Muslims attacked Begiemdyr.

Emperor's last years

The empire was on the brink of extinction, so Lybne Dyngyl turned to Portugal for armed assistance. In 1535 he sent a European envoy coming from Venice, John Bermudez, to Rome. In 1536 or 1537, Imam Grań completely conquered Begiemdyr and then Godjam. In 1538 he proposed peace to Lybne Dyngyl and united the hostile dynasties by marriage, but the emperor refused. The Ethiopian ruler suffered further defeats. On May 7, 1538, his son Victor was killed, and thirteen days later his second son Minas was taken captive. A year later, Lybne Dyngyl finally won a victory in one of his clashes. In January 1540, as a result of treachery, the Muslims captured Amba Gyszien. On the second of September of that year, Lybne Dyngyl was killed in a battle near Mount Debre Dammo, where he was born and where an important Ethiopian monastery dating back to the 6th century is located. After the emperor's death, his young son from his union with Empress Seble Uengiel, Claudius, took over the Ethiopian throne. With the beginning of Claudius' reign, the empire slowly began to recover from its decline, as he enjoyed more popular support than his father. Lybne Dyngyl himself did not live to see relief from the Europeans, as help in the form of Christopher da Gama's four hundred musketeers did not arrive until 1541.

Portuguese missionary Francisco Álvares described the emperor's appearance this way:

As late as the 16th century, Europeans believed in the existence of a rich, overseas Christian kingdom of the legendary Priest John. According to one version of the legend, this country was supposed to be Ethiopia.


  1. Dawit II
  2. Lybne Dyngyl
  3. Andrzej Bartnicki, Joanna Mantel Niećko: Historia Etiopii. Wrocław: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, 1971, s. 101.
  4. Andrzej Bartnicki, Joanna Mantel Niećko: Historia Etiopii. Wrocław: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, 1971, s. 106.
  5. Andrzej Bartnicki, Joanna Mantel Niećko: Historia Etiopii. Wrocław: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, 1971, s. 116.
  6. Andrzej Bartnicki, Joanna Mantel Niećko: Historia Etiopii. Wrocław: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, 1971, s. 119.
  7. Andrzej Bartnicki, Joanna Mantel Niećko: Historia Etiopii. Wrocław: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, 1971, s. 121.
  8. Publicada também em inglês:The Prester John of the Indies translated by C.F. Beckingham and G.W.B. Huntingford (Cambridge: Hakluyt Society, 1961).
  9. Paul B. Henze, Layers of Time, A History of Ethiopia (Nova Iorque: Palgrave, 2000), p. 85.
  10. Como descrito por Xabudim Amade Abdalcáder, Futuh al-Habasa: The conquest of Ethiopia,traduzido para inglês por Paul Lester Stenhouse, com anotações por Richard Pankhurst (Hollywood: Tsehai, 2003), pp. 68-70
  11. R.S. Whiteway, The Portuguese Expedition to Abyssinia in 1541-1543, 1902 (Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus Reprint Limited, 1967), p. xxxvi.
  12. ^ Encyclopedia of Christianity in the Global South. p. 266.
  13. ^ Akyeampong, Emmanuel K.; Gates, Henry Louis Jr. (2012). Dictionary of African Biography. OUP USA. p. 482. ISBN 978-0-19-538207-5.
  14. ^ Beyene, Solomon Gebreyes (2016). The Chronicle of King Gälawdewos (1540–1559): A Critical Edition with Annotated Translation (PhD). University of Hamburg. p. 184.
  15. Francisco Álvares, Baron Henry Edward John Stanley Stanley, Narrative of the Portuguese Embassy to Abyssinia During the Years 1520-1527, Ayer Publishing, 1970, 434 p. (ISBN 978-0-8337-0053-7, lire en ligne)
  16. Jean Doresse, Au pays de la reine de Saba : l'Éthiopie, antique et moderne, vol. A. Guillot, 1956 (lire en ligne)

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