Representations of the Portuguese in the Royal Chronicle of King Gälawdewos (1540–1559): A Historical Commentary III: Conclusion & Bibliography

This is the third of three blog-posts going back to a paper at the International Congress at Leeds in 2017: I. Introduction & Background to the Portuguese expedition – II. Representations of the Portuguese in the chronicle and a commentary – III. Conclusion & Bibliography

The arrival of 400 Portuguese armies in 1542 was a turning point in the history of the medieval Christian kingdom, which was near to disappear, that turned the history from total collapse to revival. Indeed, as it is recounted in several of his letters Gälawdewos has repeatedly acknowledged for the much deeds of the Portuguese in combating the Muslim forces and provided details in his letter the role they played against the Muslim forces. And later, following the arrival of the Jesuit in 1555, he had a great difference with the religious ideology against the Portuguese and the Jesuits and ultimately refused to accept their faith, but he addressed the subject very carefully–in a scholarly and civilized manner producing a treatise and theological books in response to the accusation against local religious customs. He allowed the Portuguese soldiers to practice their religion without restriction, donated land for their daily lively hood, which was also appreciated in the Jesuit accounts themselves. So, if the Chronicle was written daily in the proper sense of chronicle writing during the lifetime of the king, it is certain that the story of Portuguese soldiers would have been relatively better described like the Jesuits of the 17th century who were well treated in the chronicle of King Susǝnyos. However, following Gälawdewos’s death, under the reign of his successor, King Minas, the privileges of the Portuguese were restricted. There was a hostile relationship between the king and the Jesuits mainly with Oviedo who allied to fight the king on the side of the rebel Yǝsaq of Bahǝra Nägash. Thus, this chronicle was composed in such a hostile time, in 1561, a time when the Jesuit and the Portuguese had quarreled with King Minas and the nobilities. This obviously obscured the role played by the Portuguese, and then royal historiographer deliberately punished them representing inadequately in the Chronicle, which does not deserve them. On the other hand, the reason for less concern to the Portuguese in the chronicle is also linked to the general feature of the chronicle which lacks details in other internal historical issues, was mainly written in the commemoration of the untimely death of the King. There were a few small annals composed for each campaign conducted during the lifetime of the king, which served as a source for the composition of the chronicle. I suppose that just in case if we find such annals we could find more stories of the Portuguese.



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Raineri, Osvaldo. Lettere tra I pontefici romani e i principi etiopici: secoli XIIXX. Città del Vaticano: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 2003.

Solomon Gebreyes Beyene. The Chronicle of King Gälawdewos (15401559) : A Critical Edition with Annotated Translation. Diss., Universität Hamburg, 2016.

Whiteway, R.S., ed., tr., 1967. The Portuguese Expedition to Abyssinia in 1541–1543, as Narrated by Castanhoso, with Some Contemporary Letters, the Short Account of Bermudez, and Certain Extracts from Correa, Works issued by the Hakluyt Society, 2. reprint: Nendeln: Kraus Reprint, 1967; 1st edn, London: Hakluyt Society, 1902.

Cite this article as: solomonbeyene, "Representations of the Portuguese in the Royal Chronicle of King Gälawdewos (1540–1559): A Historical Commentary III: Conclusion & Bibliography," in Africana, 01/12/2017,


Research Fellow in Hiob Ludolf Centre for Ethiopian Studies, Universität Hamburg.

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