Dorothea McEwan has published a blogpost on Georg Wilhelm Schimper (1804-1878), his travels to Ethiopia and the relevant resources available online: Continue reading “Georg Wilhelm Schimper in Abyssinia”
Future Plans and Prospects
In two field trips conducted by the JewsEast project (December 2015, October 2017), the second of which was a proper archaeological survey, an attempt was made to locate Betä Ǝsra’el monastic sites. In both cases, the information collected prior to fieldwork indicated the general location of the monasteries, and informants encountered during fieldwork pinpointed the exact location of the sites. In both cases, remains of structures erected by the Betä Ǝsra’el, including synagogues, dwellings and probable monastic compounds, could still be seen and identified.
Betä Ǝsra’el Royal Lineage as a Test Case
A possible indication that some Betä Ǝsra’el genealogies contain information which can be traced back to medieval times can be found in the incorporation of the names of Betä Ǝsra’el monarchs within them. The name which features most prominently is that of the Betä Ǝsra’el monarch Gedewon. A Betä Ǝsra’el leader by that name plays a central role in accounts of wars against factions of the Betä Ǝsra’el waged by the Solomonic monarchs Śärṣä Dǝngǝl (1563-1597, Conti Rossini and Guidi 1807: 123, 170-171; Halévy 1907) and Susǝnyos (1607-1632, Kaplan 1992: 79-96; Pereira 1900: 116-118, 136, 209, 215-218, 387, 437, 441, 464, 553). However, mentions of a monarch bearing this name in Betä Ǝsra’el genealogies can arguably be considered generic: According to Betä Ǝsra’el tradition, prior to their conquest by the Solomonic Kingdom, they were ruled by a series of kings, all of which were named Gedewon (Ḥädanä Täqoyä 2011: 71-83).
Oral Sources and the Study of Betä Ǝsra’el History and Religious Life
The Betä Ǝsra’el cannot be considered an illiterate society. Betä Ǝsra’el clergy and religious scholars were required to learn to read as part of their education. While prayers were largely committed to memory and recited, texts, mainly holy books, were used (Kaplan 1992: 73-77). However, Betä Ǝsra’el historiography was, as we have seen, almost completely oral.
Sources Relating to Betä Ǝsra’el Monasticism and the Chronological Gap of the Middle Ages
The vast majority of sources shedding light on Betä Ǝsra’el monasticism date to the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These include accounts written by the above-mentioned Christian missionaries and representatives of World Jewry, as well as a number accounts written by scholars who encountered Betä Ǝsra’el monks (d’Abbadie 1851-52; Leslau 1949). A number of studies deal with Betä Ǝsra’el monasticism, and incorporate within them information from both written sources and the Betä Ǝsra’el oral tradition (Ben-Dor 1985; 1987; Kaplan 1992; Quirin 1992; Shelemay 1989).
Shedding Light on Medieval Betä Ǝsra’el (Ethiopian Jewish) Monasticism:
An Examination of Sources and Suggestions for Future Study
One of the most intriguing aspects of Betä Ǝsra’el (Ethiopian Jewish) history and religious life is this community’s monastic movement. Betä Ǝsra’el monasticism is the only type of Jewish or Judaic monasticism known to have existed in medieval or modern times. It is a monastic movement in the full sense of the term: The monks were celibate, lived in monasteries, observed ascetic practices and dedicated their lives to the worship of God.
Defining between Ethiopia, Nubia, and India in medieval European sources has been seen to problematic in scholarship for decades. This is highlighted no better by the late antique ethnonyms for Aksum and Nubians and the later medieval, post 12th century, ethnonyms of Abyssinia and Nubia, with Ethiopia being a vague catch-all term in the centuries in between. India, on the other hand, had never been a united land area to name as Ethiopia and Nubia had been. India was divided into numerous kingdoms at any one time throughout the medieval period, such as the Western and Eastern Chalukya Empires, the Chola Empire, the Delhi Sultanate, and the Vijayanagar/Karnata Empire to name a few. Continue reading Defining Ethiopia, Nubia, and India in Medieval Europe
Locating Prester John and his kingdom was once a major challenge for Europeans between the Late Middle Ages and the early modern era. Starting with the first appearance of this enigmatic ruler in the mid-twelfth century, his figure triggered enthusiastic expectations as a possible and decisive ally in the crusaders’ efforts to liberate the Holy Land: not only was he a mighty ruler, superior to every monarch on earth, as he claimed in the Letter that he allegedly sent to the Byzantine emperor Manuel, but he was also a Christian and shared the same “crusading” intention of many Latin fighters who had crossed the Mediterranean. Continue reading Historical and Legendary Sources at the Origins of the Ethiopian Prester John
King Gälawdewos was considered as the restorer of the Christian kingdom from the decisive military defeat of the Muslim state of Adal, Aḥmad b. Ibrāhīm al-Ġāzī traditionally called Ahmad ‘Grañ. He was the second son of King Lǝbnä Dǝngǝl whom he succeeded in 1540. He fought Ahmad and defeated him with considerable support of the Portuguese. Then he maintained relative peace and security of the Christian kingdom for short time. Continue reading Representations of the Portuguese in the Royal Chronicle of King Gälawdewos (1540–1559): A Historical Commentary II: Representations of Portuguese in the chronicle and a commentary
It is well known that the Portuguese played a significant role in saving the sixteenth-century Ethiopian King Gälawdewos from decisive defeat during the military confrontation with the Muslim conquest led by Aḥmad b. Ibrāhīm al-Ġāzī in 1543. The Portuguese sent 400 soldiers to assist the king – after the repeated request of King Gälawdewos and his father King Lǝbnä Dǝngǝl (1508–1540) before him, as is evident from their diplomatic correspondence with Portuguese kings. Continue reading Representations of the Portuguese in the Royal Chronicle of King Gälawdewos (1540–1559): A Historical Commentary
What happens to art when two distinct forms of Christianity meet? This paper considers the relationship between Ethiopian Orthodox and Roman Catholic art during the Jesuit Ethiopian mission (1557-1632). Case studies of Marian and Christological imagery demonstrate the era’s two-way cultural exchange.