The Rise and Fall of the Solomonic Dynasty of Ethiopia: Is the Kebra Nagast a Time-Bound Document?

Rise-and-Fall-CoverThe Rise and Fall of the Solomonic Dynasty sets forth to answer the questions of when, why, and where the Kebra Nagast (the Ethiopian national epic) was written. My research suggests that the main purpose of writing the Kebra Nagast (KN) was to enhance the prestige of the Ethiopian monarchs as descendants of Solomon and Makeda (the Queen of Sheba) and guardians of Judeo-Christianity. It also suggests that the text was written in Ethiopia by the six century A.D. I then ask: was Makeda a historical figure? Was she an Ethiopian queen? My research implies that the answer to both questions is positive. In addition, I explore whether or not the descendants of Menelik had reigned in Ethiopia until the rise of the Axumite Empire circa the first century A.D. However, written or inscriptional evidences of this period are lacking. Consequently, I explore the presence of political, economic, and cultural conditions that could have supported a Solomonic dynasty during the first millennium B.C. My research suggests that such conditions were present. Moreover, I discuss and analyze the political history of Ethiopia, which occurred between the first-century A.D. and 1930. My research shows that the first historical clues that implicated the Axumite rulers as descendants of Menelik I may have emerged during this period. Furthermore, I discuss the reign of the last emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Sellassie I. In light of the downfall of the monarchy in 1974, I analyze one of the main claims of the KN, that the Solomonic dynasty is an eternal institution. Past history of the fallen monarchies in the modern era in countries like France, Russia, and China suggests that we need to be pessimistic about the chances for the restoration of the monarchy in Ethiopia. However, the weight and peculiarity of Ethiopian history imply that the claims of the KN may not be ruled out.

Gizachew Tiruneh, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
University of Central Arkansas
Conway, Arkansas, U.S.A.