Menelik I

Menelik I was the claimed first Emperor of Ethiopia. According to Kebra Negast, a 14th-century national epic, in the 10th century BC he is said to have inaugurated the Solomonic Dynasty of Ethiopia, so named because Menelik I was the son of the biblical King Solomon of ancient Israel and of Mekeda, the Queen of Sheba.

According to the medieval Ethiopian book, the Kebra, translated into Ge’ez in 1321 CE,[6][7][8] his name was Bäynä Ləḥkəm (from Arabic: ابن الحكيم, Ibn Al-Hakim, "Son of the Wise."[9]). He was conceived when his father Solomon tricked his visiting mother, the Queen of Sheba, into sleeping with him. His mother raised him as a Jew in her homeland and he only traveled to Jerusalem to meet his father for the first time when he was in his twenties. While his father begged Menelik to stay and rule over Israel, Menelik told him that he wanted to return home. Thus, Solomon sent many Israelites with him, to aid him in ruling according to biblical standards; which were aggrieved at being exiled forever. One recount is that King Solomon gave his Ark of the Covenant to his son as a gift, while another states Solomon attemped to regain the ark but was unable to due to its supernatural properties aiding Menelik. Upon the death of his mother, or upon her abdication in his favor, Menelik was crowned King of Ethiopia.

According to one Ethiopian tradition, Menelik was born near the village of Addi-Shmagali, located north west of Asmara,[10] which is now part of Eritrea. According to legend, Menelik I founded the Solomonic dynasty of Ethiopia that ruled Ethiopia with few interruptions for close to three thousand years. This ended 225 generations later, with the deposition of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974. However, historical records show that the Solomonic dynasty began in 1262 AD, when Yekuno Amlak, who claimed descent from biblical Solomon and Sheba, overthrew the last ruler of the Zagwe dynasty, dismissing them as not of "the house of Israel" (i.e., of Solomon).[11] and established the Solomonic Dynasty in 1270 AD. [12] Acts 8:26–40 depicts a 1st century account of an Ethiopian royal official on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem from Ethiopia.[13]

Painting of Menelik I